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LGBTQ ACTIVISTS AND PIONEERS

INTRODUCTION

LGBTQ stands for: Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender and Queer. Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code 1860, earlier which stated that having unnatural intercourse with a man, woman, animal is a criminal act. The word unnatural meant: people of same sex having intercourse with one another. On 6th September 2018 a landmark judgement was passed by the Supreme Court of India which decriminalized Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code and Supreme Court ruled that consensual adult gay sex is not a crime, which means the act should be done with free consent out of any force or coercion. The verdict included the members of the LGBTQ community.

The LGBTQ community has always been discriminated against, judged by society. People often think that homosexuality, bi-sexuality is a disease or some sort of mental illness. However, in 1973 the American Psychiatric Association (APA) declared that homosexuality is not a mental illness. Till now there’s a stigma attached to the LGBTQ community of India. Many western countries are open about the concept of homosexuality and do not consider it as a taboo or some unnatural practice.

A lot of LGBT movements and protests were done around the globe. The main objective of those movements was that: the members of that community should get equal rights, respect in society. Along with big revolutionary movements, some big leaders and personalities emerged.

LGBTQ ACTIVISTS AND PIONEERS
LGBTQ ACTIVISTS AND PIONEERS

FAMOUS LGBTQ ACTIVISTS AND PIONEERS.

Marsha P. Johnson 

She was a black trans woman, a sex worker, and an activist who spent much of her life fighting for equality. She served as a mother figure to the drag queens, trans women, and homeless youth of Christopher Street in New York City. She was alongside Sylvia Rivera at the beginning of the Stonewall riots, and together they founded S.T.A.R. Johnson, along with Rivera, was a central figure at the beginning of the gay liberation movement of the 1970s in the United States.

Josephine Baker 

She was a well-known entertainer of the Jazz Age and identified as bisexual. She was one of the most successful African-American performers in French history and used her platform as an entertainer to advocate for desegregation, refusing to perform in segregated venues and even speaking at the 1963 March on Washington. Baker also served as a spy for the French during World War II, passing along secrets she heard while performing for German soldiers.

Bayard Rustin

He was a close friend and advisor to Martin Luther King Jr. and organizer of the 1963 March on Washington. However, because he was an openly gay man, he did not receive wide recognition for his integral role in the civil rights movement. Rustin’s sexuality was used against him and Dr. King by opposing parties, who threatened to spread lies about their relationship. This forced Rustin to work in the shadows to prevent bringing further controversy to both Dr. King and the March on Washington. Despite this, Rustin still remained a political and gay activist, working to bring the AIDS crisis to the NAACP’s attention[1].

Eleanor Roosevelt

The former First Lady was a dedicated humanitarian, chairing the committee that drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for the United Nations and promoting social activism both during and after her time at the White House. While married to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt was thought to have had an affair with journalist Lorena Hickok, the first woman to have her byline appear on the front page of the New York Times. Their letters, almost 4,000 of them, chronicle a passionate romance. One includes a note from Roosevelt saying, “Oh! how good it was to hear your voice, it was so inadequate to try & tell you what it meant, Jimmy was near & I couldn’t say ‘je t’aime et je t’adore’ as I longed to do but always remember I am saying it & that I go to sleep thinking of you & repeating our little saying[2].”

 Edith Windsor

The overturning of section 3 of the Defense Against Marriage Act (DOMA) in 2013 changed the lives of thousands of couples, and it was spurred by one woman from New York. Edith Windsor married Thea Spyer, her partner of 40 years, in Canada in 2007. Though the marriage was recognized above the border and in New York (which started recognizing out-of-state gay marriages in 2008), U.S. law prohibited the women from reaping the same benefits as other married couples in the States. Windsor felt this first-hand when Spyer died in 2009, leaving her with $363,000 in estate taxes and without hope for exemption. Instead of accepting this, she sued the federal government, arguing that the section of DOMA defining marriage as a union between a man and woman was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court eventually agreed, and on June 26, 2013, Windsor and Spyer’s marriage was recognized. Windsor remarried in September 2016; she died in 2017, just short of her first anniversary.

Ellen DeGeneres

 Made television history when she announced she was gay in 1997. Hours after appearing on The Oprah Winfrey Show, after having come out to TIME magazine earlier in the month, DeGeneres’s fictional sitcom counterpart of the same name followed suit in a two-part special episode of Ellen. The reveal was almost as significant for Ellen the character as it was for Ellen the real-life comedian: In the mid-’90s, LGBT characters—especially well-rounded, relatable ones—were practically non-existent in prime-time. The “Puppy Episode” opened the door for several more television programs starring openly gay characters. Today, Ellen continues to light up screens on her daytime talk show while remaining an active supporter of LGBT rights [3].

Barbra Gittings

 The concept of “gay rights” was virtually non-existent in buttoned-up 1950s America. But that didn’t stop Barbara Gittings from carving out a space for gay women like her where she saw the need for one. She founded the New York chapter of America’s first lesbian organization, the Daughters of Bilitis, in 1958 when she was 26 years old, and in the 1960s she picketed to end discrimination against gay employees in the federal government. But perhaps the greatest legacy she left behind is the American Library Association’s bibliography of literature about gays and lesbians, one of the first collections of its kind[4].

Harvey Milk

Nearly 40 years after his assassination, Harvey Milk remains one of the most well-known figures of the gay rights movement. He rose to prominence in the late 1970s when he became California’s first openly gay person elected to public office. As a community leader in San Francisco, Milk supported the rights of gay teachers, sponsored anti-discrimination legislation, and fostered LGBT-run businesses. In 2009, his nephew Stuart Milk founded the Harvey Milk Foundation to continue his fight for equality.

INDIAN LGBTQ RIGHTS ACTIVISTS AND PIONEERS

Vikram Seth Best is known for his novel ‘A Suitable Boy’, Vikram Seth has been a renowned face in the literary circles for more than three decades and is regarded as one of the most influential writers of the modern era.

Son of Prem Seth and Leila Seth, who was the first woman Chief Justice of a High Court in India, Seth studied at some of the best schools in the country before going to England for higher studies.

One of the openly gay personalities in India, the 61-year-old Padma Shri recipient has penned down a heartfelt poem expressing his anguish over the recent verdict of criminalizing gay sex titled ‘Through love’s great power’.

His mother, Justice Leila has been openly supportive of him and has been a strong supporter of the gay rights movement. Her disapproval of Section 377 is known to the world.

Gauri Sawant

Who would miss the mother from the popular Vicks advertisement who chose to break the gender mold that sticks with parenting roles?

We met Gauri Sawant, a transgender activist who was born as Ganesh but emerged victorious against a society that wasn’t all too tolerant towards transgenders.

From opting to standing for her identity to adopting a young girl whose mother had passed away, Gauri is an example of an individual who chose to live life according to her wishes.

Manvendra Singh Gill

Like a true royal who dedicates himself to the community, Manvendra Singh Gohil has been actively involved in raising awareness towards homosexuality and the implications of AIDS since the day he came out in public, ten years ago.

Hailing from a very conservative state, Manvendra was disowned by his family in public for coming out in public.

That didn’t stop the Prince and he set up his own charity called Lakshya Foundation that works with homosexual men and the transgender community to promote safer sexual practices, despite often facing hindrances from the police.

Manvendra and his charity made headlines again when they resorted to hanging condoms on trees, if at all that could bring more awareness towards having safe sex.

Laxmi Narayan Tripathi

A transgender rights activist, Hindi film actress and a Bharatanatyam dancer based in Mumbai, Laxmi recognizes herself as a part of the hijra community. The eldest one amidst a family of seven from Uttar Pradesh, Laxmi suffered from poor health all her childhood. For being effeminate, she was taunted at school and was sexually abused by a relative.

Fascinated by Bharatanatyam and its costumes, Laxmi took an arts degree at Mumbai’s Mithibai College and a post-graduate degree in Bharatnatyam, with support from her family. She has also starred in many television shows including the reality show Bigg Boss, and three documentary films.

In 2002, Laxmi went on to become one of the founding members of the Dai Welfare Society, an organisation that works for the transgender community and represented Asia Pacific in the UN in 2008, where she spoke of the plight of sexual minorities in the society.

Breaking all conventional notions surrounding beauty pageants pertaining to gender, she launched the Indian Super Queen beauty pageant in 2010, which is going strong![5]

LGBTQ ACTIVISTS AND PIONEERS LGBTQ ACTIVISTS AND PIONEERS LGBTQ ACTIVISTS AND PIONEERS LGBTQ ACTIVISTS AND PIONEERS LGBTQ ACTIVISTS AND PIONEERS LGBTQ ACTIVISTS AND PIONEERS LGBTQ ACTIVISTS AND PIONEERS LGBTQ ACTIVISTS AND PIONEERS LGBTQ ACTIVISTS AND PIONEERS LGBTQ ACTIVISTS AND PIONEERS LGBTQ ACTIVISTS AND PIONEERS LGBTQ ACTIVISTS AND PIONEERS


[1] https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2018/06/historical-lgbt-figures-activists-culture/

[2] https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2018/06/historical-lgbt-figures-activists-culture/

[3] https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/501449/11-lgbt-pioneers-you-should-know

[4] https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/501449/11-lgbt-pioneers-you-should-know

[5] https://www.thebetterindia.com/106115/list-lqbtq-famous-personalities-pride-month/

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