In the June of 1969, trans women, drag queens, Latino butch lesbians, gay men and every corner of the LGBT community put their foot down and rioted against police brutality and the treatment of LGBT people in America in the Stonewall Riots. Heroes such as Marsha P Johnson, Sylvia Rivera and Miss Major emerged from the triumphant evening, birthing decades of queer heroes.
Now, in honour of our heroes of yesteryear, we’ve picked out those within the LGBT+ community carrying the banner for the next generation of queer people. This year’s Pride Month may almost be over, but these men and women breathe love, resistance and change in every aspect of their lives. To us, these people are heroes.
Luis’ work is remarkable. Not only was he imperative in the blocking of Donald Trump’s hideous travel ban which proposed to prevent people from seven Muslim majority countries entering the United States, but utilises his queer identity to help others. An gay conversion therapy survivor turned immigration attorney and New Yorker, Luis dedicates his life to ensure liberty is felt by every in America. You can read our full interview and feature on Mr Mancheno and his work here.
Hey Rooney, an Instagrammer, artist and New York City activist famed for his range of LGBT themed comic style clothing built up a large and dedicated social following with his apparel, art and design and used it as a trojan horse to push LGBT+ activism. Blending art and activism to create what we call ‘artivism’, Rooney’s art educates on both LGBT+ history and issues people in the queer community still face. Using a tool like social media to create not only a career and live portfolio, but transform yourself into a positive role model who supports other LGBT+ artists and activists gives this lil’ gem a well deserved place in this list.
Kimahli Powell, the executive director of Canada based LGBT charity Rainbow Railroad, who provide safe routes out for LGBT+ people in danger across the Caribbean, Africa and the Middle East, has progressed LGBT+ agendas across Canada is one of the finest examples of heroism this year, helping gay men in Chechnya – an area of Russia which allegedly detained, tortured and murdered gay men this year – escape and find refuge and happy lives elsewhere in the world.
“We immediately began working with the Russian LGBT Network, to see how we could help. In addition to providing resources, we are actively seeking ways to bring LGBTQ Chechens to safety. As this situation evolves, we are committed to being responsive to help those in need,” Powell told HISKIND.
This is LGBTI Asylum Seeker Support Worker and trans activist Nina Nasim. Nina met her now husband when she was 19 years old and presenting as male. They married in 2014 shortly after same-sex marriage became legal in the UK. After coming out as transgender to her husband a month before the wedding, he was supportive throughout and they now live together in London. Nasim’s relationship with her husband -who is originally from Afghanistan- ignited her interest in experiences of being LGBTI as a migrant, as well as the importance of intersectionality and solidarity within the LGBTI community. She now works as an LGBTI Asylum Support Worker at UKLGIG. Founded in 1993, UKLGIG helps over 1500 LGBT people every year who have survived human rights abuses. It provides vital emotional and legal support to LGBTI people fleeing persecution for their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Britain’s crown jewel when it comes to covering LGBT+ issues with integrity, importance and grace, Mr Strudwick is the kind of journalist every gay journalism student looks up to during their undergrad degree. The BuzzFeed LGBT editor is a force to be reckoned with and is truly changing the UK’s queer narrative by being the first LGBT editor for a mainstream publication. From exposing MPs for their links to gay conversion groups, celebrating those amongst our community who prevented hundreds from getting HIV and changing laws himself following putting himself through gay conversion therapy, Patrick is nothing short of a hero who knows what he wants. You can catch our full feature on him and his work here.
Romy Madley Croft
Part of creating strong role models for queer youth is to inject LGBT+ life and representation into every corner of society, especially music. There are hundreds of emerging LGBT+ musicians tunnelling into the mainstream – Olly Alexander, Josef Salvat, Shura, Mykki Blanco, MUNA, the list goes on – but front gal of the xx Romy Madley Croft is one step ahead of her own game. Releasing their impeccable sophomore album earlier this year, I See You promotes queer love and visibility, with LGBT+ visuals appearing across much of their work.
Mr Shurka is an LGBT+ activist in New York, helping dismantle conversion therapy across America, using his own personal experiences of conversion therapy to push his important agenda. Though his relationship with his father has been turbulent in the past, with his father putting him in conversion therapy, the pair proved that all wounds and views can change, with the both of them marching together in this year’s NYC Pride celebrations.
“As a teenager, I gave conversion therapy its best chance. It was only years later I could recognise the psychological abuse, manipulation, and false facts. I was estranged from my mother and sisters for three years as I was being ‘developed’ not to have any effeminate qualities, and was told to only spend time with the males in my environment until I was ready to engage in sexual activity with women. The fear presented by my conversion therapist and worried father, was that I would live a horrible life as an out gay man,” he writes in HISKIND. You can read his eye opening and heartfelt column detailing his experience of conversion therapy here.
In the space of 12 months, the number of gay men in London being diagnosed with HIV had dropped by 40%. Across England it was down by a third. Mr Owen is somewhat responsible for that. After being diagnosed with HIV, Greg “felt sick” and used his position to push and promote the access to HIV preventative PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) within the UK. After lengthy cases in court, PrEP will finally be rolled out in the space of weeks. Greg’s work has been covered by the aforementioned Patrick Strudwick on BuzzFeed, which saw his work celebrated across the globe in a vitality full of positivity. It was through his work, resilience and defiance that prevented thousands of gay and bi men across the UK being spared of HIV.
“I love being gay. I love being a gay actor. I love being a gay actor playing a gay role on @13ReasonsWhy, with queer writers and costars and producers. I say that because I don’t have shame anymore about it. I love celebrating other gay actors and writers, musicians, activists, and allies. There’s still work to be done, especially with our current administration, to ensure LGBTQ+ people are represented fairly and accurately,” Tommy writes in an Instagram post. One of the most important gay characters to grace our screens this year, Tommy proves himself as a three-dimensional, flawed human. He’s a queer intellectual, quick-witted, nonchalant and his sexuality is never questioned, compromised or vilified.
The concept is simple: you sit down opposite Charlie Craggs – she’ll probably offer you a Party Ring or Jammy Dodger – and for the next ten minutes, she manicures your nails. In that time, you two can talk about anything (well, almost anything), and at the end of it all, you’ve had a nice time and you’ve got some ace nails. Craggs talks about the trans experience at high profile events, up and down the country. Most of the attendees to her table have never met a trans person before. “Nowadays, they might have heard about trans people and seen them on TV, but a lot of people haven’t actually met a trans person,” says Craggs. “I hadn’t met a trans person before I transitioned.” With each event she works, with each hand she paints, Craggs increases the visibility of the trans community and humanises something that many only see through sensationalised stories in the media.
From August 1, Edward Enninful will take over from Alexandra Shulman as Editor in Chief of British Vogue, becoming both the first queer person as well as the first POC to head the magazine. A powerhouse in the fashion world, Edward was previously the Creative and Fashion Director of US based magazine W. His start in the industry was pretty monumental from the get-go as he was appointed Fashion Director of i-D at just 19 years old.
Destefano is a fierce student activist, fighting for the rights of young trans men and women in America. DeStefano was the first openly transgender student at his school and the first to publicly transition — a process he began his sophomore year. As a member of the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance, DeStefano had been outspoken about defending the rights of LGBTQ students. Prior to him graduating, he was allowed to use gender appropriate bathrooms but, after he left and heard that other trans students were being denied the same right, Aidan stepped in and is making waves as a strong and positive young activist.
One of the hottest names on everyone’s lips at the moment, Jack Irving is the British designer known for extravagant blow-ups and Lady Gaga wearing his outrageously camp, yet beautiful garments (if they count as garments). Irving’s newest collection recently wowed the fashion scene at the On|Off show at the Oxo Tower, with black and bearded queens gracing his work. Check out our interview with Jack here.
Though not gay himself, Barry has worked tirelessly ensuring that queer black voices are not only seen and heard, but celebrated and enjoyed in film and television. A fierce ally, injecting LGBT+ narratives into the mainstream, his film Moonlight (exploring POC queer narratives in working class and ghettoised Florida) scooped up Best Picture at this year’s well talked about Oscars. Jenkins also directed episode five of Dear White People, a poignant and moving episode preaching the importance of social issues making it to mainstream screens. Police brutality, institutionalised racism and black sexuality, Jenkins is a hero, ally and formidable artist.
Martyn, a man of joy, bringing people together and being a Class A diva sadly lost his life during the Manchester Ariana Grande bombing earlier this month. We’ve known Martyn from afar at HISKIND, but didnt have the words to honour him correctly. His close friend, Olly Waldron, writes for us:
“Martyn was one of those rare people who transcended the possible, and squeezed every drop out of the most mundane experience. You could count on Martyn’s light and friendship to conquer any darkness, even for just an hour or two over a glass of red. He taught us to relish every moment; no matter what time you boarded the Martyn train, it was a journey you never wanted to end. Martyn’s unique style, personality and sense of humour have made him irreplaceable. He was, and forever will be, a true hero. His family and friends have left me floored with their constant diligence to keep his flame still burning. I hope he can somehow feel how much we miss him.”