Pride before the Fall: LGBTQ Pioneers to Remember

“Pride comes before the fall”, a statement Anti-LGBTQ+ supporters have been saying that to us ever since we came out of the closet. we have recently decided to take that phrase and reclaim it. They are right, Pride usually happens right before the fall season, which is a witty way of looking at it, however we look at it like this. The pride of the LGBTQ+ community and that of our black and brown siblings, WILL come before the FALL of this worlds discriminatory and racist systems. Our Pride is what will bring change into this world.

Now that Pride month is over, let us not forget those who have come before us and those who are the front lines for change now. Here are some pioneers that you know and maybe a few you didn’t.

Marsha P. Johnson (1945-1992)

As an outspoken transgender rights activist, Marsha P. Johnson was a woman ahead of her time. She, along with fellow activist Sylvia Rivera, formed STAR (Street Transgender Action Revolutionaries), a revolutionary political organization that provided support and housing for homeless queer youth as well as sex workers within Manhattan. From 1972-1990’s she was a AIDS activist with ACT UP. Her activism and her unbridled passion to be herself, made her a prominent figure in the 1969 Stonewall uprising. Her body was found in the Hudson river shortly after the 1992 Pride parade and was quickly ruled by police as a suicide. Her friends and family however said and still say, that this is not true and that even with her history of mental health issues, she was never suicidal. Witnesses state that when her body was pulled from the river, there was a large bruise on the back of her head. About six months after her body was found, surmounting pressure from activist caused her death to only be changed from “suicide” to “undetermined”. To this day police and governments continue to sweep deaths like these under the rug. We must never forget and continue to fight.

Barbara Gittings (1932-2007)

Barbara Gittings is known for creating space for gay women before “gay rights” were a thing. She founded the Daughters of Bilitis, America’s first lesbian organization, when she was 26 years old. Gittings also picketed to end discrimination at the federal level. One of the greatest parts of her legacy is her collection of gay and lesbian literature which was the first of its kind in the American Library Association. Barbara worked hard to not only have us be seen but she was part of the movement to get the American Psychiatric Association to stop classifying homosexuality as a mental illness.

Willi Ninja (1961-2006)

William Roscoe Leake, aka. Willi Ninja, is known as the “Grandfather of Voguing”. Not because he invented it, but because he perfected it. The legendary House of Ninja was know in the ball community for being multiracial, having white men in competitions while most houses at the time were African-American. Because of his rising fame in the ball scene he caught the attention of director Jennie Livingston who prominently featured Ninja in the 1990 film Paris is Burning which chronicles the ball culture in NYC. He danced in two Janet Jackson videos and even walked the runway for Jean-Paul Gaultier. Willi Ninja truly helped propel the LGBTQ+ community into the world of dance and fashion.

Ron Oden (Born 1950)

Ron Oden moved to Palm Springs, CA to be an adjunct Sociology instructor and in doing so opened his eyes to the educational and social issues which drove him to enter politics. In 2003 he was elected as the first bisexual African-American Mayor of Palm Springs. During his time as mayor he worked hard on promoting organizations that focused on diversity and human rights. Oden also brought about the first gay majority city council to Palm Springs in 2017 making strides for the LGBTQ+ and PoC communities.

Kim Petras (Born 1992)

Kim Petras has been a pioneer for trans-rights and has blown the top off of the pop music industry. While she was assigned male at birth, she knew by age two that she was a girl. At age 13 she appeared on a German current affairs show, where she discussed her transition. A year later she was featured on a documentary and a talk show, where she pushed for permission for early confirmation surgery at age 16 instead of the minimum age of 18, which is required in Germany. This gained her international media coverage which touted her the “world’s youngest transsexual”. While this is an inaccurate statement, Petras was most likely one of the youngest people at the time to undergo transgender hormone therapy. She was successful in November 2008, completing confirmation surgery at 16. Kim has since started her own record label, BunHead Records, and her songs have been on billboard and music charts around the world.

There are so many ground breaking LGBTQ+ pioneers that have not only made the way for the gay community but for the love of humans everywhere.We hope these few extraodinary people make you want to look further into our history so that we can continue to create a better future.

Stay safe and never be afraid to show the world who you are.

-The Wellness Gays

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