7 LGBT people who changed the world

Barbara Gittings

Barbara Gittings moved to Philadelphia, USA at 18 from Vienna. Gittings started the USA’s first lesbian cvil rights organisation in the 1950’s. She later became a strong advocate in the fight to have homosexuality removed from the list of psychiatric disorders. In 2006, The APA recognised her work by awarding her its first annual civil rights award.

Harvey Milk 

Harvey Milk was a prominent gay rights activist and the first openly gay person elected to public office, winning a seat on the San Francisco City Council Board. In 1978, Milk was shot and killed by Dan White, a fellow City Council board member. His life has since been celebrated in books and films including Milk (2008) starring Sean Penn.

Ellen DeGeneres

Ellen DeGeneres is a pioneer in the fight for LGBTQ equal rights when she broke out of the professional closet she had inhabited since becoming a standup comedy. On August 16th 2008, DeGeneres wed actress Portia de Rossi in front of just 19 friends and family members at their Los Angeles home.

Lynn Conway

When Lynn Conway announced her desire to transition to female, the company she worked for (IBM) fired her. She took a stand and in 2013 began lobbying the Board of Directors of the Institution of Electrical and Electronic Engineers to include protections for transgender people. The following year, the code became fully inclusive of LGBT people and Time magazine named her one of the “21 Transgender People Who Influenced American Culture.”

Bayard Rustin

Bayard Rustin wasn’t only an openly gay activist but one of the key organisers of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Walter Naegle, Rustin’s partner said that he was “someone who was working to expand our democratic freedoms and increase our civil liberties and our individual freedoms”.

Audre Lorde

Audre Lorde described herself as a ‘black lesbian mother warrior poet’. Born publishing her first volume of poetry, she worked as a librarian. Her work covered civil rights, sexuality and even her own battle with breast cancer.  From 1991 until her death a year later, Lorde was the New York State Poet Laureate. In 2001, the Audre Lorde Award was launched to honour works of lesbian poetry.

 Oscar Wilde

He married Constance Lloyd in 1884 and had two children with her. However, he was a homosexual, something that was illegal in the UK. He was jailed for two years, after he had started courting a young man who was to remain a lifelong friend, Robert Ross. Since his time, there has been a huge revolution in sexuality.

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