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Nine LGBTQ+ Icons In History

February in the UK is celebrated as LGBTQ+ History month, an opportunity to remember all the wonderful and often difficult work done by many inspirational individuals, to ensure everyone has the same freedom to be themselves.

woman holding a book, next to a coffee mug

Most universities put on many educational and support events during the month, so make sure to check out the schedule on your university’s website.

While it’s impossible to name everyone throughout history who have tried to end hate, here we have picked out 9 LGBTQ+ icons who have helped make the world a little better.

Freddie Mercury

No list on LGBTQ+ icons could be complete without this legendary Queen front man. Freddie was known as much for his charisma and personality as for his music and famously when speaking to the NME in 1974, responded to a question about his sexuality with “I’m as gay as a daffodil, my dear!”. What can be seen as just a funny statement now, back in 1974 it was powerful coming just 7 years after the legalisation of homosexuality, and still decades before an equal age of consent was passed.

Alan Turing

Known as the father of modern computing and artificial intelligence, Alan despite his accomplishments, was never fully recognised during his lifetime due to his homosexuality, which was then a crime in the UK. In 2009, following an internet campaign, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown made an official public apology on behalf of the British government for “the appalling way he was treated”. Queen Elizabeth II granted him a posthumous pardon in 2013 and the Alan Turing law is now an informal term for a law that retroactively pardoned men cautioned or convicted under historical legislation that outlawed homosexual acts.

Stephen Fry

A national treasure, Stephen Fry is a comedian, actor, writer, presenter, and outspoken activist. Actively advocating for equal rights for decades, he has been married to fellow comedian Elliot Spencer since 2015. In 2013 he called on the British government for a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi due to concerns over the state-sanctioned persecution of LGBT+ community in Russia.

Ellen DeGeneres

One of the most loved chat show hosts and best interviewers on television, Ellen is universally adored for her natural wit and charm. In 2016 she received America’s highest civilian honour the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Barack Obama for her influence on the gay rights movement.

Harvey Milk

Harvey was an American politician and the first openly gay elected official in the history of California, where he was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. During his eleven months in office, he sponsored a bill banning discrimination in public accommodations, housing, and employment on the basis of sexual orientation. Called the most famous and most significantly open LGBT official ever elected in the United States, Milk was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009.

Marsha P. Johnson

Marsha was an American gay liberation activist and self-identified drag queen. Known as an outspoken advocate for gay rights, Johnson was one of the prominent figures in the Stonewall uprising of 1969. A founding member of the Gay Liberation Front, Johnson co-founded the gay and transvestite advocacy organization S.T.A.R. (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries). A popular figure in New York City’s gay and art scene, known as the “mayor of Christopher Street”, Marsha modeled for Andy Warhol and performed onstage with the drag performance troupe, Hot Peaches.

Leslie Cheung

Leslie was a Hong Kong singer and actor, widely regarded as “one of the founding fathers of Cantopop” for achieving huge success both in film and music. In 2010, he was voted the third “Most Iconic Musicians of All Time” (after Michael Jackson and The Beatles) and CNN called him one of “Asia’s 25 Greatest Actors of All Time.” In an interview in 1992 he was quoted as saying “My mind is bisexual. It’s easy for me to love a woman. It’s also easy for me to love a man too”.

John E. Fryer

An American psychiatrist and gay rights activist, he is best known for his anonymous speech at the 1972 American Psychiatric Association annual conference where he appeared in disguise and under the name Dr. Henry Anonymous. This event has been cited as a key factor in the decision to de-list homosexuality as a mental illness from the APA’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Nicola Adams

Great Britain’s most successful female boxer of all time. In August 2016, Nicola became the first British boxer to successfully defend their Olympic title for 92 years. Openly bisexual, Nicola has said she hopes to use her celebrity status to inspire others. She said “I would like to do more for the LGBT community, try to help people.” Nicola is powerful icon for young LGBT+to look up to and be inspired.


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