In recognition of this year’s LGBTQ+ History Month, numerous members of our fandom reached out to share the names of queer women who have profoundly inspired them. The stories of these women reflect resilience, courage, and groundbreaking achievements in the queer community, and it is an honor to acknowledge the inspiration these women have given others. Join us in honoring these remarkable individuals and their profound impact on the lives of those who hold them dear.
- Angela Davis
Angela Davis is a revered scholar, activist, and author known for her intersectional approach to social justice. A prominent figure in the civil rights movement, Davis consistently advocated for the rights of marginalized groups, including the LGBTQ+ community. In 1997, she openly came out as a lesbian, a pivotal moment that added depth to her advocacy for queer rights. Davis’s unwavering commitment to dismantling systems of oppression and challenging societal norms resonates deeply within queer circles. By emphasizing the interconnectedness of various struggles for liberation, she has inspired generations to recognize and address the complex intersections of identity, fostering a more inclusive and equitable world for all.
- Arlo Parks
Arlo Parks is a talented, openly bisexual singer-songwriter who is appreciated for her evocative music and authentic storytelling. With lyrics that capture the nuances of love, identity, and self-discovery, Parks has resonated profoundly with LGBTQ+ audiences. Her openness about mental health struggles and the fluidity of identity has created a space within her art where queer individuals can find solace and connection. By addressing themes that resonate deeply with the queer experience, Arlo Parks has emerged as a genuine and inclusive voice, contributing to a more diverse and empathetic cultural landscape.
- Audre Lorde
Audre Lorde is a trailblazing poet, essayist, and feminist who left an enduring legacy within the queer community. As an openly lesbian figure, Lorde not only advocated for the empowerment and visibility of marginalized voices but also lived authentically as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. Her seminal work Zami: A New Spelling of My Name explored the complexities of identity, love, and resilience, resonating profoundly with queer readers. Lorde’s unapologetic acceptance of her multiple identities, including her queerness, and her calls for collective action have inspired generations of LGBTQ+ individuals to assert their rights and contribute to the ongoing struggle for justice and equality. Her impact extends far beyond her literary contributions, as she continues to be a guiding force in the pursuit of a more inclusive and equitable world.
- bell hooks
bell hooks, a groundbreaking cultural critic, author, and feminist theorist, inspired the queer community through her insightful writings and advocacy. As an openly queer intellectual, hooks has emphasized the interconnectedness of various forms of oppression, including those experienced by the LGBTQ+ community. Through her work, such as Ain’t I a Woman? and Bone Black: Memories of Girlhood, hooks has not only challenged heteronormative social structures but has also explored the intersections of race, gender, and sexuality from the perspective of her own queerness. Her profound contributions have enriched queer scholarship and empowered individuals to navigate the complexities of identity with authenticity and resilience. bell hooks’ legacy continues to inspire dialogue and progress within the queer community and beyond.
- Brandi Carlile
Brandi Carlile, the Grammy-winning singer-songwriter, has become a powerful voice within the queer community through her music and advocacy. Openly gay and unapologetically authentic, Carlile’s lyrics explore themes of love, acceptance, and self-discovery, resonating profoundly with LGBTQ+ audiences. Beyond her music, she has been a vocal supporter of LGBTQ+ rights, using her platform to champion inclusivity and equality. As an out and proud artist, Carlile has provided representation and inspired countless individuals to embrace their authentic selves. Her impact on the queer community extends beyond the stage, creating a lasting legacy of empowerment and visibility.
- Barbara Gittings
Barbara Gittings, a pioneering LGBTQ+ activist, played a pivotal role in advancing the rights and visibility of the queer community. As a prominent advocate in the mid-20th century, Gittings fearlessly challenged societal norms surrounding homosexuality and worked tirelessly to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder. Instrumental in the early LGBTQ+ rights movement, she co-founded the Daughters of Bilitis, one of the first lesbian organizations in the United States. Gittings’ relentless advocacy, including her involvement in the American Psychiatric Association protests, significantly contributed to the eventual removal of homosexuality from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Her legacy as a trailblazer and catalyst for change continues to inspire activists in the ongoing fight for LGBTQ+ rights.
- Carmen Maria Machado
Carmen Maria Machado is a trailblazing author known for her groundbreaking literary works. Renowned for her acclaimed collection of stories, Her Body and Other Parties, Machado’s writing explores the complexities of queer experiences with nuance and creativity, drawing inspiration from her own queerness. Her work is celebrated for its boldness in addressing themes of identity, desire, and the intricacies of relationships. As an openly queer writer, Machado has become a powerful voice, offering authentic representation and profound insight that resonates deeply within the LGBTQ+ community. Her contributions to contemporary literature not only enrich queer narratives but also inspire readers to engage with diverse perspectives on love, gender, and self-discovery.
- Chely Wright
Chely Wright, country music singer and songwriter, has made significant strides in the realm of LGBTQ+ visibility. As one of the first country music stars to come out as gay, Wright’s openness about her identity has had a lasting impact on the queer community. Facing the challenges of being an LGBTQ+ individual in the country music industry, she has become a trailblazer, using her platform to advocate for inclusivity and acceptance. Wright’s courage in sharing her personal journey has paved the way for greater representation within the genre and inspired countless individuals to embrace their authentic selves. Her impact extends beyond music, contributing to a more diverse and inclusive narrative within the broader LGBTQ+ community.
Dodie, the singer-songwriter and YouTube sensation, quickly became a beacon of authenticity and relatability within the queer community. Dodie has cultivated a devoted following through her heartfelt music and candid online presence, resonating particularly with LGBTQ+ audiences. As an openly bisexual artist, Dodie’s lyrics explore themes of love, self-discovery, and mental health, providing a comforting and inclusive space for listeners. Beyond her musical contributions, Dodie’s openness about her own journey has fostered a sense of connection and acceptance within the queer community, making her a source of inspiration for those navigating their own paths of identity and expression.
- Frida Kahlo
Frida Kahlo, the iconic Mexican painter, remains a symbol of resilience and unapologetic self-expression in the queer community. Through her vivid and reflective art, Kahlo explored themes of identity, pain, and passion, transcending societal norms. As a bisexual woman, her life and work challenged heteronormative expectations, offering a powerful representation for queer individuals. Kahlo’s unflinching honesty about her experiences, both in love and pain, has made her an enduring figure for LGBTQ+ individuals seeking inspiration and connection. Her legacy extends beyond the canvas, contributing to the broader conversation about the beauty and strength of embracing one’s true self.
- Hannah Gadsby
Hannah Gadsby, the acclaimed comedian and writer, has carved a transformative path within the queer community through her groundbreaking work. Best known for her special Nanette, Gadsby challenges traditional comedy norms by seamlessly blending humor with profound social commentary. As an openly lesbian performer, Gadsby fearlessly explores her experiences, tackling issues of identity, mental health, and the intersectionality of being queer. Her impact on the LGBTQ+ community extends beyond laughter; Gadsby’s authenticity and courage have sparked vital conversations, providing a powerful voice for those who have long been underrepresented. Through her artistry and advocacy, Gadsby continues to inspire and empower the queer community worldwide.
- Ijeoma Olou
Ijeoma Oluo is an influential writer and activist admired for her powerful contributions to social justice dialogue. Known for her acclaimed work So You Want to Talk About Race, Oluo fearlessly explores the intersections of race, identity, and queerness. As a queer woman of color, her insightful commentary challenges systemic inequalities and amplifies marginalized voices. Oluo’s commitment to inclusivity and social change has not only fostered awareness within the LGBTQ+ community but has also ignited broader conversations on allyship, equity, and the importance of diverse perspectives in the ongoing struggle for justice.
- Jeanette Winterson
Jeannette Winterson, the celebrated author, has been a trailblazer in literature with a profound impact on the queer community. Through works like Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, Winterson fearlessly explores the complexities of identity, love, and resilience. As an openly lesbian writer, her narratives provide a rich tapestry of queer experiences, challenging societal norms and championing authenticity. Winterson’s contributions to queer literature not only offer representation but also inspire readers to embrace their own truths. Her literary legacy continues to resonate, influencing both the LGBTQ+ community and the broader literary landscape.
- Joan Nestle & Deborah Eded
Joan Nestle and Deborah Edel, co-founders of the Lesbian Herstory Archives, have been instrumental in preserving and celebrating the diverse narratives of queer women. Established in the 1970s, the Archives stand as a testament to their commitment to documenting and archiving the rich history of lesbian and queer experiences. Through this groundbreaking initiative, Nestle and Edel have created a vital space for storytelling, activism, and community building. Their collective efforts have contributed immensely to the visibility and empowerment of queer women, ensuring that their stories are not only remembered but celebrated within the broader LGBTQ+ community.
- Jodi Foster
Jodie Foster is an accomplished actress and director who has made a significant impact on the queer community through her prolific career and moments of personal disclosure. While famously private about her personal life, Foster’s decision to publicly acknowledge her own sexuality at the 2013 Golden Globe Awards served as a poignant moment of representation. As an openly queer figure in the entertainment industry, Foster has inspired LGBTQ+ individuals and contributed to increased visibility. Beyond her groundbreaking roles, her advocacy and genuine approach to addressing her identity have helped foster a more inclusive and accepting environment for queer individuals in the public eye.
- Kate McKinnon
Kate McKinnon, the Emmy-winning comedian and actress, has become a beloved figure known for her comedic brilliance and authentic queer representation. As a cast member on Saturday Night Live, McKinnon has skillfully navigated LGBTQ+ themes, bringing humor and visibility to the forefront. In addition to navigating LGBTQ+ themes, McKinnon is also recognized for imitating and portraying a variety of well-known icons, including other queer figures like Ellen DeGeneres. Through comedy, McKinnon has found a way to showcase her immense talent and contribute to breaking down stereotypes and promoting LGBTQ+ inclusivity in mainstream media. Beyond her comedic prowess, McKinnon’s openness about her own identity as a lesbian has made her an inspiring and relatable figure for many in the queer community.
- k. d. lang
- d. lang is a Grammy-winning singer-songwriter who’s made a profound impact on the queer community through her groundbreaking music and unapologetic authenticity. As an openly lesbian artist, lang’s work has resonated with LGBTQ+ audiences, offering a unique blend of country, pop, and folk that transcends genre boundaries. lang’s openness about her identity and undeniable talent have made her a trailblazer within the music industry. Through her career, she has not only provided representation for the queer community but has also contributed to fostering a more inclusive and accepting environment in the world of music. lang’s legacy continues to inspire generations of LGBTQ+ individuals to embrace their true selves.
- Lesley Gore
Lesley Gore, the well-known singer, played a pivotal role in the history of popular music and has had a lasting impact on the queer community. With hits like “It’s My Party” and “You Don’t Own Me,” Gore’s music became anthems of empowerment and independence. As a lesbian in the entertainment industry when being openly LGBTQ+ was rare, Gore’s resilience and authenticity paved the way for future generations. Her contribution to the LGBTQ+ community extends beyond her chart-topping songs; Gore’s openness about her identity remains an inspiration, reminding us of the courage it takes to be true to oneself in the face of societal expectations.
- Leslie Jones
Leslie Jones is a comedian and actress admired for her vibrant personality and unapologetic humor. Known for her standout performances on Saturday Night Live and roles in popular films, Jones brings a refreshing and inclusive energy to her work. Her comedic brilliance extends to addressing LGBTQ+ themes with humor and relatability, fostering a sense of connection with diverse audiences. Jones’ vocal support for the LGBTQ+ community and her genuine approach to comedy have made her a beloved figure, breaking down barriers and contributing to a more inclusive entertainment landscape.
- Mhari Black
Mhairi Black is a Scottish politician and Parliament member known for her advocacy and representation. As an openly lesbian politician, Black has been a powerful voice for LGBTQ+ rights, championing inclusivity and equality in her political work. Her courage in navigating the intersection of politics and identity has inspired many, and she has been a vocal advocate for progressive policies that promote diversity and acceptance. Black’s contributions to the political landscape serve as a beacon for queer individuals, emphasizing the importance of diverse voices in positions of influence and power.
- Sally Ride
Sally Ride, trailblazing astronaut and physicist, made history as the first American woman in space in 1983. While Sally Ride did not publicly discuss her sexual orientation during her lifetime, her obituary revealed that she’d had a female partner for almost 30 years. This posthumous revelation of Sally being the first known LGBTQ+ astronaut has had a profound impact on the queer community. Ride’s achievements in the traditionally male-dominated field of space exploration, coupled with her legacy as a queer woman, exemplify resilience and the breaking of barriers. Her story continues to inspire LGBTQ+ individuals pursuing careers in science and space exploration, emphasizing that diversity and inclusion are vital components of progress and achievement.
- Sandra Cisneros
Sandra Cisneros is an acclaimed author and poet known for her beloved literary contributions. Best known for her influential work The House on Mango Street, Cisneros weaves narratives that explore the complexities of identity, culture, and womanhood, including themes with resonance in the queer experience. As an openly bisexual writer, she has brought visibility and authenticity to the intersection of LGBTQ+ and Latinx identities. Cisneros’ storytelling has not only enriched literature but has also inspired a more nuanced understanding of diverse identities, fostering empathy and connection within the broader queer community.
- Sarah Paulson
Sarah Paulson is an Emmy-winning actress who has inspired the queer community through her exceptional talent and openly embraced LGBTQ+ identity. Known for her versatile roles in television and film, Paulson has portrayed complex characters with depth and authenticity. As an openly queer public figure, she has used her platform to advocate for LGBTQ+ rights and visibility in the entertainment industry. Paulson’s willingness to discuss her own experiences and identity has made her a relatable and inspirational figure, contributing to a more inclusive representation of queer individuals in popular culture. Her impact extends beyond the screen, fostering a sense of connection and pride within the LGBTQ+ community.
- Sylvia Rivera
Sylvia Rivera, a pioneering transgender activist, has had an enduring impact on the queer community through her fearless advocacy for the rights of transgender and LGBTQ+ individuals. A key figure in the early LGBTQ+ rights movement, Rivera played a pivotal role in the Stonewall uprising of 1969, a landmark moment in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights. Co-founding the Gay Liberation Front and the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR), Rivera tirelessly worked to address issues of homelessness and discrimination faced by transgender and queer youth. Her legacy continues to inspire activists today, emphasizing the intersectionality of LGBTQ+ rights and the importance of amplifying the voices of the most marginalized within the community.
- Tegan and Sara Quin
Tegan and Sara, the Canadian indie-pop duo, have positively impacted the queer community through their music and advocacy. Identical twin sisters, Tegan and Sara are openly lesbian and have used their platform to champion LGBTQ+ visibility and inclusivity. Their heartfelt lyrics often explore themes of love, identity, and resilience, resonating deeply with queer audiences. Beyond their musical contributions, Tegan and Sara founded the Tegan and Sara Foundation, dedicated to advancing LGBTQ+ rights and representation. As prominent queer figures in the music industry, their authenticity and advocacy continue to inspire and empower individuals within the LGBTQ+ community.
- Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West
Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West, two literary icons of the early 20th century, forged a unique and influential connection that left its mark on the queer community. The depth of their relationship, documented in letters and diaries, transcended conventional norms of friendship. Woolf’s novel Orlando, inspired by Sackville-West, stands as a testament to their complex connection and challenges traditional notions of gender and identity. The correspondence between these two remarkable women offers a glimpse into a queer narrative at a time when open expressions of same-sex love were often suppressed. Their unconventional bond has become a symbol of queer love, resilience, and artistic collaboration, leaving an indelible influence on LGBTQ+ history.
- Wanda Sykes
Wanda Sykes, the Emmy-winning comedian and actress, is well-loved for her comedy contributions and open advocacy for LGBTQ+ rights. As an openly lesbian figure in the entertainment industry, Sykes fearlessly incorporates her identity into her stand-up routines, bringing humor and authenticity to the forefront. Her candid and relatable approach resonates with diverse audiences, fostering a greater understanding of LGBTQ+ experiences. Beyond her comedic brilliance, Sykes has been an outspoken advocate for equality and visibility, using her platform to address issues affecting the queer community. Her impact extends far beyond the stage, contributing to a more inclusive and accepting cultural landscape.
- Whitney Houston
Whitney Houston, the legendary singer and actress, holds a cherished place in the hearts of the queer community not only for her unparalleled talent but also as a figure whose own nods to queerness have resonated with many. Robyn Crawford, her longtime friend and confidante, confirmed their queer relationship, adding a significant layer to Houston’s identity within LGBTQ+ spaces. Despite not publicly discussing her sexual orientation during her lifetime, Houston’s impact within the queer community is amplified by the shared understanding and appreciation of her music that transcends boundaries. Houston’s presence and the emotional depth of her performances continue to be a source of connection and inspiration for queer individuals, contributing to her enduring legacy within the community.
As LGBTQ+ History Month concludes, the stories of these extraordinary women illuminate the diverse and impactful journeys within the queer community. Their voices, identities, and contributions have left a permanent mark, inspiring reflection, appreciation, and a deeper understanding of the rich tapestry of LGBTQ+ history.