10 LGBTQ+ Voices Who Inspire Us to Advance Gender Justice

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June 28, 2018
Written by Emylou Vergel de Dios, Communications & Development Intern for WFC

The month of June not only marks the coming of summer but also the springing forth of a host of events, celebrations, marches, and parades across the nation in honor of PRIDE. PRIDE is about celebrating our right to freedom of expression, freedom to love, freedom to be who we are, freedom to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, trans, gender non conforming, pansexual, or asexual. PRIDE is also about taking a moment to honor, remember, and pay homage to the queer and trans freedom fighters who resisted state violence during the Stonewall Riots –which served as the catalyst for the LGBTQ+ movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Marsha P. Johnson and Silvia Rivera served as revolutionary voices during the riots, elevating the ways in which queer and trans women experience gender-based violence and discrimination at both the individual and systemic level. This month, we wanted to share 10 LGBTQ+ voices who continue to lift us up and show us how to speak our truths and fight for gender, racial, and economic justice! Check them out below!

1. Marsha P. Johnson

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“How many years has it taken people to realize that we are all brothers and sisters and human beings in the human race? I mean how many years does it take people to see that? We’re all in this rat race together!”

Marsha P. Johnson was an undeniably powerful force to be reckoned with. She was a star of the counterculture epicenter of Greenwich Village from the 60’s to the 70’s. Johnson was a vanguard in the Stonewall Riots, a drag queen, and a model for Andy Warhol. Like many other transgender women, she had to face the harshness of heteronormative social standards, leaving her to be homeless and impoverished for much of her life. However, even with these hurdles, she was able to be a dynamic and inspirational figure for the LGBTQ+ liberation movement.

2. Sylvia Rivera

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“Before I die, I will see our community given the respect we deserve.”

Sylvia Rivera rocked the streets of New York with her activism for the LGBTQ+ community during the later half of the twentieth century. As a Latina transgender advocate, she helped lobbied for New York’s gay rights bill along with supporting her friend Marsha P Johnson run their organization STAR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries). Sylvia Rivera should be forever remembered for her bravery and courageous efforts to bring equality to the LGBTQ+ community.

3. Audre Lorde

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“When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.”

A self-described “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet,” Audre Lorde dedicated both her life and her creative talent to confronting and addressing injustices of racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia. Some of the most powerful writings on intersectionality, Blackness, and queerness come from Audre Lorde. Most notable works include but are not limited to “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House,” “Uses of the Erotic” and “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action.”

4. Roma Guy

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“We need to bring our consciousness, and modernize ourselves and our tools, if we want to make a continuing difference and to take care of ourselves to be present; this is true for all ages, and is not easy.”

Roma Guy continues to leave her mark on history as she remains an active member in the nonprofit and social justice sector of the Bay Area. Her track record consists of founding and sponsoring numerous women’s organizations such as our very own Women’s Foundation of California, SF Women Against Rape, and Le Casa de las Madres. Roma Guy’s life work has even led her to being nominated for the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize. May we continue to follow Guy’s footsteps in ensuring a more just future for queer and trans folks across the nation!

5. Barbara Gittings

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“Equality means more than passing laws. The struggle is really won in the hearts and minds of the community, where it really counts.”

Barbara Gittings, sometimes referred to as the mother of the LGBTQ+ civil rights movement, has a history filled with activism and advocacy work for the LGBTQ+ community. She was an active member of a “homophile” group named Daughters of Bilitis, whose mission was to alter society’s understanding of homosexuality. Furthermore, she helped increase visibility for lesbian voices by being editor for the magazine, The Ladder: A Lesbian Review. On top of being a social commentator, Gittings pressured the White House for a Gay Civil Rights Bill and the American Psychiatric Association to remove homosexuality from the list of psychiatric disorders.

6. Roxanne Gay

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“I embrace the label of bad feminist because I am human. I am messy. I’m not trying to be an example. I am not trying to be perfect. I am not trying to say I have all the answers. I am not trying to say I’m right. I am just trying—trying to support what I believe in, trying to do some good in this world, trying to make some noise with my writing while also being myself.”

An active and successful author of our times, Roxane Gay knows how to bring her personal stories to her readers in a relatable way. She explores the dark sides of feminism, promotes people of color artists, and critiques Hollywood’s history rewrites. Gay’s articles for the New York Times are largely op-ed pieces which help those struggling with social injustices along with sparking important conversations that range from political to social commentary.

7. Patricia Velasquez

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“I have this whole LGBT community that makes me feel that I’m a part of something, that I’m not alone anymore, and that empowers me to continue to do what I’m doing. We have to use these rights. If we use our voice, however you want to use it, that’s how we’re going to be able to help. One little candle can light up the whole room.”

Patricia Velasquez, Venezuelan supermodel and actress, uses her platform to be a voice for those who are still in search of their own. She recently came out in spite of societal norms of a rising supermodel and actress to be a sexy and straight female. She seeks to break the stigma and reverse the heteronormative structures in place in Hollywood and other media industries.

8. Zoraida “Ale” Reyes

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Zoraida “Ale” Reyes was a trans migrant woman who laid down roots in Southern California fighting for immigrant and trans rights. She was murdered four years ago in Orange County and her death brought national attention toward the brutal ways in which queer and trans folks face discrimination and gender-based violence.  Her fierce efforts were channeled through her passion for community organizations such as the Orange County DREAM Team and DeColores Queer Orange County. Through her advocacy efforts, Reyes was able to expose the overlap of queer and trans issues with those of the undocumented community. Reyes’ intersectional approach enabled others to understand the importance of the multiple identities one has when facing social injustices.

9. Staceyann Chin

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“I learned to use my words, my voice, to speak out against bigotry and prejudice and injustice and discrimination wherever it happens, whenever it happens, to whomever it happens.”

Staceyann Chin is a spoken word artist who uses her platform to voice LGBTQ+ issues along with other social injustices. Chinn comes from African-Jamaican heritage and is of Chinese-Jamaican ethnicity. She utilizes her multicultural background to reach a variety of people with her words and art. She continues to encourage those of the LGBTQ+ community to be hopeful and vigilant through her art.

10. Kim Coco Iwamoto

Photo credit: Honolulu Star-Advertiser

“I wanted to be on the Board of Education because I wanted to advocate for students. This was never about me as an individual. It’s always been about me and how I can serve the community.”

Kim Coco Iwamoto became the highest-elected transgender official in the country when she was elected to the Hawaii Board of Education. Education being the priority for Iwamoto, her campaign never focused on her own gender identity. She continues to be an advocate for transgender peoples by being on the board of Kulia Na Mamo, a local transgender organization that seeks to provide health, education, cultural and social services for disadvantaged people of color. Iwamoto seeks to further her efforts by running for Lieutenant Governor for Hawaii in this 2018 election!


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