10 Icons You Should Know This LGBT History Month

October 06, 2022
This story took place in United States

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This October, we celebrate LGBT History Month which recognizes the achievements of 31 LGBT icons, one for every day of the month. Below we feature 10 trailblazers on this list, and we invite you to learn about these icons, their impact on our world, and how they’ve paved the way for the LGBTQ+ community!

1. Alice Wu
A Chinese-American director and screenwriter, Wu has created films that often reflect her own personal journey coming out as a lesbian to her own traditional Chinese family. By sharing her story, she hopes to provide community to those going through similar experiences.  “I want to show characters that you don’t always see,” she told Indie Wire. “The moment someone starts to feel real to you, you can relate to them…”


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2. Sue Bird
In 2017,  this four time gold medal and highly decorated WNBA player publicly announced that she was gay and dating USWNT star soccer player Megan Rapinoe. Though she already felt she was living her life authentically before sharing the news, Bird said she decided to make the announcement “because the more people that come out, that’s where you get to the point where nobody has to come out. Where you can just live. And it’s not a story.”


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3. Victor Blackwell
Since working at CNN since 2012, Blackwell has covered and anchored some of the most notable breaking news stories about race, equality, and social justice issues in the US. As an Emmy-award winning journalist, he currently co-anchors CNN’s Newsroom and since coming out on air in 2013, he has been an outspoken supporter of the LGBTQ+ community.


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4. bell hooks
At 19-years-old, hooks began working on Ain’t I A Woman: Black Women and Feminism, which critiqued racial hierarchy and is regarded today as a foundational third-wave feminist text – feminism that expands beyond white, middle-class women. As a writer who authored more than 30 books and a philosopher who paved the way for intersectional feminism, she passionately advocated for centering Black women and their voices. Though she identified as “queer-pas-gay,” she spoke on how gender and sexuality are “historical categories” – categories that are only defined because history and its social construct have defined them.

Before she passed in 2021, hooks founded the The bell hooks Institute – “an inclusive space where historically underrepresented students can come to be as they are.” To learn more about hooks and her contributions, check out the video below!


5. Nancy Cárdenas
A poet and feminist, Nancy was one of the first public figures to come out as lesbian in Mexico. She was a strong advocate for queer rights, founding “El Frente de Liberación Homosexual,” the first gay organization in Mexico, organizing the first gay theater play, and in 1978, she even led the first gay pride march in her country.

6. Kitty Cone
A disability advocate with muscular dystrophy, Cone was one of the leading organizers of the 504-Sit-in, in which she and fellow activists occupied a federal building in San Francisco for more than 25 days to demand federal civil right protections for people with disabilities. To learn more about the late Kitty Cone, check out this short video detailing her impact below:

7. André De Shields
With a career spanning over 50 years, this actor, director, choreographer, and director is best known for his show-stopping performances in legendary Broadway productions such as the The Wiz and for his 2019 award-winning performance in Hadestown. On his sexuality, De Shields shared, “As I have to use language people will understand. I’m gay. But with these cultural revolutions going on, that label needs to go away for everybody. One has to be received how one describes oneself, especially Black men who are still fighting against such prejudice.”

8. James Merrill
Known as one of the best poets of his time, Merrill’s work crossed genres, and he was even awarded the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1977 for Divine Comedies. Understanding the struggles of many artists and coming from financial privilege, James founded the Ingram Merrill Foundation in 1956, a permanent endowment created for writers and painters, before passing of an AIDS related heart attack almost 40 years later. In his memoir, A Different Person, Merrill describes growing up openly gay and his relationship with his partner, writer David Jackson.

9 + 10. Ninia Baehr & Genora Dancel
In the 1990s, this Hawaiin same-sex couple was denied their marriage license and subsequently became plaintiffs in the first major marriage equality lawsuit in America. They argued that Hawaii’s prohibition of same-sex marriage violated the state constitution, which laid the foundation for Baehr v. Lewin (Miike), a case that triggered over 25 years of a legal battle for same-sex marriage in Hawai‘i and transformed the landscape for gay rights in America. In 2014, the couple married in the same exact State Supreme Courtroom where they challenged the initial law.

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