In honor of Pride Month, I’m proud to recognize the significant contributions of the LGBTQ community to art, science, sports, entertainment, and politics in the United States and around the world. We have compiled brief bios on a few remarkable individuals, a small subset of the large, diverse population. In Washington, I will fight for the protection of everyone’s civil rights, regardless of identity.
Marsha P. Johnson, a drag queen, and a transgender woman was an LGBTQ activist in the latter half of the 20th century. She played a significant role in the Stonewall Riots in June of 1969, which is the reason Pride Month is celebrated in June to this day. Marsha Johnson established the STAR House, a shelter for LGBTQ youth in New York City that primarily served LGBTQ people of color, and that later became the model for LGBTQ youth shelters across the country.
David Bowie was a singer, songwriter, actor, and record producer who has left a legacy as being among the best-selling recording artists in the world. In a 1972 interview, Bowie came out as gay, later clarifying that he actually identified as bisexual. Bowie died on January 10, 2016, just two days after the release of his 30th studio album.
Josephine Baker was a bisexual entertainer who lived and performed in Paris after facing discrimination in the US due to her race. Ernest Hemingway described her as “the most sensational woman anyone ever saw.” She performed for troops during WWII, served as a lieutenant in the French Women’s Auxiliary Army, and smuggled secret messages for the French army on music sheets.
Jean O’Leary was a lesbian LGBTQ rights activist and a former nun in the latter half of the 20th century. She was significantly involved in US politics, founding the Lesbian Feminist Liberation, one of the first lesbian women’s rights organizations, and was one of only three openly gay delegates at the Democratic National Convention in 1976.
Senator Tammy Baldwin is a member of the United States Senate from the state of Wisconsin. She was the first openly lesbian member of the Senate, as well as the first female member of Congress from Wisconsin.
Dr. John Fryer was a gay psychiatrist in the 1970’s. He is best known for challenging the diagnosis of homosexuality as a mental illness in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Illness. After his anonymous testimony, the American Psychiatric Association formed a committee that eventually led to the declassification of homosexuality as a mental illness.
Sherri Murrell was the first openly lesbian NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Coach. She publicly came out in 2009 when a magazine featured a photo of her and her partner, sparking controversy. Her record with Washington State University remains strong, and she has spoken against homophobia in athletics on multiple occasions.
Major General Tammy Smith was the first openly lesbian general in the United States military. She and her wife were married by a military chaplain in 2013, and she has been an outspoken advocate for LGBT equality for many years. She has been honored by multiple LGBTQ organizations and was the grand marshall of the Washington Pride Parade in 2013.
Laverne Cox is a transgender actress and activist. She is best known for her role as Sophia Bursett in Orange is the New Black. She has been nominated for multiple acting and film awards and was the first transgender person to have a wax figure in Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum, as well as the first transgender person to appear on the cover of Time Magazine.
James Obergefell is best known for the 2015 Supreme Court case, Obergefell v. Hodges. Obergefell was petitioning for the right to be recognized as the living spouse on his husband, John Arthur’s death certificate. He maintained that the governor, John Kasich, was discriminating against same-sex couples that had legally married out of the state. His case was taken to the Supreme Court of the United States, and on June 26th, 2015, the Supreme Court delivered the decision that banning same-sex marriage was considered unconstitutional in all US states and territories.
Alan Turing was a computer scientist in the early 1900’s best known for being on the team of scientists who cracked the German Enigma code, allowing the WWII Allies to intercept and understand German messages. He was prosecuted in 1952 for engaging in homosexual acts and was chemically castrated as punishment. In 1954, he died of cyanide poisoning, which was ruled a suicide. Queen Elizabeth II granted him a posthumous pardon in 2013.
Lili Elbe was a transgender Danish painter and model around the turn of the 20th century. She was one of the first identifiable recipients of sex reassignment surgery. Her autobiography, Man Into Woman, was published after her death and details her life and struggles as a transgender woman. She married Gerda Gottlieb, a lesbian Danish illustrator in 1904, but when she legally transitioned to a woman, their marriage was invalidated. Lili died from a failed uterus transplant in 1931.