Because of the often white-straight-centric history taught in schools, it’s easy to forget that American history is far more diverse than that. In honor of Black History Month, these are the Black leaders of the LGBT rights movement you should know.
- Gladys Bentley (1907-1960)
During the Harlem Renaissance, Bently perfromed as a blues singer in what could be considered one of the first drag performances- dressed in a top hat and a tuxedo. In a 2019 New York Times article dedicated to Overlooked Black New Yorkers Bentely is rembered as “Harlem’s most famous Lesiban”.
- Miss Major Griffin-Gracy (Born 1940)
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy is a trans woman, and trans activist. She’s worked with the Trans Gender Varient and Intersect Justice Project, often speaking out against the prison system and their incarceration of trans folx, specifically trans folx of color.
- Marsha P. Johnson (1945-1992)
Marsha P. Johnson is the reigning Queen of trans rights, sometimes being credited for throwing the first brick at the Stonewall Riots- fighting for the right for trans folx to gather without fear of police brutality. Throughout her life Marsha helped form Street Transgender Action Revolutionaries (STAR) and would work as an AIDS activist with AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP).
- Ron Oden ( Born 1950)
Oden is the first openly gay Black man elected as mayor of an American city. He was elected as mayor of Palm Springs California in 2003. His election set a precident for diversity and representation within Public Offices.
- Andrea Jenkins (born 1961)
In 2017 Andrea Jenkins was elected to a seat on the Minneapolis City Council. This made history as she is the first openly transgender, Black woman to be elected to a public office in American history. She now works as a poet, and oral historian at the University of Minnesota, where this past year she conducted a lecture series for the Gender and Sexuality Center for Queer and Trans Life.