This past week has been a time to learn, reflect, engage, and challenge ourselves to grow as individuals and as a society. While I’ve always considered myself someone who has tried to be informed on these issues and aware of my privilege, I know I have a lot more work to do to be a better ally. The first step for me is always listening and taking time to educate myself, then engaging with others and taking action to hopefully make our world a better place.
Normally Pride Month is a time of joy and celebration for the queer community, and I was originally planning a fun “Quarantine in Pride” post. However, I believe that we should take time to honor the roll that people of color – particularly queer Black individuals – have played in LGBTQ+ history. I wanted to create this space to educate myself as a white, cis, queer woman and other white queers. Too often history in general is whitewashed, and the Gay Rights Movement is no exception. From Black trans activist Marsha P. Johnson and Latina drag queen and trans activist Silvia Rivera rioting at Stonewall to Laverne Cox and Ru Paul’s Drag Race bringing drag shows and trans women to mainstream modern-day media, these individuals have given us all so much to celebrate!
While this post doesn’t include all of the incredible individuals who have made an impact on our lives today, I hope it gives you more opportunity to learn about the rich history and many contributions queer people of color.
Movies and Documentaries
- The Death and Life of Marsha P Johnson (Netflix)
- Moonlight (Netflix)
- Paris is Burning (YouTube)
- The Watermelon Woman (Amazon Prime)
- Tangerine (Hulu)
- Blackbird (Amazon Prime)
- Voguing: The Message (Amazon Prime)
- AJ and the Queen (Netflix) – a drag queen takes her show on the road with a smart mouthed ten year old – adorable hi-jinks, great one-liners, and heartwarming moments ensue.
- Pose (Netflix) – based in NYC during the 1980s, this show focuses on the relationships between LGBTQ indidivuals in the NY ball scene.
- Queer Eye (Netflix) – Often when Karamo and Tan are transforming the subjects of the episode, they’re sharing their personal experiences as a gay Black man in America and a gay Muslim immigrant.
- Ru Paul’s Drag Race (Hulu) – probably the most famous show on this list, drag queens aim to win this reality competition.
- Noah’s Arc (Amazon Prime) – this show focuses on the life and romances of five predominantly Black and Latino gay men in LA.
- Black Lightning (Netflix) – for my fellow comic book nerds, Nafessa Williams plays Anissa Pearce, TV’s first black lesbian superhero.
- The Bold Type (Amazon Prime) – Aisha Dee plays Kat Edison, a bisexual woman and one of the three main characters as we follow her journey towards self discovery and identity. Also, Stephen Conrad Moore plays Oliver Grayson, the openly gay head of fashion, who is such a heartwarming character.
- Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Netflix) – Andre Braugher plays Captain Holt, who is openly gay and one of my personal favorite characters on the show for his unparalleled sarcastic wit. A great example of a queer Black man in a position of power who doesn’t play on stereotypes or tropes.
- The L Word: Generation Q (Hulu) – the updated 2019 show features old cast members with new faces navigating life and romance in LA.
- Jake Blount (one of my dear college friends) – just released his critically acclaimed album Spider Tales. His mastery of the banjo and fiddle paired with his in-depth research into Black and Indigenous mountain music results in the most captivating songs. I’m normally someone who gravitates towards pop or Hip Hop, so the fact that I love Jake’s music means it truly resonates with everyone! My personal favorite tracks from Spider Tales are “The Angels Done Bowed Down,” “Mad Mama’s Blues,” and “Roustabout.”
- Halsey – her airy voice mixed with catchy pop beats are the perfect summer jams. I’ve loved a lot of her older tracks such as “Bad at Love,” “Ghost,” and “Walls Could Talk.”
- Big Freedia – credited with popularizing New Orleans bounce music, I’ve loved dancing to her songs for the past decade. Personal favorites are “Y’all Get Back Now,” “Explode,” and “Karaoke” (feat. Lizzo).
- Hayley Kiyoko – dubbed “Lesbian Jesus” by her fans, her queer identity has a strong influence on her music. Personal favorites are “Demons,” “Girls Like Girls,” and “He’ll Never Love You,” done in her signature pop light style.
- Lil Nas X – of “Old Town Road” fame, I really love his other rap songs such as “Panini” and “Rodeo.” He’s also the first and only openly gay artists to receive a Country Music Award.
- Todrick Hall – I started watching his incredible YouTube videos and then fell in love with his catchy original songs. The best dance tracks include “Dem Beats” (feat. RuPaul), “I Like Boys,” and “Nails, Hair, Hips, Heels” which is a popular song from last year’s Pride that he redid as “Mask, Gloves, Soap, Scrubs” during COVID-19.
Books and Authors
- Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde
- Pet by Akwaeke Emezi
- Redefining Realness by Janet Mock
- Karamo by Karamo Brown
- Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin
- Naturally Tan: A Memoir by Tan France
Historical Figures to Learn More About
- Marsha P. Johnson – the iconic Black trans activist famous for the “shot glass heard round the world” during the Stonewall Riots of 1969. She also founded STAR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries) with Silvia Rivera and the STAR House to organize and provide shelter to care for homeless queer and trans youth in the 1970s.
- Silvia Rivera – a queer transgender woman of Puerto Rican, Mexican, and Venezuelan descent. She is best known for her role in the Stonewall Riots, fighting against the police along with hundreds of other queer individuals. Sylvia had been living on her own since she left home at 11 to escape abuse and transphobia. After her involvement with the riots, Sylvia continued to be a part of several gay rights organizations and fought for them to be more inclusive of trans rights, as well as founding STAR and STAR House.
- Bayard Rustin – a Civil Rights and Gay Rights activist. Working mostly behind the scenes, mostly due to being a gay Black man in the 1950s/60s, he helped to build the civil rights movement and was a key advisor to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on nonviolence. Unfortunately, due to threats to expose his sexuality, he had to step back from the movement in later years and his role is downplayed to this day.
- Felipe Rose – born to a Lakota Sioux father and a Puerto Rican mother, he is openly gay and rose to fame with the Village People in the late 1970s where his outfits were based on his father’s tribal regalia – producing classic gay club anthems as “YMCA” and “Macho Man.” Since his fame with the Village People, he has raised millions of dollars for Native American causes and AIDS-related charities through working with various organizations. He continues to organize a yearly coat drive for the Pine Ridge Lakota Reservation community every winter.
- James Baldwin – an author, a fierce civil and social rights critic, and ultimately, a gay rights inspirationalist. He moved to France at the age of 24 to escape racism and homophobia in the US and became a novelist there. As a novelist, he brought to light the challenges, social aspects, and complexities blacks, gays, and bisexual men had to face at the time, as well as the internal struggles that these groups faced for acceptance.
- Ray Navarro – a gay Chicano who was a member of the direct action AIDS-advocacy organization ACT UP in the 1980s, co-founded the NYC Latino Caucus of ACT UP, and was part of DIVA TV- which produced performance art and documentary media pieces in support of ACT UP. He participated in several ACT UP – related actions- including one in 1989 where he dressed as Jesus Christ in on the steps of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in order to protest the church’s views on homosexuality and HIV/AIDS.
- Victoria Cruz – a Puerto Rican transgender activist who began performing as a drag queen in the early 1960s and was present at the Stonewall Riots of 1969 and marched in the first Pride parade in 1970. The Netflix documentary The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson focuses on her tireless struggle to find justice for Marsha’s mysterious death in 1992.
- Gonzalo “Tony” Segura – born in Cuba and came to America at the age of 15, he was a pioneering leader for LGBTQ+ rights. In the 1950s, Gonzalo “Tony” Segura co-founded the Mattachine Society, commonly considered the first national LGBT organization.
- Alvin Ailey – was a gay African-American dancer, director, choreographer, and activist who founded the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. He created this theater and its affiliated Ailey School as places to nurture black artists and express the universality of the African-American experience through dance. He was a very private person and kept his relationships out of the public eye.
- Audre Lorde – a famous black lesbian poet, civil rights activist, and feminist writer, she used her creative talent to confront and address injustices of racism, sexism, classism, heterosexism, and homophobia in her works. If you haven’t had the opportunity to read her powerful poetry, I recommend you do so.
This list is only the beginning. There are so many more incredible queer people of color to learn about, read their works, and listen to their music. I encourage you all to use this as a starting point