The exceptional individuals that against all the odds refused to let inequalities and prejudices stop them from changing the rules, laws and opinions relating to the LGBTQ+ community across the globe
It is often hard to imagine what life must have been like even as recent as 40 years ago. With conservative and religious beliefs dominating society as a whole, many individuals were required to suppress and hide their true self for fear of persecution.
It took a brave and fearless group of individuals to stand up and have their voices heard. To show the world that the rules, laws and opinions had to change, which ultimately has resulted in the freedoms and rights many of us now enjoyed, which is owed to these exceptional individuals.
Each year we will highlight and focus on these groundbreaking pioneers, with this being our first year, we would like to introduce you to the 2019 pioneer’s collection. Click here to discover other exceptional individuals in our 2020 Pioneers Collection
Karl, a once forgotten pioneer, was an exceptional individual that in the conservative 1800s was not only an openly gay man but also fought to reform the laws to improve conditions for the repressed LGBTQ+ individuals living within Germany at that time. To provide context, it was in 1860 that Abraham Lincoln was nominated the president of the United States of America and in 1861 saw the beginning of the American civil war.
With world affairs as they were, Karl became a pioneer after being dismissed from his legal role for the district court in Hildesheim for being gay. In 1862, Karl came out to his friends and family, something that was not commonplace for that period and went on to highlight anti-homosexual laws through campaigning and in writing a number of books and articles.
Karl, through circumstances, the future could have been very different, instead of hiding away, he decided to speak up and highlight the injustices that were going on. He was an exceptional individual and is now finally credited as an early pioneer of the modern gay rights movement.
May you never be forgotten.
The daughter of a United States (U.S) diplomate, Barbara was born in Vienna, Austria and a notable activist and literary figure within the U.S LGBTQ+ community. It was at Northwestern University when Barbara was studying drama that she had an encounter with a fellow female student, which caused Barbara to explore her sexuality. Barbara, who was confused, met with a psychiatrist, who helped Barbara understand that she was a lesbian. The psychiatrist, who at the time believed homosexuality was a mental illness, went on to offer to help cure her of her infliction; however, her father thankfully refused to pay for further sessions.
Barbara began researching what being a homosexual meant, and at that time, all of the publications depicted same-sex activities as perverted. Her research took up so much of her time; it resulted in her falling behind in her studies and ultimately in dropping out of college.
Barbara's inquisitive and intellect helped her become a publicly known lesbian activist, who not only worked to protest to improve LGBTQ+ rights but also worked tirelessly to improve the literary representation of the community and to ensure that information relating to same-sex individuals became more readily available in libraries.
Barbara received many awards, among them a lifetime membership in the American Library Association and the annual Barbara Gittings award, awarded each year for the best gay or lesbian novel. Barbara was an exceptional individual that dedicated her life to improving LGBTQ+ information in literacy.
May you never be forgotten
Harvey was an American politician, former United States Navy veteran and the first openly gay official in the state of California. Harvey was originally from New York City and moved to the Castro district of San Francisco in 1972. Harvey unsuccessfully ran for office three times and was finally elected to the seat of city supervisor in 1977.
Eleven months into his term, Harvey sponsored a bill banning discrimination purely based on an individual's sexual orientation in areas such as accommodation, housing and employment. The bill had amassed tremendous support with city officials and was passed with eleven votes in favour to one against the bill.
Sadly, on the 27 November 1978, Dan White, a former colleague from the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, who had previously resigned from his role due to a dispute over pay, regretted his decision and approached the mayor asking to be reinstated. Many of the other supervisors on the board felt that someone else should be appointed, an individual that reflected the ever-changing and diverse inhabitants within the local community. Disgruntled, an armed Dan White entered the city offices, killed the mayor and proceeded to kill Harvey. Harvey was 48 years old.
Even though his death was so long ago, many within the LGBTQ+ community consider Harvey an icon and a martyr. Harvey helped to introduce anti-discrimination laws in San Francisco in the 1970s and will remain a leading pioneer of the LGBTQ+ movement in the USA.
May you never be forgotten
Magnus was born in the Prussian town of Kolberg, Germany (now part of Poland), to a Jewish family and the son of a highly regarded physician. Magnus went on to study philosophy and philology in a number of German universities and in 1892 he earned his medical degree.
A gay man himself, it was not until he lived in Chicago, that he began to draw similarities between the homosexual communities within Chicago to that of Berlin where he had previously lived. This discovery started his theory of the universality of homosexuality across the world.
Through his research, Magnus found that the majority of homosexual men he had met, had scars of failed suicide attempts and spent a lot of his time, trying to help them and give them reasons to live. In the late 1800s, the Irish poet and playwright Oscar Wilde was being trialled in the United Kingdom for gross indecency with men. The trial received a lot of media attention, and Magnus was greatly affected by the trial.
Magnus studied sexuality and became an advocate on behalf of sexual minorities. Magnus believed that sexual orientation was innate, meaning something you were born with and not a deliberate choice. In understanding that Magnus wanted to advocate tolerance and acceptance of sexual minorities.
Magnus supported the concept that homosexuals constituted a third sex and he is best known for his theories relating to sexual intermediaries which were naturally occurring, such as hermaphroditism, homosexuality and transvestism.
In 1919, Magnus opened the first sexology institute in the world, the Institute for Sexual Science in Berlin, sadly the institute and many of publications within the library were destroyed during the second world war.
With growing populism of the Nazi movement, being a Jewish gay man, Magnus left Germany and sadly died in France of a heart attack in 1934.
Magnus introduced the world to the concept that many of us today know to be true. We do not make a choice or a decision to be straight, gay or transgender; we are all born that way. If it was not for Magnus, we might not live in an ever-changing and hopefully more tolerant world.
May you never be forgotten
Audre was born in New York City to Caribbean immigrants. When Audre was young, she struggled to communicate and found refuge in poetry, often memorising and quoting poetry to express how she was feeling.
It was in 1954 during her studies that she spent a year in Mexico which awoke both her true identity and where she also began to hone her skills as a poet. Throughout the 1960s, Audre worked as a librarian in several public schools in New York and was married to Edward Rollins, who she later divorced in 1970.
After her divorce, Audre began to live her true self, as a lesbian. As a black lesbian, Audre was no stranger to racism and prejudices and found that her poetry helped her not only to connect with readers but also gave her an outlet to express her technical mastery and emotional expression relating to her feelings of the anger and outrage at civil and social injustices.
Audre went on to publish a number of books and poetry relating to black feminism. In the late 1980s, Audre and a fellow writer founded the Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, which was dedicated to helping promote and furthering the publications from black feminist writers. During the apartheid years in South Africa, Audre became concerned how black women were being treated and decided to create the Sisterhood in Support of Sisters in South Africa (SISA), an organisation she continued playing an active role in up until her death in 1992. Sadly, apartheid ended two years after her death, so she never got to see her black sisters in the newly democratic South Africa.
A smart and gifted woman, Audre's works are not only powerful but also inspiring. A feminist, a lesbian, and who is black, Audre is the voice, the form of expression for many women, many lesbians and many black women around the world even today.
May you never be forgotten
Is there someone you feel deserves to be part of our 2021 collection. The individual does not have to be a celebrity, just someone who has worked in the past to help better and improve the laws, rights and conditions within the international LGBTQ community, if so, please get in touch.
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