To celebrate LGBTQ+ History Month, Annie, one of our wonderful Projects Associates, has brought the Studenteer HQ team together to talk about some of our favourite LGBTQ+ figures.
Favourite LGBTQ+ Figure: Sylvia Rivera
Sylvia Rivera, a queer, Latina, self-identifying drag queen who did a lot of work across the US (but NY in particular) advocating for transgender rights and the rights of those who are gender nonconforming.
For me, as someone who has recently come out as bigender/genderqueer (she/they – meaning I am female and gender neutral/neutrois), the advocacy that was done by Sylvia is really important to me. It paved the way for me and other gender nonconforming people to be who they are unapologetically. And the strives they made on transgender rights is also really inspiring.
Favourite LGBTQ+ Figure: Olly Alexander
For me, Olly Alexander stands out as a modern, British LGBTQ+ icon, and not only for his deeply moving, captivating portrayal of Ritchie Tozer in “It’s a Sin”, Channel 4’s drama of friendship, love, and sexuality set against the AIDS pandemic of the 80s (if you haven’t seen it yet, please watch!).
In “It’s a Sin”, Olly’s character, Ritchie, moves to the bright lights, big city of London in search of a life where he can be his true authentic self, and, in the Pink Palace, he definitely finds it. Olly’s performance encapsulates what it meant to identify as gay in 80s London, educating the nation on LGBTQ+ identity and HIV/AIDs, and acting as a catalyst for conversations around sexuality, sexual health, and queerness. Since its release in early January, the Terrence Higgins Trust has already recorded its highest ever level of HIV tests ordered. This is undoubtedly the legacy of “It’s a Sin”.
But “It’s a Sin” isn’t the first time Olly has used his voice to advocate for LGBTQ+ rights. Performing at Glastonbury in 2019, Olly quite literally used the stage to spread the message that “queer is beautiful”, urging the audience to make a difference and create a kinder and safer tomorrow. And on Instagram, Olly regularly shares and creates content promoting LGBTQ+ rights, from HIV testing to LGBTQ+ education in schools.
It is thanks to people like Olly that our current and future generations recognise the pride and the power in being a truly open, inclusive and diverse society.
Favourite LGBTQ+ Figure: Munroe Bergdorf
Munroe Bergdorf is a modern queer icon. Munroe is a black trans model and activist, who won Cosmo’s Changemaker of the Year in 2018. She had worked with the United Nations, Labour Party and Channel 4.
Munroe got into modelling as a response to the lack of transgender representation in the industry, and has faced transphobic and racist abuse online, and continues to be vocal in her work and activism. In the 2020 BLM protests, Bergdorf bravely called out L’Oreal for inaccuracies in their support of BLM, which resulted in her appointment on their Diversity and Inclusion Board.
Bergdorf is inspired by proud trans women like Carmen Carrera and Laverne Cox. Like them, Bergdorf vowed to be vocal in her trans identity, saying ‘we show people what it is to be free.’ As a person who identifies as queer in all aspects of my life, it’s the work of people like Munroe Bergdorf, who are loud and proud in their acceptance of themselves and their community, who make me proud to be Queer.
Favourite LGBTQ+ Figure: Megan Barton Hanson
Megan Barton Hanson who was on Love Island. She is very open about her bisexuality and self love and self-pleasure which I think is really eye opening, especially for our generation! I follow her on Instagram and she often talks about her sexuality and her past relationships and sex with men and women in Q&A’s, as well as on her podcast where she also discusses this topic with other women in the reality TV industry.
By Annie Bocock and Emily Cross for Studenteer
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