Icelandic politician, Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, has a number of historical accolades to her name. She is not only the longest serving member of parliament in Iceland but, in 2009, was nominated to become Prime Minister. This nomination made the openly gay stateswoman the first female Prime Minister of the Scandinavian country and, subsequently, the first gay Prime Minister in the world.
While groundbreaking for the world, Icelanders were nonplussed as homosexuality was declared legal in 1940. Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir took control of the Althing, the national parliament of Iceland, during Iceland’s worst financial crisis in the wake of a total collapse of its banking system.
Retired American politician Barney Frank made the most of his career in politics by effecting sweeping reforms within federal policies across the United States. Frank, who publically acknowledged that he was a gay man in 1987, helped legislation in the “1990 Immigration Act” that ensured immigrants could not be disqualified for legal status based on their sexuality.
Frank was one of three openly gay Members of Congress, alongside Jarrod Polis and Tammy Baldwin. The LGBTQ+ publication “Out” awarded the politician top spot in its “Annual Power 50 List” in 2009.
The American writer Gore Vidal produced a lifetime of work that dealt with many social topics, notably that of sexuality within mainstream American society. The prolific writer, who was openly bisexual, held a curious stance on the issue of gay rights that began surfacing as popular opinion in the 1960s.
Vidal maintained that the label “gay” had no meaning as it related only to acts within a relationship rather than the individual’s sexuality. Vidal wrote that "homosexuality is a constant fact of the human condition, and it is not a sickness, not a sin, not a crime.”
Gilbert Baker’s influence is widespread nowadays, but his name remains mostly anonymous against his most iconic artwork: the rainbow flag. Gilbert Baker’s emblematic, six-colored flag first flew at an event in 1978. Baker was adamant that the flag represented the collective, not any single individual, and refused to copyright the design.
When the rainbow flag reached its twenty-fifth anniversary, Baker designed a pride flag so large that it ran from the Gulf of Mexico right through to the Key West islands in Florida. The flag was then cut up and a piece was sent to one hundred cities worldwide.
Bayard Rustin’s name is not as popular as his counterpart’s, Martin Luther King Jr., due to the sad indictment of the attitude towards gay men in 1960s America. Bayard Rustin was the right hand to Martin Luther King Jr. and was responsible for orchestrating one of the largest civil rights protests in American history: the “March on Washington.”
However, due to Rustin’s open acknowledgment of being a gay man, the organizers of the movement had to suppress Rustin’s involvement as it was feared that his sexuality would be used as a weapon to discredit its figurehead Martin Luther King Jr.