LGBTQ+ History Month: QTBIPOC leaders

by Jesse St. Andre

The Stonewall Riots were driven by QTBIPOC who wanted little more than to be able to exist as their authentic selves. Today, more than 50 years later, they are still on the forefront of the fight for equality, so it is only fitting that we close out LGBTQ+ History Month with 10 notable members of the QTBIPOC community who are paving the way for change.

Miss Major Griffin-Gracy first told her parents she was transgender somewhere around 1953, when it was still common for trans people to be arrested under Masquerading charges. She was expelled from two colleges as a result of her identity. Miss Major was one of the leaders of the Stonewall Riots.

Despite officially retiring from working in 2015, she is still deeply involved in the trans community by way of House of GG: Griffin-Gracy Educational Retreat & Historical Center.

Leiomy Maldonado is a transgender choreographer, actress and activist. Hailing from Puerto Rico, she was the first openly transgender woman to appear on MTV's dance competition America's Best Dance Crew in 2009. She has appeared in a wide array of music videos, choreographed ballroom scenes for and acted in the show Pose and was the second trans person to star in one of Nike’s #BeTrue advertisements.

Andrea Jenkins describes herself as a “poet, writer, activist, artist, humanitarian.” All of these things are true - she is also the the first Black openly transgender woman elected to public office in the United States. She currently serves as vice president of the Minneapolis City Council, a position she has held since January 2018. Ms. Jenkins currently serves on the HRC Board of Directors.

Ve'ondre Mitchell, an HRC youth Ambassador, is a 17-year-old proud Black/Latinx trans woman of color. She is currently in her junior year of high school and is a fierce advocate on social media. Since she was a child, Mitchell has been driven to unapologetically live her truth, and she finds innovative and creative ways to educate and lift up the voices that need to be heard! She shines a light on popular topics of interest by sharing her experiences, giving advice and hopes and demonstrating self-confidence and self-love by sharing educational videos to a large online audience. To make changes and spread awareness in her school and her community, Mitchell strongly believes in trans visibility. She demonstrates this by singing in school assemblies, coaching her school dance team, participating in the Black Student Union, doing enlightening interviews and marching and protesting against racial and gender inequality.

Chantale Wong is the first queer woman of color to be nominated to become U.S. director of the Asian Development Bank. If confirmed, she will become the first out lesbian to hold a senior ambassador position.

Kataluna Enriquez is the first trans woman to become a candidate for Miss USA. She won Miss Nevada in June 2021 and will be competing for the title of Miss USA on November 29, 2021. If she wins, she will be the second trans woman to enter the Miss Universe contest - the first hailing from Spain in 2018.

Indya Moore is a non-binary actor best known for playing Angel Evangelista in the TV seris Pose. Named as one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine in 2019, they were subsequently named by Queerty as 1 of 50 individuals "leading the nation toward equality, acceptance, and dignity for all people."

Susan Allen is a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and openly lesbian as well as Two-Spirit. In October 2011, she was elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives, making her the first Native woman to serve in the Minnesota Legislature as well as the first openly lesbian Native to be elected to a state legislature in any state. She served in that position until 2019, when she opted not to run for re-election.

Heather Purser belongs to the Suquamish Tribe in the Pacific Northwest. She led the charge in getting her tribe to recognize same-sex marriages as valid. When she first pushed for the recognition in 2009, her tribe declined, but when she made the same push in 2011 they agreed to write the recognition of same-sex marriages into their constitution - four years ahead of the SCOTUS ruling that brought marriage equality to the nation.

Mauree Turner is the first non-binary official to be elected into public office. They were elected in November 2020 and began serving in January 2021. In their own words, “their life’s works are geared towards fighting for and maintaining the civil rights and liberties of all who enter America.”

For every person on this list, there are thousands more QTBIPOC who are championing the ongoing fight for equality. We owe it to them to recognize their contributions to the LGBTQ+ community and the decades-long fight for our rights.