In the face of the horrific massacre of 49 LGBTQ individuals in Orlando, this post celebrates five LGBTQ heroes who have shaped and shifted our national values, politics, and discourse in the face of intersecting identities and struggles. The following men and women are writers, poets, agitators, feminists, organizers, and political agents who have changed our nation while facing anti-LGBTQ, anti-immigrant, and anti-Latinx violence. Similar to victims of the Pulse massacre in Orlando, these individuals sit at the margins within a marginalized community. Through their advocacy and unapologetic nature, they remind us of the power and impact of LGBTQ pride.
Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa
In 1981, two Chicana feminists, deeply influenced by the civil rights, labor, and the gay liberation movement, published This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color. Fed up with the dominance of white women in feminist discourse and politics, Moraga and Anzaldúa assembled an anthology that centered the voices and stories of women pushed to the margins: Chicanas, African Americans, low-income women, queer women, and indigenous women. With their work, they responded to a wide range of issues: sexism, capitalism, war, racism, homophobia, colonialism and immigration- and, in the process, they shifted the terrain of feminist thought and policy.
Raffi Freedman-Gurspan is the first trans, latinx woman to serve as the White House’s LGBT liaison. Freedman-Gurspan serves as Outreach and Recruitment Director for Presidential Personnel and acts as the White House point of contact for all LGBTQ groups. Before joining the White House, Freedman-Gurspan was a policy adviser at the National Center for Transgender Equality and a legislative director in the Massachusetts House of Representatives. In this time of anti-LGBTQ discrimination and violence, Gurspan’s role as a liaison to the most powerful office in the nation speaks volumes to her skill and importance in the fight for LGBTQ equality.
Born in Peru, Robert Garcia came to the U.S. with his mother at the age of five. He now serves as the first openly gay and first Latinx Mayor of Long Beach, California. As the youngest person to ever hold the job, Garcia authored the city’s Equal Benefits Ordinance, designed to ensure domestic partner benefits for city vendors, provided funding for California labor unions, and founded the first Latin-American Parade in Long Beach.
Sylvia Rivera was a bi-sexual, transgender Latinx activist and veteran of the 1969 Stonewall Uprising, which were violent demonstrations against a police raid on a bar popular with the LGBTQ community and helped spark the gay rights movement. While early LGBTQ liberation movements were organized and driven by low-income women of color, they often found themselves erased from political discourse by gay white men. In response, Sylvia Rivera, along with Marsha P. Johnson, founded STAR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries), one of the first transgender advocacy organizations in the nation.