March 16, 2020
This Women’s History Month, GLAD is proud to celebrate some of the countless LGBTQ women whose critical work and lasting impact has furthered equality and justice in our communities. Who would you add to this list? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter!
Sylvia Rivera (July 2, 1951 – February 19, 2002) was a Latin-American gay liberation and transgender rights activist, and a drag queen. Sylvia joined the Gay Activists Alliance at 18 years old where she not only fought for gay rights, but also the rights of drag queens. She played a leading role in the Stonewall Riots in 1969. Sylvia then delivered her angry speech “Ya’ll Better Quiet Down” at the 1973 Christopher Street Liberation Day Rally in New York City.
Sylvia continued to work for LGBTQ rights and co-founded the group “Gay Liberation Front.” Shortly thereafter, she co-founded Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) with Marsha P. Johnson, a group to support and empower people who were gay, trans, and gender-fluid. Along with gay and trans rights, Sylvia also fought for racial, economic, and criminal justice issues —all of which affected her personally. After 17 years of fighting for the Gay Rights Bill, it was finally passed in 1986—but it excluded any rights for the transgender community. She eventually left STAR out of frustration and avoided all media attention until the 1990s when she appeared in a documentary episode for the PBS series “The Question of Equality.” In the documentary, Sylvia discussed the life and death of her friend Marsha P. Johnson and advocated for poor and working-class gay people who had become homeless due to the AIDS crisis. She gave many speeches about the Stonewall Uprising and was named the “mother of all gay people” at the 2000 Millennium March in Italy. In early 2001, Sylvia decided to restart STAR as an active political organization.
After her death, “The Sylvia Rivera Law Project” was founded in 2002 which works to ensure that all people are free to self-determine their gender identity and expression regardless of their income, race, or fear of facing harassment or discrimination.
Patrisse Cullors is an advocate for prison abolition in Los Angeles and co-founder of Black Lives Matter. She has served as the director of the “Coalition to End Sheriff Violence in L.A. Jails” which advocated for a civilian commission to oversee the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department to curb abuses by officers. Patrisse founded “Dignity and Power Now¨ to fight for the dignity and power of people who are incarcerated, their families, and their communities. She is the New York Times bestselling author of “When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir” and has won many awards for her activism along with being named as a “Civil Rights Leader for the 21st Century.”
Angelina Resto is an activist for criminal justice reform and incarcerated LGBTQ people. She came out as transgender when she was 11 years old. During the majority of her incarceration, she was placed in a men’s prison, where she was threatened and harassed for being transgender. She worked with GLAD and Prisoner Legal Services to file a lawsuit to be transferred to the women’s prison, and in 2018, became the first transgender woman to be housed according to her gender. Thanks to her case and advocacy, since her release in the spring of 2019, another trans woman has transferred to a women’s facility in Massachusetts. Now Angelina advocates for the LGBTQ prisoners’ rights by presenting her experience in prison. Hear Angelina share her story at GLAD’s 2019 Spirit of Justice Dinner.
Chai Feldblum is a civil rights lawyer, former Commissioner at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and former American law professor at Georgetown University Law Center. She was the lead attorney on the team that drafted the Americans with Disabilities Act, which became law in 1990. She was the legal director for the Campaign for Military Service in 1993, which was a group to overturn policies that forbade gay and bisexual people from openly serving in the U.S armed forces. She was also the lead drafter of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act which prohibited employment discrimination based on someone’s real or perceived sexual orientation. She was GLAD’s 2019 Spirit of Justice Award Dinner Honoree.
Aimee Stephens is a transgender woman from Michigan and plaintiff in the Supreme Court case R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC & Aimee Stephens. She worked at R.G & G.R Harris Funeral homes for six years until she came out as transgender to her boss and was fired from her job. The Supreme Court will decide on her case this Spring.
If the Supreme Court rules in her favor, it will confirm that the Civil Rights Act interpretation of discrimination on the basis of sex includes sexual orientation and gender identity, and LGBTQ people are protected from employment discrimination. To help make sure employers cannot discriminate against LGBTQ people regardless of what the Supreme Court decides, the House of Representatives passed the Equality Act, and now it must pass through the Senate and be signed into law.
Cecilia Chung is a civil rights leader and LGBTQ and HIV rights activist. Cecilia’s story was featured on ABC’s “When We Rise” about LGBT rights in the 1970s and 1980s. She worked as a HIV counselor at UCSF AIDS Health Project, and as Deputy Director at the Transgender Law Center. Cecilia is the first transgender woman and first Asian-American elected to lead the Board of Directors of the San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration. She was also the first person openly living with HIV to Chair the San Francisco Human Rights Commission.
Emma González is an American activist and advocate for gun control. She was a senior when she survived the mass shooting at her school Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The experience inspired her to co-find the gun control advocacy group “Never Again MSD.” Her “We call B.S.” speech in response to gun laws and school shootings went viral and gained a lot of attention from the media. Glamour Magazine called her the face of the #NeverAgain movement.
Emma, along with other students, organized and participated in the nationwide “March for Our Lives” protest on March 24, 2018. At the march, she gave a six-minute speech–which was how long the Parkland shooting was–and mentioned every victim’s name along with examples of things they cannot do anymore. In response to Emma’s speeches and activism, the Florida Legislature passed a bill “Marjory Doulas High School Public Safety Act” which raised the minimum age for buying firearms to 21. It also establishes waiting periods and background checks.
Florynce “Flo” Kennedy (February 11, 1916 – December 21, 2000) was a lawyer, women’s rights activist, and the second African American woman to graduate from Columbia Law School. Seeing the amount of discrimination towards her clients made her interested in the fight for social change. She led boycotts on large corporations and protests at the CBS headquarters. Florynce created the Media Workshop in 1966, an organization charged with fighting racism and discrimination in media. She also helped found the Women’s Political Caucus and the National Black Feminist Organization.
Edith Windsor (June 20, 1929 – September 12, 2017) was a LGBT rights activist and lead plaintiff in United States v. Windsor, which overturned Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act and was considered a victory for the same sex marriage movement in the United States.
After leaving her tech company, she became the founding president of PC Classics, a consulting firm specializing in software development projects. Edith and her wife publicly participated in LGBT marches and events, and Edie worked very closely with LGBTQ organizations and helped them computerize their mail systems. She volunteered with GLAD and the LGBT Community Center and served on the board of Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE). She helped introduce the Respect for Marriage Act with Senator Dianne Feinstein and Representative Jerrold Nadler. She was a runner up for Time Magazines’ Person of the Year award and won the Lifetime Leadership Award from the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy is an activist and community leader for transgender rights. She mainly focuses on the issues trans women of color face but is considered family by much of the transgender community. She was a leader in the Stonewall Riot in 1969 and served as executive director for the Transgender Gender Variant Intersex Project, whose aim is to assist people who have been incarcerated. She retired in 2015 but proceeded to work on building House of GG, a safe home for the transgender community.
Mari Matsuda is a law professor, lawyer, women’s rights and racial justice activist. She refers to herself as an “activist scholar.” The first Asian-American to receive tenure as a law professor in the United States at UCLA School of Law in 1998, she has written numerous articles for the Yale Law Journal and the Michigan Law Review. She serves on national advisory boards of social justice organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union, National Asian Pacific Legal Consortium, and Ms. Magazine.
In 2014 Mari received the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund’s Justice in Action Award, and the Regents Medal for Excellence in Teaching in 2016. She was named one of the 100 Most Influential Asian Americans by A Magazine and was included in the book “The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America” by conservative author David Horowitz.
Currently teaching at the William S. Richardson School of Law at the University of Hawaii, she has contributed numerous volumes to feminist resource libraries, such as Where is Your Body?: And Other Essays on Race, Gender and the Law. She refers to herself as an “activist scholar,” and has worked in constitutional law, civil rights law, feminist theory and other areas.
Heather Purser is a member of the Suquamish Tribe in Seattle, Washington, an LGBTQ activist, and a seafood diver. She advocated for marriage equality to the Suquamish tribal council, which resulted in the Suquamish Tribe becoming the second Native American tribe to amend their laws to recognize same-sex marriage in August 2011. She was recognized by Seattle’s mayor Michael McGinn during the annual Human Rights day celebration. She was also granted the Business and Humanitarian award for “voice of social justice” by the Greater Seattle Business Association.