For this year’s Black History & Legacy Month, our THRIVE program will be highlighting some of the legendary Black queer and trans people in our community, both present and historical, in our Queer Black History project. Too often, LGBTQ+ history erases the Black queer and trans people who build our movements, fight for all of us, and center those most impacted by harm, and our hope is to re-focus our history and present on some of the Black queer and trans activists and advocates in our communities.
Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for the month of February, we will be highlighting another Black LGBTQ+ icon on Facebook, Instagram (@thrivepcvt), and here on this blog post! Check back in each week for updates and remember to support Black LGBTQ+ people (personally and financially) every day!!!
“It’s revolutionary to connect with love.”
Tourmaline is an activist, filmmaker, and writer. Her work highlights the capacity of Black queer and trans people and communities to make and transform worlds. In her films, Tourmaline creates dreamlike portraits of people whose stories tell the history of New York City, including gay and trans liberation activists, drag queens, and queer icons Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera (Happy Birthday Marsha, co-directed with Sasha Wortzel, 2018), Miss Major (The Personal Things, 2016), and Egyptt LaBeija (Atlantic is a Sea of Bones, 2017). Tending to the histories and haunts of disabled, poor, Black, queer, and trans life that echo and vibrate beneath neighborhoods and cultural landmarks, Tourmaline’s films undulate between narrative and non-narrative and illuminate the mundane acts that form the fabric of historical events and mutually supportive communities.
Lucy Hicks Anderson, 1886-1954
“I defy any doctor in the world to prove that I am not a woman. I have lived, dressed, acted just like what I am, a woman.”
Lucy Hicks Anderson was a Kentucky-born chef, socialite, and entrepreneur who fought for her right to live as her full self in a time when society and the law were against her. As a child, she knew herself to be a woman and transitioned early, changed her name, and lived as a woman for the rest of her days with the support of family and doctors. After years of working and saving up her money, she opened a boarding house and brothel in Oxnard, CA and became one of the most influential socialites in the community. In 1945, she was tried and detained for living as a woman and having married twice and after her imprisonment, moved to Los Angeles with her second husband.
Bayard Rustin, 1912-1987
“People will never fight for your freedom if you have not given evidence that you are prepared to fight for it yourself.”
Rustin’s work has reentered the Black and queer consciousness in recent years, as many Black religious spaces seek to rectify their relationship with their LGBTQ+ members. Slowly emerging from the shadows of a movement he buttressed, Rustin remains an inalienable figure of resolve, hope, and integrity.
Learn more about his legacy here!
Raquel Willis, 1991-Present
“The hate that fuels white supremacy is the same hate that fuels homophobia, a conscientious society realizes it’s at war with both.”
Raquel Willis is a Black transgender activist, award-winning writer, and media strategist dedicated to elevating the dignity of marginalized people, particularly Black transgender people. She has held ground-breaking posts throughout her career including director of communications for the Ms. Foundation, executive editor of Out magazine, and national organizer for Transgender Law Center (TLC).
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, 1940-Present
“We’ve got to revolt, and we’ve got to reclaim who the fuck we are and let these people realize, before they came along, we were honored and worshipped and appreciated and adored.”
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy is a legendary trans rights activist. As a veteran of the Stonewall uprising, Miss Major has been fighting for trans and queer liberation for over half-a-century. One of our living legends, Miss Major continues to work and fight for the rights and liberation of Black trans people, working tirelessly to connect incarcerated trans women to resources and community, as well as creating space for trans women of color. She is the founder and leader several organizations such as House of GG, an organization with the focus on “supporting and nurturing the leadership of Transgender women of color living in the U.S. South”. Keep up to date with her on social media and support her Fundly campaign if you can!
Marsha P. Johnson, 1945-1992
“As long as my people don’t have their rights across America, there’s no reason for celebration.”
Marsha P. Johnson — who would cheekily tell people the “P” stood for “pay it no mind” — was an outspoken transgender rights activist and is reported to be one of the central figures of the historic Stonewall uprising of 1969. Along with fellow trans activist Sylvia Rivera, Johnson helped form Street Transgender Action Revolutionaries (STAR), a radical political organization that provided housing and other forms of support to homeless queer youth and sex workers in Manhattan. She also performed with the drag performance troupe Hot Peaches from 1972 through the ‘90s and was an AIDS activist with AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP).
Langston Hughes. 1902-1967
“I have discovered in life that there are ways of getting almost anywhere you want to go, if you really want to go.”
A leading force in the Harlem Renaissance, a poet, a scholar, an activist, and a black man, Hughes spoke unashamedly of his experiences with racism in a still heavily segregated America. In his most obvious queer works, he does not align himself with queerness but rather shows his support for the queer community. Despite the community of relative support he was surrounded with, Langston Hughes never came out himself. This may have been out of concern for his safety, but other possible reasons can be found in his writing. While Hughes didn’t have the words to explain all his experiences, he had always lived through the philosophy of using words to connect people.