In celebration of Black History Month and the journey of Black LGBTQ people, GLAD is highlighting the stories of Black LGBTQ people whose bravery and dedication to justice help to create a more inclusive world for us all.
We’ll continue to update this page with Black LGBTQ leaders all through February. What other Black leaders would you add to the list?
Black LGBTQ Icons
Seth Pearson is an associate and business lawyer with Foley & Lardner LLP in Boston and spends much of his free time working with youth from low income and marginalized populations. While in law school at Duke University he served in many leadership positions including as President of OUTLaw, President of the Black Graduate and Professional Student Association, member of the President's Council on Black Affairs, member of Search Committee for Director of Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity 2016, and worked closely with the Graduate and Professional Student Coalition Diversity Committee on establishing racial sensitivity and diversity training across the nine Duke Graduate and Professional schools. Pearson also served at the pleasure of the President as a White House Intern in the Executive Office of the President under the Obama Administration. Pearson was named as one of ‘2016's Best and Brightest’ by Tipping the Scales and was recently named one of ‘2018's 40 under 40 LGBTQ Business Leaders in America’ by Business Equality Magazine.
Elle Hearns is an accomplished organizer, speaker, strategist, writer and a co-founding member of the Black Lives Matter network. She has been honored with the Young Women’s Achievement Award for Advocacy and Organizing by the Women’s Information Network, the Black Feminist Human Rights Defender award by Black Women’s Blueprint, and was named a Woke 100 honoree by Essence Magazine. Hearns is currently the Executive Director of The Marsha P. Johnson Institute, an organization founded in 2015 that works to create a crucial entry point for Black transgender women to advocate for an end to violence against all trans people through advocacy, transformative organizing, restoration, civil disobedience, and direct action.
Zahara Green is the Founder and Executive Director of TRANScending Barriers Atlanta, a trans-led, trans-issue focused non-profit organization whose mission is to empower the transgender and gender non-conforming community in Georgia through community organizing with leadership building, advocacy, and direct services so that lives can be changed and a community uplifted. Zahara is a board director and board treasurer of Black & Pink Inc, a prison abolitionist organization supporting LGBTQ and HIV-positive prisoners. Green is a formerly incarcerated trans women of color who spent five years incarcerated with most of her time in solitary confinement. While incarcerated, Zahara rights were violated and she sued the Georgia Department of Corrections for violating her civil rights, which was the experience that inspired her to create TRANScending Barriers.
Barbara Charline Jordan (February 21, 1936 – January 17, 1996) was an American lawyer, educator, and leader of the Civil Rights Movement. She was the first African-American elected to the Texas Senate after Reconstruction, and the first Southern African-American woman elected to the United States House of Representatives. She was also the first African-American woman to deliver a keynote address at a Democratic National Convention. Among numerous honors, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Her passion for the rule of law and the constitution was well known. She once stated, "My faith in the Constitution is whole, it is complete, it is total, and I am not going to sit here and be an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, the destruction of the Constitution." She also fought for government and societal recognition of all people, especially people of color, declaring from her position on the House Judiciary Committee, "I felt somehow for many years that George Washington and Alexander Hamilton just left me out by mistake. But through the process of amendment, interpretation and court decision I have finally been included in 'We, the people.' " Jordan was never public about her sexual orientation or the relationship she had with Nancy Earl, her companion of 20 years. Had she been out, she would have been the first lesbian known to have been elected to the United States Congress.
CeCe McDonald is an activist, speaker and icon in the LGBTQ community. Rising to international recognition after surviving a white supremacist & transphobic attack, CeCe is now a nationally-recognized storyteller to who articulates the personal and political implications of being both black and trans. Her work fosters important conversations around mass incarceration, sexuality and violence. She is one of the founders of the Black Excellence Collective and the Black Excellence Tour, created with best friend Joshua Allen, and she is the focus of the recently released feature length documentary about her life and story, Free Cece!
Alicia Garza is an African-American activist and editorial writer who has organized around the issues of health, student services and rights, rights for domestic workers, ending police brutality, anti-racism, and violence against trans and gender non-conforming people of color. Her articles and interviews have been featured in Time, Mic, The Guardian, Elle.com, Essence, Democracy Now!, and The New York Times. In addition, she was named on The Root's 2016 list of 100 African American achievers and influencers, given a 2016 Glamour Women of the Year Award, the 2016 Marie Claire New Guard Award, and was featured as a Community Change Agent at the 2016 BET's Black Girls Rock Awards. She currently directs Special Projects at the National Domestic Workers Alliance. Garza also co-founded the Black Lives Matter movement.
Phill Wilson, founder and President of the Black AIDS Institute, was an early voice on HIV in the Black community. Wilson’s activism began when he and his partner were diagnosed with HIV in the early 1980s. He became the AIDS Coordinator for the City of Los Angeles and served as Director of Policy and Planning at AIDS Project Los Angeles. He is the founder or co-founder of numerous organizations, including the National Black Lesbian and Gay Leadership Forum and the National Task Force on HIV Prevention. He has also been involved in national and international research efforts, coordinating the International Community Treatment and Science Workshop at the 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th, and 16th International AIDS Conferences. Wilson has written on HIV/AIDS for the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, LA Weekly, Essence, Ebony, POZ, Vibe, and Jet. In 2010, Wilson became appointed to President Obama's Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS. Wilson is the recipient of numerous awards, including BET’s Black History Makers in the Making, a Discovery Health Channel Medical Honors award, the Ford Foundation Leadership for a Changing World award, and induction into the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame.
Wade Davis II
Former NFL player Wade Davis is a thought leader, writer, public speaker, and educator on gender, race, and sexual orientation equality. Davis is dedicated to using his platforms and social currency to highlight issues that directly impact women and girls. In partnership with the Ms. Foundation and Ebony Magazine, Davis launched the #BlackMenAndFeminism campaign, focusing on conversations with Black men around their perceptions and understanding of feminism. Recently, Davis worked with Huffington Post Women to film content centered on men as feminists.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, often referred to as Miss Major, is a trans woman activist and community leader for transgender rights. Her work focuses greatly on the issues facing trans women of color. She was a leader in the Stonewall uprising in 1969 and became politicized at Attica while she was incarcerated. She is a father, mother, grandmother, and grandfather to her own children, and is considered family by many in the transgender community. She currently serves as the Executive Director for the Transgender Gender Variant Intersex Justice Project, which assists transgender people who are disproportionately incarcerated and discriminated against by the justice system. In 2014, the documentary entitled Major! chronicled Griffin-Gracy's role as an activist and mentor. She describes the film as both a tool to present to young trans women their history and a reminder that young women still need help and support.
Audre Lorde (February 18, 1934 – November 17, 1992) was a writer, feminist, womanist, librarian, warrior, and civil rights activist. Her writing, including poetry, essays, books, and social commentary that express anger and outrage at civil and social discrimination. She passionately wrote and spoke of the need to speak up against and bear witness to injustice: “What are the words you do not yet have? What do you need to say? What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence?” In titling her New York State’s Poet Laureate, then-Governor Mario Cuomo said of Lorde, “Her imagination is charged by a sharp sense of racial injustice and cruelty, of sexual prejudice…She cries out against it as the voice of indignant humanity. Audre Lorde is the voice of the eloquent outsider who speaks in a language that can reach and touch people everywhere.”
Johnny Mathis is a world-renowned popular music icon. He has made over 100 albums, and more than 60 of his albums have been certified gold and/or platinum. In 1982 he was quoted in an Us Magazine article, saying, "Homosexuality is a way of life that I've grown accustomed to." After receiving death threats and harassments, Mathis did not talk about his sexual orientation until 2006. He was later quoted as having said, “I come from San Francisco. It's not unusual to be gay in San Francisco. I've had some girlfriends, some boyfriends, just like most people.”
John Uzoma Ekwugha Amaechi was the first former NBA player to come out as gay and is now considered one of the world's most high-profile gay athletes. Born in Boston, he was then raised in England and moved back to the United States to play basketball in high school. While in college at Penn State he became a motivational speaker and youth mentor. He currently works as an educator and broadcaster throughout Europe and the United States. Among his many honors, Amaechi was awarded an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Science by Manchester Metropolitan University in 2007 in recognition of his achievements, including the establishment of the ABC Foundation to encourage children to become involved in sports and their community. Amaechi was also appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire for his volunteer and community service.
Call us M-F 1:30-4:30 p.m. Free & Confidential.
Language translation available.
Call us M-F 1:30-4:30 p.m. You can leave a voice message for us now.