Whether breaking new ground in activism or wowing audiences with their performances, these folks have made a name for themselves—and we’re here to celebrate those names.
What does LGBTQ+ stand for?
Using a mix of Out.com’s Power 50 List, IMDB, and a list of the first LGBTQ holders of political offices in the US, we learned that each of our beloved 50 states had someone to show off.
Our list is fairly evenly split with 24 people in the politics side of things, 22 in entertainment, and then 4 people more directly involved in activism (which most politicians and entertainers are part of too).
Not every name will be immediately recognizable, but we tried to include those who made differences in terms of visibility, inclusion, and community building.
LGBTQ entertainers, artists, musicians, and more
- LGBTQ representation in the media is important, with big names like Ellen Degeneres (perhaps the most beloved talk show host since Oprah), RuPaul Charles (who many people see as the queen of drag queens), and Anderson Cooper (who’s famous for his icy blue eyes and his long career of delivering news stories for CNN).
- Michael Sam was unanimously voted All-American football player in 2013 and became the first publicly gay player to be drafted in the NFL. He was also named one of GQ’s men of the Year and was a finalist for Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year award.
- Many of our highlighted individuals are multitalented. Carrie Brownstein, for instance, is not only a star of the Emmy and Peabody award–winning show Portlandia, but she’s also known for her music with Sleater-Kinney; her articles with Slate, The Believer, and NPR Music; and her two books, including her memoir Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl. She’s also directing an upcoming movie called Fairy Godmother.
- Dragging it up, some of our favorite pioneers include Kenny Kerr, who performed in Las Vegas, and RuPaul, whose show RuPaul’s Drag Race has won four Emmys, among other awards.
- We’re also proud to represent voices like Marsha P. Johnson (New Jersey), who was an integral part of the Stonewall Riots during June 1969. These riots fueled the fire for important LGBTQ organizations like the Gay Liberation Front, the Human Rights Campaign, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), and the Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG).
- Philanthropy is a common thread in our list, with organizations like Dan Savage and Terry Miller’s It Gets Better Project.
- Tim Gill (Indiana) alone has contributed over $422 million to the LGBTQ rights movement, the single largest contributor in US history.
- We found that most of the influential LGBTQ politicians lean more Democrat than Republican. However, the first openly gay senator in South Carolina, Jason Elliot, is a Republican, and he’s trying to make the party more inclusive.
- Danica Roem is a journalist who became the first openly trans US state legislator.
- Tammy Baldwin was the first woman elected to represent Wisconsin in the US Congress, and the fist openly gay candidate ever elected to state legislature.
- Chad Griffin, a political activist hailing from Arkansas, founded the American Foundation for Equal Rights to overturn the controversial California bill Proposition 8. (This bill, you might remember, barred same-sex marriage in the state—and overturning it was a major victory on the marriage equality front.) Chad Griffin later became president of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the largest LGBTQ rights organization in the US.
LGBTQ work continues
While we’ve all come a long way to more harmonious understanding of each other, there’s still much to be done, specifically in regards to representing the full spectrum of folks in the community. That means more support for homeless youth, suicide prevention, legal advocacy groups, and more.
Here are some organizations you can consider supporting:
- The Trevor Project
- Black and Pink
- Sylvia Rivera Law Project
- Ali Forney Center
- LGBT Books to Prisoners
Our list is filled with greats, but it doesn’t even scratch the surface of prominent and influential folks who have fought and paved the way for individuals to live authentically—to live with pride instead of fear. We’d love to hear who you think is the most influential LGBTQIA+ person born in your state.