This post will be on my history with the LGBTQIA+ community and some of my favorite LGBT artist, actors/actresses, media & activist.
I first became aware of the LGBT community back in 6th grade. My 6th grade class went on a field trip to our middle school to check it out so we’d be ready for the next school year there. At the time we went to the school the 7th & 8th graders had set up booths from various school clubs in the cafeteria and one of the clubs was the gay/straight alliance. At the time I sort of knew a little about the LGBT community but wasn’t super familiar with the community because no one in my family talked about this growing up. So while kids where checking out all the various clubs, when this group of boys from my class went by the gay/straight allience table they started laughing and making super rude comments about being gay. Again my connection and knowledge about being gay was super limited at the time but I knew the comments these guys were making were wrong.
I then the next year started to watch a show called Degrassi: The Next Generation and the character Marco Del Rossi was one of the first gay characters I had seen on tv at the time. Mind you I was too young back in the ’90s and early 2000s to watch shows like Will & Grace and if my siblings weren’t watching shows with LGBTQIA+ characters on them then I didn’t know about it. Anyway the more invested I got into Marco’s story on Degrassi the more I learned about the LGBT community. Later on the same show they would finally have a lesbian couple on the show with one of the girls being bi-sexual and so I learned more about it that way.
Then in high school my best friend was apart of color gard with a few girls who were lesbians and thanks to them I started to learn even more about what it means to be apart of the LGBT community. My junior year of high school I started going to a few gay/straight allience meetings and learned about spirit day, national coming out day and about Harvey Milk. I celebrated spirit day that year and day of silence as well a day to stand up to bulling by being silent for a whole day.
Now up to this point all the LGBTQIA+ people and figures I learned about or saw on tv they were all white and except for Rupaul that I feel everyone knew about all my formal figures in this community were not black or people of color. It would take me a little while to learn more about black, indigenous and people of color in the LGBTQIA+ community. I blame this on growing up in a very white suburb so there not being that many blacks or POCs to begin with let alone those of the LGBTQIA+ community.
I get out of high school and I join a national volunteer service program called AmeriCorps where I was on a team of 8-12 people traveling doing volunteer projects. During that program we had a base campus in Denver, CO where there were 300 other people in the program. Thanks to that program I learned even more about being apart of the LGBTQIA+ community having a gay man on my team and many other LGBT people in AmeriCorps as a whole. This was another eye-opening learning experience for me but was still very much learning from white and this time financially privileged LGBTQIA+ people.
I come home after that 10 month program and start to hang out with my best friend’s friend from high school who was a lesbian and my own best friend who is gay and got to experience things through their eyes. Sadly though my lesbian friend ended up dying of alcohol poisoning.
This was also around the time I started to get in to Glee after not really being a fan of it in high school but it grew on me. I got to see a different side of LGBTQIA+ life with Curt and Blain as well as Santana & Brittney. Now with Glee the narrative I had seen this whole time of white stories & white activist and white actors/actresses tell stories and living the LGBTQIA+ experience was finally put aside when Santana a lesbian latina finally fell into my lap. She because of cultural stereotypes and her grandmother not excepting her for what she was made her hide this from the world for a long time till she was able to feel comfortable in her own skin loving who she wanted to. Thanks to Santana I tried to go out and seek out other LGBTQIA+ representations of color as all though I am not apart of this community many of my friends and family are and I wanted to understand this community better and as a black person I felt the best way to do that would be the cultural and racial struggle that LGBTQIA+ or straight we all still have to deal with.
So that same year I watched for the first time My So Called Life and got my life with Ricky’s character who sadly we all knew was gay but he never got to be romantically involved or fully express himself as a gay Puerto Rican teen due to the show only getting one season.
This same year I went to my first pride festival and it was cool. I went to the parade and it was very commercial. It actually turned me off due to it feeling very capitalistic and not very rooted in the actual issues of the community like it had started as back in the ’60s.
And then the biggest teacher of the LGBTQIA+ experience in my life was a show called the Fosters. Lena Adams-Foster was a beautiful black (bi-racial) women who loved women yet was the best mom ever. She was the foster mom & step mom to 5 amazing kids. She is natural hair goals and loved unconditionally at all times. She had a white partner Steph Foster who was once married and had a son and sadly wasn’t as free as Lena due to her parents not fully excepting her the way she always wished they did especially her dad who was a hater. But thanks to Lena Steph was able to be the best mom and give love everyday in all kinds of ways while still having a good relationship with her ex-husband. This show also showed one of the youngest gay couples on TV at the time go through their coming out story together first as friends and then as a couple. And at a time when the T in LGBT was being more promenade thanks to people like Laverne Cox The Fosters had a transitioning from girl to boy foster kid named Cole on the show who was put into a home that didn’t respect his transition and miss gendered him. Later we would see another Transgender character named Aaron a college kid whose parents didn’t support his transition fully. Both stories where important as most shows were not tackling the full scope of the LGBTQIA+ community. (This show just went off the air but I highly recommend this show to everyone go watch it on Netflix it’s incredible).
Now besides the TV shows I watched growing up I also have a cousin and a niece who are apart of the LGBTQIA+ community with my cousin having a partner and two cute adoptive babies. I have a best friend who is gay and many friends and colleges that I’m apart of organizations with that are lesbian and gay plus a lot of the youth I work with as well.
So at the same time that I was discovering these characters on TV I also was discovering LGBTQIA+ music artist and straight allies. Of course I knew there were the staples in the community like Cher, Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, Britney Spears, Kesha, and Lady Gaga.
Then of course there were artist like Prince and MJ who pushed the boundaries of how to dress and act being highly public figures but straight.
I think the first LGBTQIA+ artist I discovered was Tegan & Sara after one of the people I was in AmeriCorps with who was a lesbian told me that was her favorite artist. I then got into a few of Adam Lambert’s songs and loved him on Glee.
During the same time I had started to get into Glee I also discovered this dope group called the Internet which has a black lesbian Syd the Kid as the lead singer and many of the music videos depict same-sex relationships.
Another artist Tracy Chapman who not confirmed as a black lesbian or bi-sexual did date author Alice Walker back in the ’90s and has since become a black lesbian icon.
Then there are the more flamboyant artist like Big Freedia a New Orleans bounce artist, Rupaul who helped to bring drag to the masses and Sylvester who was a ’70s-’80s disco queen who died of AIDs.
Frankie Knuckles who was one of the creators of house music and Frank Ocean who was part of a hip-hop group called Odd Future with Syd the Kid and came out as gay a few years ago helping to break the stigma of gay hip-hop and R&B artists. Which took me back to my mom and older siblings time periods when being LGBTQIA+ was not as excepted so people like Johnny Mathis and Luther Vandrass didn’t come out in till way late into their careers.
Then because I like to think of myself as an activist I like to look up other activist in history I started to look up LGBTQIA+ activist like Marsha P. Johnson & Sylvia Rivera two queer, transgender activist of color who helped to start the Stonewall Riots and helped to start the program STAR to help homeless LGBTQIA+ youth of color in the ’60s. Marsha Johnson sadly in 1992 was killed and her body was found in the Hudson, River and said to be a suicide but Rivera and others never believed them.
You then have Audre Lorde a poet and activist and of course you have the man himself James Baldwin who was a civil rights activist and wrote many books on race and capitalism in this country. Langston Hughes who is my favorite poet of all time was an activist and in more contemporary activist we have Janelle Monae who just this year came out as pan-sexual and has always been a black activist who stood for the LGBTQIA+ community. Then Amandla Stenberg also a queer non-binery activist who uses social media as her tool to get her message out.
Oh and in this whole conversation where would ballrooms be without Willi Ninja the godfather of Vogue.
Then you have undocumented LGBTQIA+ people & two spirit indigenous folks who are often not recognized in the community.
I also having watched my niece and nephew grow up watching Miley Cyrus on Disney & after her bad girl image started to die down she started to use her activism to do some good and help out the LGBTQIA+ homeless community with her non-profit the Happy Hippie Foundation.
So this is just a taste of the incredible impact that the LGBTQIA+ community has had on my life and why I hold this community in such high regards. I feel that as an indigenous women with a muslim name I understand the treatment of other communities who suffer from these injustices like my communities does. And the fact that LGBTQIA+ communities also can be black, indigenous, latinx, muslims & others that have to deal with racial and cultural injustice on all sides is sad.
More On the LGBTQIA+ Community:
Well Till Next Time…Be Your Whole Self!