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Post submitted by Beth Sherouse, former ACLS Public Fellow, HRC Senior Content Manager

Bisexual, queer, pansexual and fluid (bi+) people have been leaders in the fight for equal rights, yet our historical memories too often erase their identities or ignore their contributions. In honor of LGBT history month, here are a few bi+ advocates and leaders from the early LGBT rights movement in the U.S. that everyone should know.

James Baldwin – Famous for novels like Go Tell It on the Mountain and nonfiction essays like The Fire Next Time, African American writer and civil rights leader James Baldwin is often assumed to have been gay. This might be because of his relationships with prominent men like bisexual actor Marlon Brando. However, throughout his life, Baldwin also had relationships with women and sometimes referred to himself as bisexual.

Sylvia Rivera – Best known for her role in the Stonewall Riots, transgender Latina activist Sylvia Rivera was a founding member of the early LGBT rights organizations Gay Activist Alliance and Gay Liberation Front. Rivera embraced gender and sexual fluidity throughout her life.

Brenda Howard – Following the Stonewall Riots in 1969, Howard helped organize the 1970 Christopher Street Gay Liberation Day Parade to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the riots. The parade became the basis for LGBT pride festivals across the country, earning her the title “Mother of Pride.”

Stephen Donaldson – Donaldson was prominent in the early “homophile” movement during the 1960s as a member of the Mattachine Society. While a student at Columbia University in 1966, he cofounded the first gay rights student group in the country, the Student Homophile League.

For more information on bi+ historical figures, watch this recent video of prominent bi+ activists talking about bisexual history.

For more information on the bisexual community, visit

Photo c/o Allan Warren, Wikicommons

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