As part of our June Pride coverage, we shine a spotlight on six outstanding figures from the international LGBTQ+ community. Be inspired...
Mark Ashton is the founder of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners, a group which campaigned to raise money for striking miners in the Dulais valley during 1984-5. These campaigns brought together communities that were poles apart and led to South Wales miners marching in support, at the head of the parade, at London pride in 1985. He was a political activist for years and campaigned for more than just the miners, but in campaigning for the miners he showed a solidarity with people who didn’t even know who he was. He campaigned for the greater good, even if it didn’t directly affect him. I think his legacy, working incredibly hard to help strangers in need, is one that should live on.
Sadly Mark died in 1987 at just 26 from an Aids related illness, but is remembered for being a ‘firecracker of a human’ and someone who helped bring two very different communities together. – IMC
Laverne Cox is a pretty huge deal. Not only is she an inspiring trans actress – she’s most famous for starring in Orange Is The New Black – but she’s an outstanding activist and advocate for LGBT rights, too. I’ve watched countless interviews and speeches, and she’s never failed to inspire me.
Predictably, Laverne gets a lot of stick for being both black and being a trans woman, and while she is open about her struggles and insecurities she’s still an incredibly strong woman who is not afraid to have difficult conversations about gender – something that I definitely aspire to be better at. – IMC
Cece is a bi-transwoman and activist. In 2011 she and her friends were assaulted outside a bar, on the way to get groceries, and in self-defence she fatally stabbed one of her attackers. Cece flagged down a police car and was promptly arrested.
After four months in solitary confinement, instead of facing a possible 20 years in prison, she took a 41 month guilty plea. The police and jury saw her as a murderer and criminal, but trans and queer youth saw her as a hero in a situation any of them could have ended up in. She fought back, and she lived. She served 19 months in a men’s prison trying to remain sane, stay positive, and recover. She remains an inspiration for many young trans and queer people as someone who stood up for themselves when their life was in danger and was brave in the face of trans-misogyny and racism, both during the attack and throughout her trial and jail time. – IMC
Often called “the straightest gay man in the world”, fashion designer and film director Tom Ford is Hollywood royalty. Having worked his way up from the very bottom of the heap, he is now one of America’s most celebrated fashion designers – he was the creative director at Gucci and Saint Laurent before establishing his own acclaimed label – and has directed two Oscar-nominated films.
He stands out in the industry for his bravery. Even now, being openly gay in Hollywood is stigmatised, especially within the film industry. However, Ford never tried to hide his sexuality, and in fact capitalised upon it in order to promote his designs – a bold move in such a cutthroat industry, but one that paid off. He is a loud and proud advocate for same-sex couple’s rights and gay marriage, was one of the first designers to feature a trans model in one of his campaigns, and continues to raise awareness of the AIDS epidemic and the devastation it wreaked upon the LGBTQ+ community – a true trailblazer. – BB
The ‘black lesbian feminist mother warrior poet’ was one of the defining 20th century counter-culture literary figures in the United States. She devoted her life to her art, which fought back against homophobia, racism and sexism in American society. Lorde received critical acclaim throughout her lifetime, and refused to be cowed when conservative bigots tried to silence her. Her poetry and prose is still revered and oft-quoted today, in particular her famous statement “your silence will not protect you.” – BB
The one-time Star Trek celeb is famous for more than just his standing within the sci-fi world – he’s a proud advocate for LGBT rights, too. He came out in 2005 after a long and illustrious showbiz career spent in the closet, and now spends a lot of time pumping out LGBT-friendly posts on his Twitter and Facebook accounts. – BB