Female LGBTQ+ Icons You Should Know About

Women’s History Month is coming to an end, and Pride month is still a bit far off, but it’s never too soon or late to celebrate the legacies of LGBTQ+ female icons. Despite the pushes for equality and acceptance from our community, many issues run rampant within LGBTQ+ spaces. It’s not enough to deal with homophobia from heteronormative society, but we also have internal struggles, including racism, transphobia and sexism. The beauty within the LGBTQ+ community is the diversity, complexity and rarity in the people that make up the group. Folks from all walks of life, gender identities, sexualities and gender expressions make up the community, and it’s (been) time to recognize everybody. To honor the LGBTQ+ women who have paved the way for us in so many fields, here are some of the names you should know. 

Audre Lorde

The fascinating Audre Lorde was a writer, activist and librarian who described herself as “Black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet.” Through her poetry, she explored themes of Black female identity, including her identity as a lesbian, her disability and civil rights. She was also known for her sharp critiques of capitalism, sexism, racism, classism and other forms of social injustice that she witnessed. Through her work, she’s challenged the notion of being seen as a stereotype by acknowledging the multifaceted aspects of her identity. Lorde brought forth work that analyzed feminism in refreshing ways and impactful writing that inspires and motivates folks to this day. Some of her most recognizable pieces are “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House” and “Zami: A New Spelling of My Name.” I highly recommend checking out her work because there is always something to learn from her. 

Laverne Cox

If you went through an Orange Is the New Black phase back in middle school like I did, then you know about Laverne Cox. The actress has broken so many barriers that reveal the lack of trans representation in the media industry, even in the 21st century. She is the first trans person to win an Emmy, have a role as a transgender person on broadcast TV, appear on the cover of Time Magazine, and have a wax figure at Madame Tussauds. Cox is a trailblazer for many members of the LGBTQ+ community and represents the spaces that need trans voices. Cox is also known for her activism and has won various awards for the work she’s done. Through her activism, Cox expands on the need for an intersectional lens when looking at trans identities. 

Angela Davis

The first time I learned about Angela Davis was when I looked through my mom’s collection of books and found a tattered version of Davis’ autobiography from back in the 80s. The book was in poor condition since it had traveled an ocean from my mom’s home country to the U.S and withstood the test of decades. Nevertheless, the work of Angela Davis feels like an emotional fire that keeps serving its purpose years after its inception. Many different labels can describe Angela Davis, but she is most notably referred to as a political author and organizer. Her work critiques many issues such as classism, sexism, racism, capitalism and the prison-industrial complex. She is most known for her involvement with the Black Panther Party and her work against various forms of injustice. Through her autobiography and writings, we learn about the experiences that inform a large part of her stances, including her rejection of compulsory heterosexuality. As a Black lesbian, her sexuality is often rejected as an essential factor of her identity, and it’s crucial to highlight this aspect. LGBTQ+ people often get written out of history or spoken about in an ambiguous manner that assumes they are straight. Instead, we should celebrate all elements of Davis as it is important to understand her life and work.

Janet Mock

As a writer, director and producer on my favorite TV show, I had to include Janet Mock. With her work on the TV show POSE, she became the first trans woman of color to work as a writer for a show and the first trans woman of color to secure a deal with a top media company. The show at hand follows the lives of five trans women in New York during the late 1980s. It centers around the ballroom culture of the time but weaves in essential themes of the trans and gay community. The themes of the show include sex work, homelessness, homophobia, transphobia, the HIV/AIDS epidemic and gender identity struggles. While it is filled with fiction, it is a unique show that centers on LGBTQ+ stories and is filled by trans people portraying trans roles. Mock’s work also extends into writing, as she has written many books about her experience as a trans woman. She is a prominent figure in trans activism and started the hashtag  #GirlsLikeUs to highlight and empower other trans women and their stories.

While I wish I could ramble on about other amazing LGBTQ+ women, I hope you found a figure whose work you’d like to check out and learn more about. It’s important to recognize those who have contributed so much to our entertainment, history and art. We can always learn more from all these creative and inspiring minds.