Non-binary South African-born artist Zanele Muholi began documenting the lives and experiences of LGBTQIA+ youth in South Africa in the early 2000s. Muholi describes themself as a visual activist instead of just simply an artist. Muholi brings focus to the hate crimes and stigma that LGBTQIA+ people face in South Africa and tackles issues such as assault and HIV.
As of 2021, Muholi has extended their efforts into rural communities, offering workshops to provide photography and painting skills to underprivileged youth.
School teacher Jeanne Manford found herself at the forefront of the gay rights movement in the 1970s after her gay son was attacked by bigots. Manford went on to approach radio and news stations to highlight the passivity of police in dealing with hate crimes against LGBTQ+ folk. From her activism, Manford would go on to establish “PFLAG”: Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.
The movement was created to help facilitate communication between heterosexual and gay family members. Manford was posthumously awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal for her groundbreaking efforts.
Perplexed by a rejection to be a member of the National Honor Society for “homosexual inclinations,” psychiatrist Barbara Gittings took it upon herself to begin psychoanalyzing herself about what it meant to be a lesbian woman in 1950s America.
Barbara Gittings would then approach the “Daughters of Bilitis,” the only lesbian organization and support group in the United States. Her involvement with the group would put her at the forefront of their New York division. Gittings's psychiatric skills allowed her to challenge the mainstream convention of homosexuality being defined as a mental disorder, and as a result, it was retracted in the medical literature.
Tab Hunter was a forerunner of the Hollywood heartthrob stereotype. The blonde, green-eyed New York native lived up to being, in his own words, “swoon-bait.” The actor had no doubts about his sexuality as a gay man, but, in 1950s America, that was a death knell for any acting career aspirations.
The studios had press houses write false articles about Hunter’s supposed liaisons with other actresses to bolster his macho, heterosexual image. Hunter finally addressed his sexuality in his 2005 autobiography, where he revealed he was not only gay but had been married to his husband for almost three decades!
Hawaiian-born Janet Mock has helped the trans world find a broader voice through the media industry. The ambitious media mogul has led several campaigns to highlight issues faced by the transgender community. Mock released a memoir, “Redefining Realness,” in 2011 that detailed her journey as a transwoman.
A heated exchange developed between Mock and journalist Piers Morgan when Mock accused the talk show host of ignoring the biases and challenges faced by the transgender community and only focusing on exaggerating her life. Mock received an Emmy award for her executive producing skills on the show “Pose.”