Jane Addams (1860–1935) the first American woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931, a pioneer settlement worker, founder of Hull House in Chicago, public philosopher, sociologist, author, and leader in women‘s suffrage and world peace. One of the most famous women in America in the early 20th century, Addams was also a charter member of the NAACP, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. Visitors to Chicago’s Hull House Museum can explore more about Addams’ personal life, legacy, and contributions to civic engagement and modern democracy. SF Bay Times Article
Alvin Ailey (1931-1989) Gay American ballet dancer and choreographer credited with popularizing modern dance and revolutionizing African-American participation in 20th-century concert dance. Gay American ballet dancer and choreographer credited with popularizing modern dance and revolutionizing African-American participation in 20th-century concert dance. His Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and School served as a melting pot for many styles of dance and native African-American traditions, as well as discovering and developing budding talent. His personal choreographic masterpiece is Revelations, still performed by
dance troupes all over the world.
W.H. Auden (1907-1973) Gay English poet known for love poems such as “Funeral Blues,” poems on political and social themes such as “September 1, 1939,” and poems on cultural and psychological themes such as “The Age of Anxiety.” Gay English poet known for love poems such as “Funeral Blues,” poems on political and social themes such as “September 1, 1939,” and poems on cultural and psychological themes such as “The Age of Anxiety,” for which he won the 1947 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. He collaborated on three plays with Christopher Isherwood with whom he had an intermittent romantic relationship and collaborated on opera libretti with Chester Kallman to music by Igor Stravinsky. Since his death in 1973, his poetry has become known to a much wider public through various adaptations.
Josephine Baker (1906-1975) American-born dancer, singer, actress, and world-famous entertainer, embraced by France as a national treasure, who refused to perform for segregated audiences in the United State.
James Baldwin (1924–1987), American novelist, playwright, essayist, poet, civil rights activist whose work deals with racial and sexual issues in the mid-20th century in the United States. His novels mine complex social and psychological pressures related to being black and homosexual well before the social, cultural or political equality of these groups was improved. His groundbreaking 1956 novel, Giovanni’s Room, boldly examined an interracial gay love affair between two men living in Paris, and the social isolation facing those with such desires. As the Civil Rights movement unfolded in the U.S., Baldwin was a prominent, progressive voice who did not shy away from his own sexual identity. When an interviewer asked him on television to describe the challenges he faced as “a black, impoverished homosexual,” he answered, “I thought I’d hit the jackpot.” SF Bay Times Article
Glenn Burke (1952-1995) Major League Baseball’s first out gay player and inventor of the high five excelled as a multi-talented athlete. Born and raised in Oakland, California, Glenn, led Berkeley High School to the 1970 NorCal Championships and an undefeated season in Basketball, ran track in the 1982 Gay Olympics and joined the San Francisco Gay Softball League. The bold, beautiful, part of Glenn Burke’s story was his fierce determination to be out and true to who he was. The sad, tragic, part of his story was the way he was villainized for it by the managers of the sport he loved. In common conversation it’s been pointed out that Glenn’s Los Angeles Dodger teammates didn’t care about his sexual orientation but management did and they responded by trying to bribe him to marry a woman, trading him to Oakland because he was gay, and ultimately destroying his career because of Billy Martin’s notorious homophobia. Having his career stolen was followed by a series of tragedies that culminated in Burke struggling with HIV & homelessness and eventually dying of AIDS. In addition to being memorialized on the Rainbow Honor Walk, the hometown hero’s memory is being kept alive through the Oakland LGBTQ Community Centers 2020 launch of the Glenn Burke Wellness Center.
George Choy (1960–1993) member of Gay Asian Pacific Alliance, ACT UP, and an ardent activist for AIDS awareness who persuaded the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to pass a resolution for Project 10, the counseling program for LGBT teens in public high schools. SF Bay Times Article
Marie Equi (1872-1952) Lesbian American physician and political activist devoted to providing care to working-class and poor patients, providing health care information to women, and fighting for civic and economic reforms, women’s right to vote and an eight-hour workday.
Fereydoun Farrokhzad (1938-1992) was an Iranian singer, actor, poet, TV and radio host, writer, humanitarian and iconic opposition political figure who advocated for an open society that accepted all people. He is best known for his variety TV show “Mikhak-e Noghrei” (The Silver Carnation) which introduced many artists such as Ebi, Leila Forouhar, Shohreh, and Sattar. He was the brother of the acclaimed Persian poets Forough Farrokhzad and Pooran Farrokhzad. Farrokhzad was forced into exile after the Islamic Revolution in 1979, and relocated to Germany. He continued to producing opposition radio programs and books. In his show at the Royal Albert Hall in London he criticized Khomeini. He received death threats for his vocal opposition. Sadly, Farrokhzad was the victim of an unsolved murder on August 7, 1992. The murder is widely believed to be the work of the Islamic Republic Government of Iran. Farrokhzad remains a significant Iranian cultural icon whose popular music and television programs continue to be circulated through various media platforms.
Federico Garcia Lorca (1898–1936), Spanish poet, playwright, political activist whose poetry and plays combine elements of Andalusian folklore with sophisticated and often surrealistic poetic techniques and cut across all social and educational barriers. As an openly gay man, he used his fame to fight Fascism in Spain and was ultimately murdered by soldiers in Francisco Franco’s army. SF Bay Times Article
Allen Ginsberg (1926–1997), American poet who vigorously opposed militarism, materialism, and sexual repression. in the late 1950’s here in San Francisco, he was a leading figure of the Beat Generation whose epic poem, “Howl”, excoriated the destructive forces of capitalism and conformity in the United States. San Francisco’s City Lights Bookstore published the poem after Ginsberg performed the epic work at a San Francisco art gallery in 1955, In 1957, the book’s publisher was arrested for obscenity. The resulting trial and court appearance raised Ginsberg’s profile. He and his lover, Peter Orlovsky, continued to influence and inspire rock musicians and counterculture figures such as Ken Kesey, the Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan, and Abbie Hoffman, as they participating in such seminal events of the 1960s. This includes Kesey’s Acid Test Festivals, the San Francisco’s 1967 Be-In, anti-war protests at the Chicago Democratic Convention in 1968, and numerous music tours with folk giant Bob Dylan in the 1960s and ’70s. SF Bay Times Article
Keith Haring (1958–1990), American artist, political activist whose work responded to the New York City street culture of the 1980s. By expressing universal concepts of birth, death, love, sex and war, and explicitly publicizing the issue of AIDS, his imagery has become a widely recognized visual language of the 20th century. SF Bay Times Article
Harry Hay (1912–2002), English born writer, cultural icon, early leader in the Sexual Revolution because of his role in the American LGBTQ rights movement by writing The Call and defining LGBTQ as a cultural identity. founded the Mattachine Society in 1950, the first enduring LGBTQ rights organization on the United States. SF Bay Times Article
Sylvester James (1947–1988), deemed ‘Bigger than Disco” and his music as “A Celebration Of Self”, was an American singer-songwriter. Primarily active in the genres of disco, rhythm and blues, and soul, he was known for his flamboyant and androgynous appearance, falsetto singing voice, and hit disco singles in the late 1970s and 1980s. Sylvester grew up singing in a Pentecostal church in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles. His mother was a devout member of the church and couldn’t accept the early signs of her son’s sexuality. By 15, Sylvester had left the church and home. He lived with friends and his grandmother, who accepted him as he was. He found friendship among a group of black cross-dressers and transgender women who called themselves The Disquotays. Moving to San Francisco in 1970 at the age of 22, Sylvester embraced the counterculture and joined the avant-garde drag troupe The Cockettes, producing solo segments of their shows which were heavily influenced by female blues and jazz singers like Billie Holiday and Josephine Baker. During the Cockettes’ tour of New York City, Sylvester left them to pursue his career elsewhere. He came to front Sylvester and his Hot Band, a rock act that released two commercially unsuccessful albums on Blue Thumb Records in 1973 before disbanding. Of his most popular singles are “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)”, “Dance (Disco Heat)”, “Can’t Stop Dancing”, “In My Fantasy (I Want You, I Need You”, “Living for the City”, and “Someone Like You”. SF Bay Times Article
Barbara Jordan (1936-1996) was a U.S. congressional representative from Texas and was the first African American congresswoman to come from the Deep South. She rocketed to fame and national attention as a member of the House Judiciary committee voting to impeach Richard Nixon. Considered a lioness in her stirring defense of the Constitution, Jordan’s speech on voting to impeach is considered one of the 100 most important political speeches of the 20th century. In 1966, Jordan was the first woman ever elected to the Texas Senate. It was as a state Senator, Jordan captured the attention of President Lyndon Johnson, who invited her to the White House for a preview of his 1967 civil rights message. Jordan served in congress from 1972-1978. At the 1976 Democratic National Convention, Jordan once again captured the public’s attention with her keynote address. She told the crowd, “My presence here is one additional bit of evidence that the American dream need not forever be deferred.” In 1994, President Bill Clinton appointed Jordan to head up the Commission on Immigration Reform. He also honored her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom that same year. Jordan was noted as a great pioneer who shaped the political landscape with her dedication to the Constitution, her commitment to ethics and her impressive oratory skills
Christine Jorgensen (1926–1989) American, first widely known person to have sex reassignment surgery–in this case male to female. Public pioneer for transgendered people. Born in the Bronx to supportive Danish-American parents, the former army solider traveled to Copenhagen in 1951 for sex reassignment surgery. When the European press began reporting on Jorgensen, she demonstrated considerable courage and media savvy by negotiating exclusive rights to her life story that was published in Hearst’s American Weekly news magazine. Jorgensen returned to the U.S. in 1953 as a celebrity. Widely covered by the media, she used her resulting celebrity to advocate for transgendered people. SF Bay Times Article
Frida Kahlo (1907–1954), Mexican artist whose work has been celebrated in Mexico as emblematic of national and indigenous tradition, and by feminists for its uncompromising depiction of the female experience and form. In her lifetime, Kahlo’s painting were exhibited in Mexico, New York, and Paris when the Louvre Museum bought one her self-portraits. Her work was the first Mexican artist to be collected by that famed institution. Though she traveled in international circles, gaining admiration by such artist giants as Pablo Picasso and Marcel Duchamp, recognition of Kahlo’s genius was temporarily overshadowed by the greater fame of her husband, Mexican muralist Diego Rivera. They were a volatile couple and had numerous affairs. Kahlo wrote openly about her romances with African American entertainer Josephine Baker, American painter Georgia O’Keeffe, Mexican singer Chavela Vargas, and other men and women. SF Bay Times Article
Kiyoshi Kuromiya (1943-2000) was born in a Japanese American internment camp during World War II and grew up to become a committed civil rights and anti-war activist. He became a personal assistant to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and baby-sat Dr. King’s children during the many memorials for their father. Kiyoshi won a scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania and was one of the founders of Gay Liberation Front in Philadelphia. He also served as an openly gay delegate to the Black Panther Convention that endorsed the gay liberation struggle. During the AIDS epidemic, Kiyoshi was involved with ACT-UP/Philadelphia; PWA empowerment and We The People Living with HIV/AIDS. He was the editor of the ACT-UP Standard of Care, the first such publication for the care of people living with HIV produced by PWAs. Working with R. Buckminster Fuller, Kiyoshi founded the Critical Path Project, which brought the strategies and theories of Buckminster Fuller to the struggle against AIDS. Working closely with Buckminster Fuller Kiyoshi co-authored and finished Buckminster Fuller’s Cosmography: A Posthumous Scenario for the Future of Humanity. In addition to all of his activism, Kiyoshi was also a nationally ranked Scrabble player and a master of Kundalini yoga. He died at the age of 57 due to complications from HIV/AIDS.
Del Martin (1921–2008), American feminist and gay rights activist who along with her lifelong partner, Phyllis Lyon, founded the Daughters of Bilitis (DOB) in San Francisco in 1955. DOB was the first social and political organization for lesbians in the United States. As co-editor of the group’s monthly newsletter, The Ladder, Martin helped to usher in a new era of visibility and political engagement for lesbians in the post-war era. Along with Lyon, Martin coauthored 1972’s groundbreaking book, Lesbian/Woman and 1976’s Battered Wives, bringing national attention to the issues each book addressed. Martin’s impact is profoundly felt on the streets of San Francisco where she and Lyon cofounded numerous health clinics, shelters for battered women, and other nonprofits. Her impact resounds on a national level, too, serving on presidential commissions and campaigning to have the American Psychiatric Association change its definition of homosexuality as a mental illness. Martin and Lyon were together fifty-four years and married in a ceremony officiated by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom on June 16th, 2008. In recognition of the couple’s tremendous contributions, city officials made certain Marin and Lyon would be the first wedded couple on that historic day when same-sex marriage became legally recognized by the state of California. SF Bay Times Article
Freddie Mercury (1946-1991) Bisexual British singer, songwriter, record producer and lead vocalist of the rock band Queen. Mercury was born in Zanizbar to Persi-Indian parents. He is regarded as one of the greatest lead singers in the history of rock music, and known for his flamboyant and theatrical stage persona, and his four-octave vocal range. Mercury died in 1991 at age 45 due to complications from AIDS. Mercury was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001, the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2003, and the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2004. Queen’s Greatest Hits is the best selling album of all time in the United Kingdom. His legacy continues to inspire millions of fans from all over the world.
Yukio Mishima (nee Kimitake Hiraoka, 1925–1970), Japanese playwright, poet, actor, film director, internationally famous and considered one of the most important Japanese authors of the 20th century, his avant-garde work displayed a blending of modern and traditional aesthetics that broke cultural boundaries, with a focus on sexuality, death, and political change. SF Bay Times Article
Sally Ride (1951-2012) was a lesbian astronaut and astrophysicist and became the first American woman in space aboard the space shuttle Challenger in 1983. Born on May 26, 1951, Ride grew up in Los Angeles and went to Stanford University where she was a double major in physics and English. Ride received bachelor’s degrees in both subjects in 1973. She continued to study physics at the university, earning a master’s degree in 1975 and a Ph.D. in 1978. Dr. Sally Ride studied at Stanford University and beat out 1,000 other applicants for a spot in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) astronaut program. She went through the program’s rigorous training program and got her chance to go into space and the record books in 1983. On June 18, Ride became the first American woman in space, aboard the space shuttle Challenger. As a mission specialist, she helped deploy satellites and worked on other projects.
Bayard Rustin (1912–1987), American civil rights activist largely behind the scenes in the civil rights movement of the 1960s and earlier. He is credited as the chief organizer of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. He counseled Martin Luther King, Jr. on the techniques of nonviolent resistance. He became an advocate on behalf of gay and lesbian causes in the latter part of his career. Homosexuality was criminalized at the time but that did not stop him from his activism.
José Sarria (1922-2013) Colombian born political activist, the first openly gay candidate for public office in the United States and founder of the Imperial Court system. Colombian born political activist, the first openly gay candidate for public office in the United States and founder of the Imperial Court system. Known as the Nightingale of Montgomery Street, Sarria became the most popular drag entertainer at The Black Cat in North Beach and used that popularity to forge a political career, fighting against the rampant persecution of Gay men by the authorities. He was a founder of the League for Civil Education (LCE), the Tavern Guild, Society for Individual Rights (SIR), and in 1964 was crowned Queen of the Beaux Arts Ball, but protesting that he was already a Queen, he proclaimed himself Empress of San Francisco, eventually professing to be the Widow Norton of the historic figure Joshua Norton.
Randy Shilts (1951–1994) a pioneering gay American journalist and author. who worked as a freelance reporter for both The Advocate and the San Francisco Chronicle as“ the first openly gay reporter with a gay “beat“ in the American mainstream press. He wrote three best-selling, widely acclaimed books: The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk, And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic and Conduct Unbecoming: Gays and Lesbians in the US Military from Vietnam to the Persian Gulf. SF Bay Times Article
Gertrude Stein (1874–1946) American writer and thinker who spent most of her life in France, well known for her writing, her premier art collection of twentieth century painters like Matisse, Cezanne, and Picasso, Gauguin, Renoir, and Toulouse-Lautrec, and the many famous people, artists and writers both, like Hemingway and Wilder, who visited her Paris salon. Her life-long partner, Alice B. Toklas, came to be famous in her own right. Stein’s affirming essay, Miss Furr and Miss Skeene, is one of the first homosexual revelation stories to be published. It contains the word “gay”: over one hundred times, perhaps the first published use of the word “gay” in reference to same-sex relationships. SF Bay Times Article
Alan Turing (1912–1954), British scientist, cryptanalyst, logician, mathematician. Highly influential in the development of computer science, providing a formalization of the concept of the algorithm and computation with the Turing machine, which played a significant role in the creation of the modern computer. He devised a number of techniques for interpreting German ciphers in World War II, and broke the Enigma machine’s code, saving tens of thousands of lives in the process. Turing’s homosexuality resulted in a criminal prosecution in 1952–homosexual acts were illegal in the United Kingdom at the time. He was chemically castrated as an alternative to prison. He is said to have committed suicide by eating cyanide in an apple. In 2009, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown made an official public apology on behalf of the British government for the way in which Turing was mistreated after the war, a left-handed “thank you” for all the good work he had done for his country. The partially bitten apple on Steve Jobs’ computers is a silent tribute to his advances in computer science. SF Bay Times Article
Tom Waddell (1937–1987) was the gay American sportsman who founded the international sporting event called the Gay Games. As a physician, he had done research on viruses. His battle against HIV/AIDS is one of the subjects of the award-winning documentary Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt. SF Bay Times Article
Oscar Wilde (1854–1900), Irish playwright, poet, novelist, essayist who became one of London‘s most popular playwrights in the early 1890s. Today he is remembered for his epigrams, his many plays and wonderful short stories and the tragedy of his imprisonment. Known for his biting wit, flamboyant dress, and glittering conversation, he refined his ideas about the supremacy of art in a series of dialogues and essays and incorporated themes of decadence, duplicity, and beauty. At the height of his fame, after a series of trials, Wilde was convicted of gross indecency with other men and was imprisoned for two years and held to hard labour. SF Bay Times Article\
Tennessee Williams (1911–1983), American dramatist, poet, and novelist who was awarded two Pulitzer prizes for drama and four Drama Critics Circle awards. Brilliant and prolific, he breathed life and passion into such memorable characters as Blanche DuBois and Stanley Kowalski in Streetcar Named Desire. Like them, he was troubled and self-destructive, abusing alcohol and drugs. Derided by critics and blacklisted by Roman Catholic Cardinal Spellman, who condemned one of his scripts as “revolting, deplorable, morally repellent, offensive to Christian standards of decency”, he remains one of the greatest playwrights in American history. After Shakespeare, he has been translated into more foreign languages than any other English language playwright. SF Bay Times Article
Virginia Woolf (1882–1941), English novelist, essayist, publisher regarded as one of the foremost modernist literary figures of the twentieth century. She experimented with stream-of-consciousness in her works and the underlying psychological as well as emotional motives of characters. She is arguably the major lyrical novelist in the English language. Her novels are highly experimental, showing intense lyricism and stylistic virtuosity. Her popular 1928 novel, Orlando, traces the adventures of an aristocratic poet who changes sex and gender over 300 years. The tale was inspired as a love letter to Woolf’s female lover, Vita Sackville-West. Woolf, along with other writers like Lytton Strachey, Rupert Brooke, Duncan Grant, and Saxon Sydney-Turner formed the nucleus of the intellectual circle of writers and artists known as the Bloomsbury Group. SF Bay Times Article
Rikki Streicher (1926-1994) Lesbian American political activist and founder of the Gay Games Federation. Lesbian American political activist, early leader of the Society for Individual Rights (SIR), and founder of the Gay Games Federation. Her two San Francisco bars, Maud’s and Amelia’s, became legendary gathering places for the growing Lesbian community, providing a protective safe space and clearinghouse for information. Rikki Streicher Field in Collingwood Park in the Castro is named in her honor.
Gerry Studds (1937-2006) American politician and the first openly gay member of the U.S. Congress.
Lou Sullivan (1951-1991) American author, activist, and female to male transgender pioneer who is widely credited for the modern understanding of sexual orientation and gender identity as distinct, unrelated concepts.
Chavela Vargas (1919-2012) was born Isabel Vargas Lizano in San Joaquín Flores, Costa Rica, April 17, 1919, Chavela Vargas ran away from home to Mexico at age 14. To support herself she sang on the streets of Mexico City. She started to sing professionally and established herself singing Mexican folk songs known as rancheras. Typically sung by broken hearted men, Vargas instead sang the rancheras with great emotion in a gravelly voice while drinking, smoking and chasing women. During the 1950s Chavela became known for her performances by tourists in Acapulco. In 1961 she recorded her first album Noche de Bohemia, and more than 70 albums followed. She eventually became a huge star. Chavela is also recognized for her contribution to other genres of popular Latin American music. She was an influential interpreter in the Americas and Europe, muse to figures such as Pedro Almodóvar, hailed for her haunting performances. She was called “la voz áspera de la ternura”, the rough voice of tenderness. The Latin Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, presented her with a Latin Grammy in 2007. By the 1980s, heavy drinking took its toll, and Chavela disappeared from the music world. She was taken in by an indigenous family who had no idea who she was. The family nursed her back to health and sobriety and by 1981, Chavela started performing again. At the age of 83, Chavela performed for the first time at Carnegie Hall in New York. The singer passed away in 2012 in Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico.
We’wha (1849-1896) Zuni Native American from New Mexico, a weaver, a potter, a fiber artist and the most famous Ihamana on record. In traditional Zuni culture Ihamana are male-bodied people who take on the social and ceremonial roles typically performed by women. They dress in a combination of women’s and men’s clothing, work in areas occupied by Zuni women and serve as mediators to their community by performing masculine religious and judicial functions at the same time that they perform feminine duties. We’wha served as a cultural ambassador for Native Americans and as an educator for many European-American settlers, teachers, soldiers, missionaries, and anthropologists. In 1886, We’wha was part of the Zuni delegation in Washington DC where they met President Grover Cleveland.
Information freely excerpted from Wikipedia, glbtq.com, and other websites primary to the individuals listed.