Icons That Have Shaped LGBT History

6 min read

Recently, individuals across the globe have been flooded with LGBTQ issues, bringing light to matters surrounding an essential topic, once considered taboo. As concerns of gender and sexuality grow, many have begun uncovering the decades of social reforms that impacted communities and shaped the future of LGBTQ activism. These movements continue to raise public awareness, spiking a demand for LGBTQ information.

As we pass the halfway point of LGBT History Month a movement designated to celebrate the journey and achievements of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals, we wanted to take a moment to recognize some of the important faces throughout the course LGBT history.

Each day in LGBT History Month has been assigned an official icon; one who represents glamour, flamboyance, strength, adversity, and androgyny for LGBTQ individuals. We’re showcasing a few here and linking to sample content you’ll find in Archives of Sexuality & Gender.

Virginia Apuzzo: After the Stonewall Riots (1969), “Ginny” came out publicly as a lesbian and established herself as an activist, educator, and civil servant. From highest-ranking out lesbian in the federal government to one of the earliest, and most vocal, female AIDS activist, she dedicated her life to gay and lesbian issues. In a 1983 interview by The ConnectionApuzzo is quoted “I came here in a moment of crisis for the National Gay Task Force. The board was disenfranchised. Meanwhile, the community was involved in its own crisis. The community should not have to worry about the health and well-being of our organizations, but the health and well-being of the community.”

ocypcq765483311-1Josephine Baker: An American-born, bisexual entertainer who found fame as a dancer, singer, and actress in Paris. She publicly criticized Jim Crow laws that enforced segregation and spoke along side Dr. Martin Luther King in 1963. During World War II, Baker earned recognition performing for troops and smuggling secret messages on music sheets for the French Resistance. A 1995 Arts Beat article, noted Josephine as “the Universal Mother of her Rainbow Tribe” which she called the twelve children she adopted from around the world in the name of world brotherhood.



Brian Bond: An executive director of the Victory Fund and, in the Obama administration, became the first openly gay deputy director of the White House Office of Public Engagement. His campaigns lead to many victories for LGBTQ politicians across the nation. After learning he was HIV positive, Bond became an advocate for AIDS education, declaring that a mobilized community can reduce the number of people who become infected.

Essex Hemphill: An openly gay Black American poet and grass-roots activist. He known for his contributions to the Washington D.C. art scene in the 1980’s, and for shedding light on topics pertinent to the African American gay community. In 1990, Hemphill wrote an article in Gay Community News stating “But who among us can really judge our choices made in the name of love, choices made to nurture and fulfill intimate and emotional needs? Aren’t we all too familiar with how certain kinds of couplings are judged ‘incorrect’ and the couples are ostracized and penalized simply they are of the same gender or are of different racial and ethnic backgrounds?”

Chaz Bono: Born Chastity Bono, is the only child of American entertainers Sonny and Cher. Bono spoke about coming out as a celebrity in a 1995 issue of Outlines: The Voice of the Gay and Lesbian Community.  In 2008 Bono began undergoing gender reassignment procedures, publicly discussing the experience in the Emmy-nominated documentary “Becoming Chaz.” Currently, Bono is a leading transgender advocate and speaks out worldwide for LGBT rights.

David Bowie: Born David Robert Jones in London, David Bowie was a singer, songwriter, actor and record producer. He is among the best-selling recording artists in the world. In a 1972 interview, Bowie told Melody Maker magazine that he was gay. An article from Gay Alternative (1973) shows Bowie’s lightening bolt make-up and highlights a few songs written about being gay.  In 1996, Bowie was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and became the first musician to release a song for download.


Ashok Row Kavi: A representative at the International AIDS Conference in Amsterdam and served as chairman of the Second International Congress on AIDS. In 1990, he founded Bombay Dost, India’s first gay magazine that is still printed today.

Jeanna Córdova: A pioneering feminist and lesbian rights activist who helped lead the LGBT movement on the West Coast of the United States. She launched numerous civil rights and community organizations. In 1973, Córdova wrote an article calling the Gay Liberation Movement a war “not many people know where it’s being fought or what it’s all about.”  Her autobiography, “When We Were Outlaws: A Memoir of Love and Revolution,” was published in 2011. 

Midge Costanza: A political activist and an adviser to President Jimmy Carter. Costanza became an outspoken advocate for LGBT rights and, in 1973, became the first woman elected to the Rochester (N.Y.) City Council. The Gay Community News interviewed Costanza in 1977, and quoted “non-gay people have as much to lose when anybody’s rights are questioned as those who are being questioned.” Costanza was also active with an AIDS research organization and fought for the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. She worked tirelessly to elect more women to public office.

John Fryer: A psychiatrist who electrified his colleagues by telling the 1972 convention of the American Psychiatric Association in a mask that he was a homosexual at a time when homosexuality was classified as a mental illness. A conference titled “A New Look at Sexuality” expressed that the professions and society must reexamine views of sexuality in the light of the increasing evidence that all forms of mutually consenting, non-exploitative sexual expression are valid and healthy. In December 1973, the board of the psychiatric association voted to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders.

The Next Step
Foster LGBTQ knowledge and understanding in your community with a vast resource of rare and unique content that document LGBTQ history through the largest collection of primary sources. Take the next step to bring resources to your library community and request a trial of LGBTQ History and Culture Since 1940, Part I of Archives of Sexuality & Gender.

To learn more about the Archives of Sexuality & Gender and to request a trial visit: gale.com/LGBTQ for academic libraries or gale.com/LGBTQPUB for public libraries.

Tune in for more LGBT History Month posts all month long!Air Jordan 1 GS

Leave a Comment