The gay rights struggle has been a long, hard-fought battle that still continues today. We have a lot more rights and freedoms today than we did in the not too distant past. Our progress has not come without cost. Many who have fought the battle have made great sacrifices. By being up front and out in the open, many early gay rights activists forfeited any chance of a lucrative career and lived meager lives in order to devote time to fight for our independence. Some have even given the ultimate sacrifice, having been murdered for their beliefs. Let us never forget our heroes. We owe so much to them. Below is a list of some of our heroes. I will be adding to it. I invite you to submit submissions to add to the list. E-mail to Gay Heroes. Since our battle for equality is still on-going, this lists contain both names from the past and present.
Bella Abzug 1921-1998 Abzug has always been a strong supporter on gay rights. In 1973 and early 1974, Abzug lobbied for passage of a gay civil rights bill pending in the New York City Council. She became one of the first members of Congress to appear at gay community events and made regular appearances at New York City's annual Gay Pride parade and rally. In 1974, she introduced the nation's first federal gay civil rights bill. Abzug served as chief House co-sponsor the gay civil rights bill each year until she left the House in 1977. In 1975, Abzug and then Sen. Alan Cranston (D-Calif.) became the first two members of Congress to hire openly Gay people on their congressional staffs.
Sheldon Andelson 1931-1987 Lawyer and political activist, he was the first openly gay person appointed to the University of California Board of Regents. A strong fundraiser, Andelson raised huge amounts of money fo gay-supportive candidates. One of the founding members of MECLA (Municipal Elections Committee of Los Angeles). MECLA provided financial support to gay-friendly candidates. Andelson died of complications from AIDS in 1987.
Lisa Ben 1921- Sometimes refered to as the "first gay folk singer", Ben performed parodies of popular songs (I'm going to sit right down and write my butch a letter). She moved to Los Angeles in 1945 to excape her over-bearing parents and met other lesbians and became part of the burgeoning postwar subculture. In 1947, while working as a secretary at a movie studio, she began publishing her gay magazine Vice Versa. Each issue was typed on regular and carbon paper.
Ivy Bottini, August 1926-
Ivy Bottini is one of the undisputed heroes of the long struggle for equality and justice for women and the LGBT community. Ms. Bottini is also an acclaimed artist who began her creative work more than 55 years ago. Bottini has devoted over 40 years to the Feminist and LGBT’s struggle for civil and human rights. She is a founder of the first chapter of the National Organization for Women in 1966, and designed their national logo in 1969. She introduced the struggle for Lesbian rights into the Women’s Movement in 1969. Bottini founded the first AIDS organization in Los Angeles, AIDS Network LA, which served as a clearing house for early disease information and was also a founder of AIDS Project Los Angeles in the early 1980’s. She also founded the Los Angeles Lesbian/Gay Police Advisory Board. Bottini was Deputy Director of a 1978 No on 6 Campaign which spearhead the defeat of the Briggs Initiative and went on to Chair the No on LaRouche and No On 64 Initiative victories. As co-chair of the City of West Hollywood’s Lesbian and Gay Advisory Board for over six years, she has spearheaded work on Partner Abuse in the LGBT community, Crystal Meth addiction, the annual Dyke March and affordable housing for LGBT seniors. Her work on affordable housing culminated when she helped found the non-profit Gay and Lesbian Elder Housing, Inc. in 1993. The group’s first project, Triangle Square, (the first in the nation) is the 104 affordable income, apartment complex which opened in late April, 2007, In Hollywood, CA.
Rev. Malcom Boyd 1923- Minister, activist, spoken-word artist, and author. Boyd became known as “The Espresso Priest” for his religiously-themed poetry-reading sessions at the Hungry i nightclub in San Francisco. Boyd went on to become a prominent white clergyman in the American Civil Rights Movement. In 1977 he came out of the closet becoming the most prominent Gay clergy person to come out. He is the author of over 30 books, including Take Off The Masks and Gay Priest: An Inner Journey.
Rita Mae Brown 1944- In the late 1960s, Brown became active in the American Civil Rights Movement, the anti-war movement, the Gay Liberation movement, and the feminist movement. She helped found the Student Homophile League and participated in the Stonewall riots in New York City. She took an administrative position with the fledgling National Organization for Women, but resigned angrily in February 1970 over Betty Friedan's anti-lesbian remarks and NOW's attempts to distance itself from lesbian organizations. She played a leading role in the "Lavender Menace" zap of the Second Congress to Unite Women on May 1, 1970, which protested Friedan's remarks, and the exclusion of lesbians and lesbian issues from the women's movement. Brown is the author of several books including Rubyfruit Jungle which is considered perhaps the earliest lesbian comedic novel.
Patrick Califia 1954- formally known as Pat Califia. Born 1954 near Corpus Christi, Texas, he is a writer of women's sexuality and of erotic fiction. He is also a bisexual transman and prolific author of essays and poetry. Born a Morman, he came out as a lesbian while a 17-year old freshman at the University of Utah. In 1978, she co-founded Samois, a lesbian feminist S&M group. Beginning in 1979, she served as a writer, editorial staffer, and columnist with the Advocate while publishing more than a dozen books, erotic stories, poetry, and nearly 100 articles and essays in the U.S. and abroad. In the late 1990's, she made the decision to transition to a male gender role. Califia undertook testosterone hormone therapy and changed his name to Patrick.
Jim Foster 1935-1990 Was dishonestly discharged from the military for homosexuality. In 1964, was one of the founders of the Society for Individual Rights (SIR). Created the Alice B. Toklas Democratic Club, the country's first gay Democratic political club in 1971. In 1972, Democrat Jim Foster became the first gay delegate to address a national party convention. In 1980, was one of the founders ot the Human Rights Campaign Fund. Died from complications from AIDS.
Lee Glaze 1938-
Lee Glaze was one of the early rebels - a gay rights pioneer. In 1968, a year before the now famous Stonewall Rebellion, Glaze led his own rebellion in his Wilmington gay bar, The Patch, after Los Angeles police had arrested two of Glaze's male patrons when a plain clothes officer saw one slap the other playfully on the rear. Glaze took to the bar's stage, rallied the crowd and asked if a florist was among them. When someone raised a hand, Glaze told him, "Honey, go get every flower in your shop." Glaze and a small mob of gay men armed with flowers marched into the LAPD's Harbor Division station late that August night and demanded the release of the two who had been arrested. "We're here to get our sisters out!" said demanded. The flower vigil, which lasted until police released the men on bail, would become a footnote in the gay rights struggle, overshadowed by the Stonewall Inn riots in New York a year later.
Larry Kramer (born June 25, 1935) is an American playwright, author, public health advocate and LGBT rights activist. Kramer began his career rewriting scripts while working for Columbia Pictures, which led him to London, where he worked with United Artists and wrote the screenplay for Women in Love in 1969. He was nominated for an Academy Award for his efforts. His controversial and confrontational style was introduced in his 1978 novel Faggots, which earned mixed reviews but emphatic denunciations from the gay community for his portrayal of shallow, promiscuous gay relationships in the 1970s. He has been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for his play The Destiny of Me (1992), and has been a two-time recipient of the Obie Award. Kramer witnessed the first spread of the disease that became known as Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) among his friends in 1980, and he co-founded the Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC), which has become the largest private organization to assist people living with AIDS in the world. Not content with the social services GMHC provided, Kramer expressed his frustration with bureaucratic paralysis and the apathy of gay men to the AIDS crisis by writing a play titled The Normal Heart in 1985. His political activism extended to the founding of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) in 1987, that was a direct action protest organization widely credited with having changed public health policy and public perception of people living with AIDS (PWAs) as well as awareness of HIV and AIDS diseases. Not content to sit by idly and wait for change, Kramer was a thorn in the side for many gay activists. But in the end, he should be remembered as one who fought hard and passionately for the lives of gay people.
Pat Norman has worked for more than 40-years as an advocate for human rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals. She has initiated, chaired, participated in, sought funding for and supported easily 30 organizations over the years — all of them champions for human rights. Norman organized and co-chaired the first National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights in 1987. National Coming Out Day, held October 11th each year can be traced back to her activism. In 1994, she co-chaired another epic event, an international march on the United Nations in New York that drew roughly 1 million participants who unfurled a one-mile-long, 30-foot wide, rainbow colored flag. We can now claim her as one of our own as she has retired here on Kauai.
Rev. Troy Perry
The Reverend Elder Troy Perry has devoted his life to helping others discover the loving and caring God to whom he has committed his life. As founder of the predominantly-gay Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC), he has watched the memberrship grow from 12 to over 43,000 during the past 40 years and has guided MCC's growth into one of the world's largest LGBT organizations. MCC was the first church to recognize the need to minister to the needs of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and trangender persons throughout the world. It is through that ministry that Perry has become a leading activist for gay and lesbian rights. Rev. Perry has been an international leader in the quest for marriage equality for gays and lesbians. In 1969, he performed the first public same-sex wedding in the U.S., and in 1970 he filed the first-ever lawsuit seeking legal recognition for same-gender marriages. In 2003, he and his spouse, Philip Ray De Blieck, were married under Canadian law. In 2004, they filed suit against the State of California seeking the state's recognition of their Canadian marriage. The California Superior Court ruled in their favor. In addition to his work as a gay religious leader and human rights activist, Rev. Perry has aurhored an autobiography, "The Lord Is My Shepherd and He Knows I'm Gay" , and a sequel titled "Don't Be Afraid Anymore". He is a contributing editor for the book "Is Gay Good?" and the subject of another book, "Our God Too". His most recent book is "10 Spiritual Truths For Gays and Lesbians". In 2005, Rev. Perry retired as Moderator of MCC. In his retirement, he maintains an active speaking schedule, lecturing on the history of the gay rights movement, HIV issues, and marriage equality. He also regularly preaches in both MCC congregations and other faith communitites. While Rev. Perry realizes the oppression still facing gays and lesbians, he stands at the vanguard of the movement, telling his flock and the rest of the world, WE'RE NOT AFRAID ANYMORE!. For more information, vist Troy Perry's webpage.
Craig Rodwell 1940-1993 Gay rights activist. In the late 1950s, he moved to New York City, where he was active in the Mattachine Society and other homophile organizations. In 1967, he founded the Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop, the first bookstore devoted to serious writing by gay authors. A participant in the Stonewall riots in 1969, Rodwell figured prominently in the gay liberation movement of the 1970s and 1980s. He died of cancer in 1993.