Pride 2021's theme is: The Fight Continues. This is a very fitting theme for our current landscape since many, inside and outside of the LGBTQIA+ community, have faced challenges in 2020. As an organization that closely examines the way sexual assault uniquely affects individuals of all identities, we'd like to give recognition to 6 LGBTQIA+ trailblazers who committed to continuing the fight for a world without violence. From Harvey Milk: a renowned politician to Billie Holiday: a talented musician, each one of these individuals used their unique voices to make lasting impact within their communities.
Billie Holiday Continued her Fight Through her Haunting Lyrics
If you listen to any of Billie Holiday's songs, you'll hear the resilience of a survivor who wished to help others like her. Openly bisexual, Holiday pursued relationships with figures like Broadway actress, Tallulah Bankead. Many also refer to Holiday as a queer icon for creating music that defied the social norms of her time period. Holiday is well-known for her chilling yet truthful lyrics in songs such as Strange Fruit, telling the story of the startling amount of lynching of Black men in the south. Holiday is remembered today for her bravery for sharing the pain and oppression she had experienced in her music.
Harvey Milk Continued his Fight Through Brave Legislation
Harvey Milk was one of the first openly LGBTQIA+ elected officials in the U.S.. Milk was dedicated to using his platform to build a more equitable society not just for LGBTQIA+ folks, but for anyone who had been historically marginalized. This was a unique quality at the time as oppression related to sexual orientation was still very prominent. Milk was assassinated in 1978, but we continue to honor his advocacy and care to this day. Milk's bravery in actively advocating for anti-discrimination measures, which became the start of many laws protecting individuals in the LGBTQIA+ community.
Audre Lorde Continued her Fight by Connecting Through Poetry
Audre Lorde was a self-proclaimed "Black feminist, lesbian, poet, warrior, and mother." Lorde focused many of her activist efforts on fighting for human rights. Much like our work here at The Blue Bench, Audre Lorde fought hard against LGBTQIA+ violence. As The Poetry Foundation would describe, "...Lorde’s poetry is known for the power of its call for social and racial justice, as well as its depictions of queer experience and sexuality." Lorde worked to shine a light on the mistreatment and violence faced by queer individuals.
Sylvia Rivera Continued her Fight by Standing for Liberation
Sylvia Rivera is a trailblazer in the LGBTQIA+ community. As a child, Rivera experienced bullying and sexual exploitation. She would later become a well-known figure in the Stone Wall Riots. Until her death in 2002, Rivera was known for her advocacy and devotion to ending violence within the LGBTQIA+ community. It's said that as a veteran of the Stone Wall Uprising in 1969, Rivera fought tirelessly as an advocate for a majority that had been silenced for years. After the Uprising, Rivera continued to fight for the inclusion and recognition of transgender individuals, who continue to experience increased amounts of violence due to their identities.
David Jay Continues his Fight by Challenging Cultural Expectation
David Jay is an activist within the LGBTQIA+ who identifies as asexual. Jay has played a key role in challenging the stereotypical image of hypersexualized men who are often seen as aggressive. He fully acknowledges that there's a societal expectation for binary men to need sexual interaction, and often use aggressive behaviors to achieve this need. Jay recognized these narratives and Instead used his identity and voice in the community to be an ally for those who have experienced violence, and took the opportunity to examine his own privilege as a binary male. Throughout his advocacy, Jay encourages everyone, regardless of their identities, to examine their own privilege and how it could potentially contribute to the oppression of others.
Janet Mock Continues her Fight by inspiring change through writing
As a child, Janet Mock was bullied and harassed by her peers. Mock would later become a well-known journalist who, through her writing, became a powerful advocate in the LGBTQIA+ community. As a transgender woman, Mock's writing and advocacy is aimed towards restructuring how we think and talk about violence within this community, in hopes to contribute to a healthy community of active bystanders. Mock's writing often touches on her own experiences with both domestic and sexual violence. While this is far from easy to write about, Mock does so as a way to remind others in the transgender community that they aren't alone.