February is LGBTQ+ history Month - a time to celebrate all the brave and influential people who have contributed to the progression of LGBTQ+ rights, past and present.
This is a very significant month for us, and an opportunity for us to reflect on how far the movement has come, and how far we still have to go for true equality.
“Growing up in a family that was half White, half Cypriot there were different ideas as to what was 'normal' and expected for me,” says AHLT co-founder, Ky. “These ideas have been passed down from generation to generation. There's definitely a mix of different themes at play - societal ideals of what a man ‘should’ be and a lot of toxic masculinity, but there is also an aspect of generational trauma and indirect ideological beliefs, with both sides of the family enduring war and loss in different ways that shaped who they are.
For me, LGBTQ+ history month is important because we are not aware of any past family members who were LGBTQ+, and so we look to those throughout history who have helped pave the way for us to live in a more tolerant time. Even though there is still much to do, we are more fortunate than many. Now that I'm in my 30s, I'm not focused on understanding more about who I am, but rather, what other facets of our community exist and how they help us move outdated ideas about what being ‘normal’ actually is.”
To celebrate this notable month, we have compiled a collection of influential people who have made significant contributions to the progression of LGBTQ+ rights, either through their activism, their work or how they have represented and elevated minority groups in the arts world so that we feel seen and have our voices heard.
Activism and politics
It is hard to talk about the birth of LGBT activism without mentioning Marsha P Johnson. Marsha P Johnson was prominent in the Stonewall Uprising in 1969 and a founding member of the Gay Liberation front. In Johnson’s long career as an activist, they founded a homeless shelter for gay and trans youths, became a muse for Andy Warhol’s art, were a celebrated drag queen and a passionate AIDS activist too.
Harvey Milk is another inspirational figure in the world of activism and politics. He was the first openly gay elected official in the United States when he won a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977. His brash, unapologetic declaration of his sexuality was a beacon of hope for LGBTQ+ people across the country at that time.
From more recent times, we wanted to recognise Dan Savage – the author, journalist, activist and cofounder of the It Gets Better Project. This amazing project strives to prevent suicide in LGBTQ+ teens by inviting people from all sexual orientations to share their experiences of how their lives got better as they moved into adulthood.
Where to begin with inspirational LGBTQ+ people from the arts world?!
We absolutely love Frida Kahlo, who continuously challenged gender stereotypes in her life and work. She was very open about her sexuality and relationships with women, despite being married to a man, thus further blurring the lines between sex and gender.
In the 1980s, during the peak of the AIDS crisis, artists Charles Leslie and Fritz Lohman rescued numerous works of dying gay artists, and in 1987, they founded the Leslie-Lohman Gay Art Foundation. Around the same time, artist Keith Haring established the Keith Haring foundation, after he himself was diagnosed with AIDS. The foundation continues to engage children with art and education and generates funds for AIDS charities around the world.
From the modern arts world, we are fascinated by the works of photographer Catherine Opie, best known for her representations of people from LGBTQ+ communities. Her work is often autobiographical, and blurs the lines between traditional photography and unconventional subjects.
As designers and makers ourselves, we love to follow the works of LGBTQ+ people in the design world; people who are often brave, dazzling and daring with their creations. One of our favourites is Sawyer DeVuyst, a trans interior designer, who not only creates wonderful pieces of furniture, interiors and costumes, but is also an advocate for body positivity and trans rights.
We are also big fans of style King, Jonathan Adler, who first sold his collection of pots to Barneys in 1993, and is now an international design company of ‘luxe and liveable interiors that are seriously designed, but don’t take themselves too seriously.’ We don’t know about that, but we are seriously in love!
Music / film
In the world of music and film, there are so many iconic LGBTQ+ people we could call out, but we’ve handpicked the following few.
You don’t have to be an LGBTQ+ ally to have heard of Pussy Riot before, and we love this Russian protest punk rock group for their rebellious performances that advocate for LGBTQ+ and women’s rights around the world.
And we also have big love for Harris Glenn Milstead, better known by his stage name Divine - an American actor, singer, and drag queen who you may remember from the film, Hairspray. Challenging gender roles and societal norms, Divine’s legacy is in his ‘weirdness’ and in his genuine comedic talent – a true symbol of freedom and expression.
We know we’ve barely scratched the surface with these brilliant, prominent and influential figures, and we’d love to know who you’d have on your list of notable LGBTQ+ heroes. Send us a message, or comment on the post, and tell us who you’re celebrating this month and why.
Peace and love.