March is Women’s History Month, so I wanted to shine some light on some poppin’ Queer Women of Color who by just existing, or fighting at the grassroots level, have fought for a better more inclusive planet.
August 12th 1907- January 18th 1960
From way of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Gladys Bentley was a Blues singer who was very prominent during the Harlem Renaissance. An entertainer of many trades, Bentley was most commonly known for her singing. She broke barriers as a openly queer singer who embraced her masculinity. She often wore clothes that society deemed were only for men, and embraced her community as her performances usually included various drag queens. Along with her musical talents, Gladys Bentley radiated black women masculinity that many had not seen before. Opening the doors for different types of entertainment as well as changing the way we view gender and black women as a whole.
May 19th 1930- January 12th 1965
Born in The Chi, Lorraine Hansberry is a world renowned playwright. She studied at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she continued in her family’s line of work for political change. Hansberry later moved to New York City and worked for the Freedom Newspaper in which she helped highlight black stories in the US and abroad. Hansberry is most known for her American Classic play, A raisin in the Sun. Hansberry is the first Black woman author to have a play performed on Broadway.
July 2nd 1951-February 19th 2001
Sylvia Rivera is an LGBT Elder who continues to be written out of history. A New Yorker through and through, Sylvia Rivera was a Trans Activist who was crucial force at the Stonewall Riots. Rivera was a cofounder of the Gay Liberation Front, the Gay Activist Alliance, and alongside Marsha P. Johnson helped found, (STAR) Street Travsvetisties Action Revolutionaries. Sylvia Rivera fought throughout her life to see justice not only for folks with different genders and gender expressions, but for all folks who were living in the world with a marginalized identity.
Bamby Salcedo is a Trans Activist who is on the streets today organizing for her community. Her work includes her position at Children’s Hospital LA as a Health Educator/HIV Service coordinator. She is the founder of the LA based organization, TransLatin@ Coalition, who advocate for the needs of Trans latinx immigrants in the United States. In 2015 she made headlines when she disrupted the National LGBT Task Force conference to demand that attention be made to the violence that trans folk face everyday. Since then she has been listed in OUT magazine’s 2015 OUT 100 list, as well as speaking at the white house at the US women Summit. You can learn more about the TransLatin@ Coalition here.
A proud immigrant by way of Mexico, Jennicet Gutierrez is a Trans rights and Immigration rights activist who has demanded that her voice be heard. Jennicet is a founding member of the organization, La Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement. Gutierrez was also apart of OUT magazine’s 2015 OUT 100, but made national news when she demanded attention from President Obama at a White House Dinner. Gutierrez was criticized by many but highlighted the divide in mainstream gay activism, and grassroots queer and trans activism. You can learn more about La Familia here.
Cecilia Chung is a LGBT Activist who has fought for LGBT rights as well as spreading education and HIV awareness. Chung’s family immigrated from Hong Kong to Los Angeles and now Resides in the Bay Area (AYYYYYY). Cecilia Chung has done extensive work as an HIV educator throughout San Francisco, as well as programming throughout the Transgender Law Center, and the API American Health Forum. Chung has paved the way for many others to follow as the first Trans women and Asian women elected to the SF LGBT Pride Celebration committee, working for the SF health Commission appointed by Mayor Ed. Lee, and the list goes on!