queer figures

Every Friday we highlight queer figures - both contemporary and historical - on our social media pages to showcase those who have paved the way for groups like us to exist. Here are some of our favourites, follow us on twitter and facebook for more!

Josephine Baker

Josephine Baker
Josephine Baker

Josephine Baker (1906-1975) is known as one of the most subversive and radical queer artists of her time. She worked as a spy for the French Resistance against the Nazi occupation of France, and pioneered the Jazz movement. One of her most famous relationships was with fellow queer figure Frida Kahlo.

'Baker was the blueprint in art, in activism, in being self made. She was an independent woman before it seemed possible, leading with love and refusing to be constrained by societal limits due to her identity. She created a life of liberation for herself and sought it for all, joining in the fight for Civil Rights  in America.'

Read more about her here in 'Josephine Baker: queer, radical, artist & activist'

Marsha P. Johnson

Marsha P. Johnson (1945-1992) was a black trans woman who participated in the Stonewall riots and established the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR). Her death was ruled as death by suicide but this is widely disputed and the case has since been reopened as a murder investigation.

"I was no one, nobody, from Nowheresville until I became a drag queen. That's what made me in New York, that's what made me in New Jersey, that's what made me in the world." -Marsha P. Johnson

'What does the P stand for?'
'Pay it no mind.' - Marsha P. Johnson

Take a look at the Netflix Documentary 'The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson'.

Read more in this mini biography.

Marsha P. Johnson
Marsha P. Johnson

Harvey Milk

Harvey Milk
Harvey Milk

Harvey Milk (1930-1978) was an American politician and gay rights activist. He was elected in 1977 and became one of the first openly gay elected officials in U.S. history. He was assassinated in 1978, and posthumously awarded the highest civilian medal in the United States of America, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, by Obama in 2009, stating "he fought discrimination with visionary courage and conviction".

"Like every other group, we must be judged by our leaders and by those who are themselves gay, those who are visible. For invisible, we remain in limbo—a myth, a person with no parents, no brothers, no sisters, no friends who are straight, no important positions in employment. A tenth of the nation supposedly composed of stereotypes and would-be seducers of children—and no offense meant to the stereotypes. But today, the black community is not judged by its friends, but by its black legislators and leaders. And we must give people the chance to judge us by our leaders and legislators. A gay person in office can set a tone, can command respect not only from the larger community, but from the young people in our own community who need both examples and hope." - Harvey Milk

Check out this video and this article for more information on how he influenced the gay rights movement and a performance of Milk's hope speech by Russell Tovey.

Alan Turing

Alan Turing (1912-1954) played a large role in the creation of the Enigma Machine, which helped end WWII by decoding German communications. He is widely regarded as the father of artificial intelligence. He was arrested for gross indecency after admitting he was in a relationship with a man and was convicted and 'treated' through a series of oestrogen injections and later died by suicide.

"While Turing was dealt with under the law of the time, and we can't put the clock back, his treatment was of course utterly unfair, and I am pleased to have the chance to say how deeply sorry I and we all are for what happened to him

"Alan and the many thousands of other gay men who were convicted, as he was convicted, under homophobic laws, were treated terribly. Over the years, millions more lived in fear in conviction. I am proud that those days are gone" - Prime Minister Gordon Brown's formal apology on behalf of the government for the criminalisation and punishment of homosexuality.

Learn more about Turing in this article from Making Queer History.

Alan Turing
Alan Turing

Anne Lister

Anne Lister
Anne Lister

Anne Lister (1791-1840), also known as Gentleman Jack by those who knew her, was a queer lady living in Halifax, West Yorkshire, in Victorian England. She left diaries written in an incredibly complex code detailing her passions for other women and the encounters she had with them, along with other details of her life.

“I took off my pelisse and drawers, got into bed and had a very good kiss, she showing all due inclination and in less than seven minutes, the door was unbolted and we were all right again," - A decoded extract of Anne's diary.

Learn more about her in this article!

The BBC also wrote a show called Gentleman Jack after her life.

 

Lady Phyll

Phyll Opoku-Gyimah (1974-present), known as Lady Phyll, is the co-founder, trustee and executive director of UK Black Pride and turned down an MBE due to Britain's role in the creation and maintenace of anti-LGBTQ penal codes.

'Belonging is the hug Black women give each other, when we rock side to side and squeeze hard. Belonging is standing on stage at UK Black Pride and seeing and hearing 10,000 people screaming with joy. Belonging is spending quiet evenings with activists from across the Caribbean discussing the futures we’re working towards, crying and laughing together. Belonging is the “checking in” message you get from a dear friend.' - Lady Phyll

Learn more about her in this article or follow her on twitter!

 

Lady Phyll
Lady Phyll

Frida Khalo

Frida Khalo
Frida Khalo

Frida Kahlo (1907-1954), was a famous bisexual Mexican painter who regularly practised cross dressing and had a notable relationship with Josephine Baker during her unconventional marriage to Diego Rivera. She is famous for her unflinching self-reflective portraits that questioned what it means to be a woman.

'Frida Kahlo had affairs with both men and women, including her husband's mistresses. She has also been linked to movie stars Dolores del Rio, Paulette Goddard and Maria Felix, among others. Her painting 'Two Nudes in a Forest' (1939) clearly shows her attraction and love of women. One of her affairs was said to be with American painter Georgia O'Keeffe.'

Learn more about her life here and take a look at her artwork here.

Chevalier d'Eon

Chevalier d’Eon (1728-1810) was a French diplomat, spy, Freemason and soldier who fought in the Seven Year's War. D'Eon was unconventionally made to dress as a woman under the orders of Louis XVI after D'Eon published secret correspondence leading to a life of crossdressing and great speculation about D'Eon's gender.

 'D’Eon was the first openly-transvestite man in British history and no transvestite or transsexual, until the late twentieth century, has enjoyed such public recognition.' 

Learn more in the National Portrait Gallery's Biography of D'Eon.

Image: British Cartoon Prints Collection - Library of Congress

Chevalier D'Eon
Chevalier D'Eon

Manvendra Singh Gohil

Manvendra Singh Gohil
Manvendra Singh Gohil

Manvendra Singh Gohil (1965-present), former prince of Rajpipla, was the world's first openly gay royal. This was a long road, including a marriage to a woman before he was able to reveal his sexuality to his family and then the world.  In 2000 he started the Lakshya Trust, a charity dedicated to HIV/AIDS prevention and education.

'I knew that they would never accept me for who I truly am, but I also knew that I could no longer live a lie. I wanted to come out because I had gotten involved with activism and I felt it was no longer right to live in the closet. I came out as gay to a Gujarati daily because I wanted people to openly discuss homosexuality since it’s a hidden affair with a lot of stigma attached.' - Manvendra

Learn more about him and his thoughts in this pride month interview or on the charity website linked above.

All photos sourced from linked websites unless stated otherwise.