• The Calypso Journal

Women who changed LGBT history.

By Mara Rill.

Illustration by Alexandra Roceanu.

Nowadays, we’re celebrating Pride Month in a very different way than what we’ve gotten used to in recent years. 2020 has been a hard year for everyone, including but obviously not limited to, the LGBT community. Pride parades and marches all over the world have been canceled, teenagers were quarantined with their homophobic families or were stuck in unsafe environments for months, and we will just have to celebrate this month from our own homes, even in uncertain and challenging times like these.

Even though we will miss the rainbow flags, colorful clothes, music, and joy on the streets this month, it’s a great opportunity to think back to how much LGBT history we still have to learn. This community had a lot of hard moments over the course of time, but some special women have managed to change history, and this is the perfect time to discover who they were!

Marsha P. Johnson

Starting with one of the most well-known figures in LGBT history, Marsha P. Johnson was a black transgender woman, well known for her remarkable work as an activist for gay rights and AIDS awareness. She was a founding member of the Gay Liberation Front, a mother to drag queens, and model for Andy Warhol.

Marsha was one of the most iconic figures who participated in the gay liberation movement that was revived by the 1969 police raid on the renowned queer bar Stonewall Inn. Even though her name is often the one most often brought up when talking about the events of that night, we can’t omit the others who helped tilt the tides of the police raid at Stonewall: Sylvia Rivera, Storme DeLArverie, and Victoria Cruz.

Marsha died at the age of 46, leaving behind her legacy of believing that everything is possible, and nothing can stop you. She dealt with several severe mental illnesses and the many hardships of homeless life, but she fought until the end, and her story still inspires a lot of people to this day.

Frida Kahlo

Known for her remarkable self-portraits, Frida Kahlo was a self-taught Mexican painter who broke the boundaries of female sexuality, pain, and feminine beauty standards through her art. Her work as an artist was almost unknown until the late 1970s when her pieces were rediscovered by art historians and political activists. By the early 1990s, she had become a recognized figure in art history and was even regarded as an icon for “Chicanos”, the feminist movement, and the LGBT movement. Frida's work has been celebrated internationally as emblematic of Mexican national and indigenous traditions, and by feminists for what is seen as its uncompromising depiction of the female experience and form.

Frida was openly bisexual and believed that beauty is everywhere around us, and her paintings are a source of inspiration for millions of people.

Josephine Baker

Josephine was a black, openly bisexual singer, actress, dancer, and activist for civil rights. She witnessed and experienced intense racism in the Midwestern city, and as a teen, she suffered physical and sexual abuse in the homes of the white families she worked for, often having to go through periods of homelessness. During her work with the Civil Rights Movement, she began adopting children, forming a family she called "The Rainbow Tribe". Josephine wanted to prove that "children of different ethnicities and religions could still be brothers”, so she raised 2 daughters and 10 sons, all of ethnicities and religions. She fought against the racial injustices built into societies around the world, including the ones in her home country.

Nowadays, Josephine is known as one of the first black sex symbols of the 20th century, and the force of her sexuality set a standard of possibility and positivity for those who follow her.

Audre Lorde

Audre Lorde was a famous American writer, feminist, and civil rights activist who proudly described herself as “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, and poet”, and dedicated most of her life to confronting racism, sexism, classism, heterosexism, and homophobia.

Her life was full of important achievements which definitely changed the perspectives that were most wide-spread on the previously mentioned subjects during her life. Audre and her partner, Dr. Gloria I. Joseph, founded several organizations such as the Women's Coalition of St. Croix, the Sisterhood in Support of Sisters in South Africa, and Doc Loc Apiary.

She was an example for all members of the LGBT community, and in her essay "Age, Race, Class, and Sex: Women Redefining Difference", she writes: "A fear of lesbians, or of being accused of being a lesbian, has led many Black women into testifying against themselves."

She published multiple works such as “The Cancer Journals”, “A Burst of Light” and “Zami: A New Spelling of My Name” a novel which was noted for its “clear, evocative imagery and its treatment of a mother-daughter relationship”.

Our generation has overcome numerous difficult situations, and we can now look back and realize how much we have grown as a community, how many wins we have experienced and how many of our successes we have seen thanks to the ones that fought before us. We believe in our power of changing things around us and have learned to love and accept ourselves just as we are, no matter how others might view us.

All these women have shown us that we can always fight for what we believe is right and our power cannot be questioned. Always be proud of yourself! Happy Pride Month!

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