Loud and proud.
Pride Month is officially in full swing, and the celebrations are nonstop. While you’re out enjoying some of the amazing events around the city like joining Humber and UofGH in the Pride Parade, and checking out the Humber LGBTQ+ events, it’s important to recognize the people who’ve fought for equal rights and representation in the LGBTQ+ community. After all, there wouldn’t be much of a Pride Month without them! There have been a ton of important advocates and allies for the community over the years that wouldn’t fit all on one list, so read on for just a few of the notable LGBTQ+ activists both past and present you need to know about!
Jim Egan is noted as being the first journalist to publish articles from a gay point-of-view in Canada, as well as being one of the first openly gay politicians in the country. Not only did he fight against misleading reports and headlines written on gay relationships in the 1950s, when homosexuality was still criminalized in Canada, but he also challenged the Old Age Security Act when he and his partner were denied spousal support. This case led to the inclusion of sexual orientation as grounds for discrimination in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which ultimately paved the way for other LGBTQ+ victories, like the legalization of same-sex marriage in Canada.
Marsha P Johnson
Marsha P Johnson is often referred to as “the Rosa Parks of the LGBTQ+ movement” for her contributions to the 1960s gay rights movement. She was black, queer, and trans, and despite living in a time when her safety was always on the line, she continuously advocated for LGBTQ+ rights. Johnson was also a mother figure for drag queens, trans women and homeless youth throughout the city, always providing them with support. Johnson was an important activist throughout the Stonewall riots in New York City, celebrating it’s 50th anniversary this year, and rumour has it she even threw that first brick that started it all.
Sylvia Rivera was another key figure in the Stonewall riots as well as throughout the 1960s as an advocate for the rights of trans and non-gender conforming people. Once arrested for crawling through a window in heels into a room where the New York City Council was debating a gay rights bill, Rivera fought for her beliefs and equal rights her entire life – even meeting with the Empire State Pride Agenda on her death bed. Along with Marsha P Johnson, she co-founded the Street Transgender Action Revolutionaries (STAR), which provided shelter and support to homeless LGBTQ youth throughout New York City.
Alec Butler is a Canadian Two-Spirit trans playwright and activist, who has won numerous awards for his plays and films depicting life as a trans and Two-Spirit in the 1970s. Butler has been a voice for trans rights since his transition to male in the 1990s and more recently has spoken out against cisgender actors playing trans roles and taking this exposure away from the LGBTQ+ community. Butler has also been an advocate for Bill C-16, which makes it illegal to discriminate on the basis of gender identity or expression, and finally gives the equal rights and protection to trans people that they have fought so hard for.
George Hislop has become one of Canada’s most well-known gay rights activists, and he and his partner were one of the first well-known openly gay couples in Canada back in the 1950s. Hislop’s contributions to LGBTQ+ rights are plenty. He supported the founding of the Community Homophile Association in 1971, organized the first gay rights demonstration on Parliament Hill, and was a prominent figure in the movement to include gays and lesbians in the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. Along with many other accomplishments, Hislop is known for his landmark case against the Federal Government in 1999, that resulted in the Supreme Court ruling that the word “spouse” could be applied to gay and lesbian couples, and they were entitled to support and pension benefits.
You probably recognize Laverne Cox as Sophia Burset on Netflix’s hit series Orange is the New Black, but Cox has also become a major activist in the LGBTQ+ community. After landing her role in the series, and becoming the first transgender actor to be nominated for an Emmy Award, Cox has become an icon in the trans community. She has received many awards for her activism, including GLAAD‘s (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) Stephen F. Kolzak Award, for her work as an advocate for the transgender community, and an honorary doctorate from The New School for her work towards gender equality.
Jenna Talackova came onto the media scene in 2012 when she was disqualified from the Miss Universe Canada pageant for being a transgender woman. After successfully challenging the pageant organizers in a legal battle, the organization reversed its decision and Talackova was allowed to participate. Talackova left the pageant and starred in her own reality show, Brave New Girls, documenting her daily struggles as a trans woman moving from Vancouver to Toronto. She’s the only transgender woman to have ever competed in the Miss Universe pageant, and although she didn’t make it to the final five, this beauty queen is still going down in history.
Lena Waithe has been making a buzz throughout Hollywood in the last few years. As an award-winning writer for the series Master of None, Waithe is creating space for queer people of colour in Hollywood through her writing and her co-chairing of the Committee of Black Writers at the Writers Guild. Most recently, Waithe sent a visual message at the 2019 camp-themed Met Gala, wearing a suit with “Black drag queens invented camp” written across the back, to pay tribute to the community who heavily contributed to the genre. The event’s theme the year prior was Catholicism, and Waithe wore a Pride flag emblazoned cape to the event as a political statement against the Catholic Church’s views on homosexuality. Waithe told The New York Times, “I’ve got the community on my back to make sure they know I’ve got them all the time. The theme to me is, like, ‘Be yourself.’ You were made in God’s image, right?”
If you’re looking for support or want to get involved in the community, check out Humber LGBTQ, The Trevor Project, and PFlag Canada for help and resources.
There are a ton of exciting Pride events happening this month, both on campus and across the city! Take a look at some of the city’s best Pride celebrations here and check out all the events and speakers being hosted by Humber LGBTQ+ on their Instagram!
Follow IGNITE on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat for all things student life.