Activists & Pioneers

Cathay Williams1844-1893Slave & Buffalo Soldier"...she enlisted in the United States Army under the pseudonym William Cathay... first female & African American to enlist and the only documented woman to serve in the U.S. Army while posing as a man during the Indian Wars." Wounded Warrior ProjectWiki
William Dorsey Swann1860-1925Slave, Drag Pioneer & Activist"An African-American born into slavery, Swann was the first person in the United States to lead a queer resistance group and the first known person to self-identify as a "queen of drag"."National ArchiveWiki
Bayard Rustin1912-1987Civil Rights Activist" African-American leader in social movements for civil rights, socialism, nonviolence, and gay rights...Rustin was a gay man and, due to criticism over his sexuality, he usually acted as an influential adviser behind the scenes to civil-rights leaders. In the 1980s, he became a public advocate on behalf of gay causes, speaking at events as an activist and supporter of human rights."PBSKing InstituteWiki
Christine Jorgensen1926-1989Veteran, Actress, Singer & Activist"..she was the first person to become widely known in the United States for having sex reassignment surgery... known for her directness and polished wit, and used the platform to advocate for transgender people."NY HistoryPBSWiki
Harvey Milk1930-1978Veteran, Politician & Activist"...American politician and the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California, as a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors."Milk FoundationWiki 
Arden Eversmeyer1931-2022Teacher & Activist"...founded the organizations Lesbians Over Age Fifty (LOAF) and Old Lesbian Oral Herstory Project (OLOHP) to give older lesbians visibility and a sense of community and to document their stories." LOAFOLOHPOut WordsWiki
Barbara Gittings1932-2007Activist"She organized the New York chapter of the Daughters of Bilitis...on the first picket lines that brought attention to the ban on employment of gay people by the largest employer in the US at that time: the United States government."The Legacy ProjectLGBTQ 50Wiki
Charles Silverstein1935-2023Writer, Therapist & Activist"He was best known for his presentation as a graduate student before the American Psychiatric Association in 1973 that led to the removal of homosexuality as a mental illness from the organization's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual."RutgersNPRWiki
George Takei1937-Actor, Author & Activist"...known for his role as Hikaru Sulu, helmsman of the fictional starship USS Enterprise in the television series Star Trek and subsequent films." George TakeiWiki
Faygele Ben-Miriam(John Singer)1944-2000Activist"...a gay marriage pioneer, filing one of the first gay marriage lawsuits in American history after being denied a marriage license at the King County Administration Building in Seattle, Washington in 1971."Making Gay HistoryWiki
Marsh "Pay It No Mind" Johnson1945-1992Drag Queen & Activist"Known as an outspoken advocate for gay rights, Johnson was one of the prominent figures in the Stonewall uprising of 1969." Women's HistoryWiki
Stephen Donaldson1946-1996Veteran, Political & Bisexual Rights Activist "He is best known for his pioneering activism in LGBT rights and prison reform, and for his writing about punk rock and subculture." "...founder of the first American gay students' organization, first person to fight a discharge from the U.S. military for homosexuality."NYPLWiki
Vic BasilePolitical Strategist & Activist"...first executive director of the Human Rights Campaign...served in the Obama Administration as a Counselor to the Director of the United States Office of Personnel Management from April 2009 to April 2014 where he advised on LGBT issues."HRCWiki
Paul Barwick1946-Veteran & Activist "...he filed one of the first lawsuits in the history of the United States regarding the right of gays and lesbians to marry, after he and the late fellow activist John Singer were denied a civil marriage license..."History LinkWiki
Sylvia Rivera1951-2002Drag Queen & Activist "...identified as a drag queen for most of her life and later as a transgender person, participated in demonstrations with the Gay Liberation Front."Women's HistoryWiki
Gilbert Baker1951-2017Veteran, Artist, Designer & Activist" known as the creator of the rainbow flag."Gilbert BakerWiki
Keith Haring1958-1990Pop Artist & Activist"...artist whose pop art emerged from the New York City graffiti subculture of the 1980s... Much of his work includes sexual allusions that turned into social activism by using the images to advocate for safe sex and AIDS awareness." HaringWiki
Lola Flash1959-Photographer & Activist"...American photographer whose work has often focused on social, LGBT and feminist issues."Lola FlashNMAAHCWiki
Chloe Duzubilo1960-2011Artist, Musician & Activist"...she was the lead singer and songwriter of the punk band Transisters...a longtime transgender activist with the Gender Identity Project at the New York City LGBT Community Center, and after her HIV diagnosis in 1987 became involved in AIDS activism."Visual AIDSWiki
Wayne Besen1970-Journalist & Activist "He is a former investigative journalist for WABI-TV, a former spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, and the founder of Truth Wins Out."Truth Wins OutWiki
Dustin Lance Black1974-Director, Producer & Activist"...known for writing the film Milk, for which he won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay in 2009..." "...founding board member of the American Foundation for Equal Rights..."American Foundation for Equal RightsIMDBWiki
Slava Mogutin1974-Russian Artist & Activist"Forced to leave Russia, Mogutin was granted political the US became the first to be granted based on homophobic prosecution."SIILKWiki
Katlego Kai Kolanyane-Kesupile 1988-Artist, Writer & Activist "...LGBT activist from Botswana. She is known for being the first public figure from the country to openly identify as a transgender person."TEDWorld Economic ForumWiki