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2021 LGBTQIA+ Pioneers

Exceptional individuals that contributed to the LGBTQIA+ global movement
Community Image - 2021 LGBTQIA+ Pioneers
The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and all those with non-traditional gender or sexual identities have been targeted and persecuted for thousands of years because of who they love or how they identify.

Over the centuries, many brave and exceptional individuals, often at significant personal risk, went against the odds and refused to let inequalities and prejudices stop them from changing the rules, laws and opinions relating to the LGBTQIA+ community across the globe.

We all must remember and celebrate all those exceptional individuals. Those people that are now and in the past who have fought hard for equal treatment for the LGBTQIA+ community

Welcome to the 2021 LGBTQIA+ Pioneers Collection

Each year we create LGBTQIA+ dollars and feature important and key individuals related to the LGBTQIA+ community. Though some of the individuals featured may not have publicly identified as LGBTQIA+, they are exceptional people who have advanced the community or world in some way

Alternatively, why not discover other amazing advocates and pioneers in previous year collections
ADVOCATES | PIONEER COLLECTIONS:  2022 | 2021 | 2020 | 2019

Father Mychal Judge

Gayther 2021 One Hundred Dollar Bill - Father Mychal Judge
Canonized Catholic Priest, Chaplain for the NYC Fire Department and Dignity (LGBT organisation)
New York City, New York, USA
b. 1933 – d. 2001

Father Mychal Judge was a canonised Catholic Priest and a remarkable individual known for ministering to those alienated within society, including the homeless, people with AIDS and members of the LGBT community.

Father Judge was born in Brooklyn, New York and at the age of 15, began the formation process to enter the order of friars. After graduating, Father Judge received the religious habit and became a member of the order. In 1992, Father Judge was appointed the chaplain to the New York Fire Department, working with the firefighters and their families, providing support, encouragement and prayers. Father Judge’s struggle with alcoholism helped him empathise with and understand people with addiction and those suffering. Father Judge’s empathy resulted in him working with St Clare’s Hospital, which opened the city’s first AIDS ward. Father Judge was a Catholic priest who also actively advocated for gay rights.

Father Judge was an exceptional individual and was considered a saint long before the catholic church canonised him. Sadly, on September 11th, 2001, Father Judge arrived at the World Trade Centre shortly after the hijacked plane damaged the North Tower. Father Judge came onsite to provide prayer and support to all rescuers, those injured, and those who died during the attack. Father Judge was in the North Tower’s lobby when it collapsed, killing all those inside, sadly including Father Judge. When the rescuers began to search for survivors within the towers, the first body recovered was Father Judge, which is why he is considered victim 0001 of the horrific terrorist attack.

Through his faith and work, Father Judge supported marginalised people in society. He provided spiritual guidance to so many, from firefighters to all those from the LGBTQIA+ community. Father Judge was a remarkable individual who spoke up for those that did not have a voice. He gave so much of himself, even at the end of his life. Father Judge was more than just a person of faith; he was an exceptional individual. Today, many worldwide and within New York City consider him a saint.

Thank you, Father Judge, may you never be forgotten


Acceptance and coming to terms with a part of what makes you can be challenging for many people. The Gayther pride in series is about celebrating all things relating to sexualities, gender identities and special groups. Showcasing the exceptional people, interesting facts and ways to connect with those unique communities, all designed to help and promote pride in LGBTQIA+ identities

Dr Harry Benjamin

Gayther 2021 Fifty Dollar Bill - Dr Harry Benjamin
Endocrinologist and sexologist, and his pioneering work with the transgender community
Berlin, Germany
b. 1885 – d. 1986

Dr Harry Benjamin was an endocrinologist and sexologist known for his pioneering clinical work relating to transsexuality. Dr Benjamin helped develop medical treatments and, at the same time, championed transgender individuals within the medical community.

Dr Benjamin was born in Berlin. After receiving his doctorate in medicine, he visited the United States to work with a doctor researching tuberculosis. While returning to Germany, his liner, mid-Atlantic, was captured by the British as the First World War had broken out. Dr Benjamin decided to return to America, where he spent the remainder of his life.

Once in the USA, Dr Benjamin started a medical practice in New York and later opened a second practice in San Francisco. He would split his time throughout the year. Dr Benjamin was first introduced to transsexuality when a fellow sexologist asked him to assess a child who wanted to become a girl who was born a boy. His encounter with this child helped him understand more about transsexuality and the mental and physical state of transgender individuals. Dr Benjamin’s empathy, research and treatments allowed him to help hundreds of patients throughout the 1940s, 50s and 60s.

Dr Benjamin, throughout his life, maintained a relationship with many of his patients. Many of his patients kept in contact with him until his death. He was known as a caring, respectful and kind man who touched and changed so many lives of his patients. Through his research and empathy, he was able to help so many transgender individuals. Dr Benjamin’s medical treatments helped many transgender individuals change and transform. His approach was focused on alignment instead of treating his patient’s condition as a mental illness. Going against the popular belief given that many within his profession considered it an illness during that period.

Dr Benjamin was a well-regarded medical specialist in his field of expertise and had countless research papers and publications to his name. Dr Benjamin was also a gerontologist, which relates to the study of ageing, and he managed to live to be 101. Though Dr Benjamin was accomplished in many medical fields, his work with the transgender community is best known. For so many, even to this day, his work influenced their lives and helped them understand and transform their outer appearance

Thank you, Dr Benjamin, may you never be forgotten

Simon Tseko Nkoli

Gayther 2021 Twenty Dollar Bill - Simon Tseko Nkoli
South African Anti-Apartheid, Gay Rights and AIDS activist
Soweto, Johannesburg, South Africa
b. 1957 – d. 1998

Simon Nkoli was an activist fighting to end apartheid and improve Gay and AIDS rights in South Africa. Simon was also the founding member of the Saturday group, the first black gay group in Africa.

Simon was born in Soweto, a township in the city of Johannesburg in South Africa. For most of Simon’s life, the country was under apartheid, a system of policies and legislation that actively discriminated against non-white citizens within South Africa. In 1984, he became one of the twenty-two people arrested at a rally supporting rent-boycotts, collectively known as the Delmas 22. Simon was arrested on the charge of treason and faced the death penalty; however, he came out publicly as gay while in prison. Simon’s brave decision drew media attention and contributed to the change of attitudes of the African National Congress relating to gay rights.

Following his release in 1988, Simon organised the first pride parade in South Africa. He was an active member of the community in terms of speaking at rallies, being part of gay rights organisations and helping to change public opinion. After apartheid ended, Simon was one of the first gay activists to meet President Nelson Mandela. Simon went on to campaign for the inclusion of protection from discrimination in the Bill of Rights in the 1994 South African constitution. Sadly, in 1998, Simon died of AIDS after being infected with HIV 12-years prior.

Simon was not only gay but also a black man during the apartheid in South Africa. Simon spent many years fighting for both causes, and his courage and determination directly brought about change in South Africa. Simon was able to see the end of apartheid during his lifetime; however, he had so few years to see the rewards of all his hard work. Simon is a beacon for the community, especially for those from within black communities worldwide. Many within the black community often struggle or suppress their sexuality due to fear of persecution. Simon spoke up, and his voice was heard, and his words are still changing and transforming the world around us, even today.

Thank you, Mr Nkoli, may you never be forgotten


Learn more about the exceptional and diverse global LGBTQIA+ community. Discover interesting facts, join in the fun with interactive games, learn more about the exceptional pioneers and advocates and take pride in all of the sexualities, gender identities and special groups. Discover all things LGBTQIA+ with Gayther today

Ruth Ellis

Gayther 2021 Ten Dollar Bill - Ruth Ellis
LGBT Rights Activist
Springfield, Illinois, USA
b. 1899 – d. 2000

Ruth Ellis was an American LGBT rights activist. She became known as the oldest surviving, openly Lesbian, living up to the age of 101.

Ruth was born in Springfield, Illinois, in the USA and was the youngest of four children to parents born in the last years of slavery. Her father became the first African American mail carrier in Illinois years after gaining his freedom. Ruth identified as Lesbian around the age of 16, only being able to determine how she was feeling through textbooks. Though Ruth identified as a Lesbian, she never felt the need to come out to her family, as they accepted her and her lifestyle. In the 1920s, she met Ceciline Franklin, known as Babe, and they later moved to Detroit in the hope of a better wage.

Even to this day, Ruth and Babe’s home in Detroit is identified as a landmark within the city of Detroit. The house was used to host many gay and lesbian parties throughout the decades and became a refuge for African American community members. Ruth was well known within the LGBT community. At age 70, she would become a regular fixture of the “Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival”. On her 100th birthday, Ruth was led on the San Francisco’s Dyke March in 1999, where attendees of the march sang happy birthday to Ruth.

Ruth was born at the end of the 1900s and was openly lesbian in the early 20th Century, a difficult time in LGBT history. Ruth was not only Lesbian but also identified as African American in a community that has long struggled with sexuality. Ruth’s bravery in not being willing to hide who she was and her personality were the force behind changing the hearts and minds of all those who came in contact with her. Ruth’s spirit meant she spent over 100 years as a fantastic ambassador for the community. Ruth was also a beacon for many within the African-American community struggling, even today, with their sexuality.

Thank you, Ms Ellis, may you never be forgotten


From marriages and unions to the decriminalisation of same-sex relationships, discover how well each country treats members of the LGBTQIA+ community. Updated each year, you can learn of the positive and negative developments for every country worldwide. Learn more about LGBTQIA+ Worldwide equality today

Rachel Carson

Gayther 2021 Five Dollar Bill - Rachel Carson
Marine Biologist, Author, Conservationist, whose work helped the advance the global environmental movement
Springdale, Pennsylvania, USA
b. 1907 – d. 1964

Rachel was a marine biologist, author, and conservationist whose books highlighted the problems synthetic pesticides caused to the environment.

Rachel was born in Springdale, Pennsylvania, in the USA. After graduating from Pennsylvania College for Women, now known as Chatham University, Rachel took a job as an aquatic biologist with the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries. Rachel later became a full-time writer, and in 1951, her book, The Sea Around Us, became a bestseller and won her a U.S. National Book Award. In 1962, her third book, Silent Spring, focused on the damage synthetic pesticides had on the environment, which immediately resonated with the American public and brought much-needed attention to the problem. Rachel’s book and activism spurred a reversal of the national pesticide policy, resulting in a U.S. nationwide ban on DDT and other pesticides. Though known as an environmentalist, few were aware of Rachel’s personal life and that she was lesbian. Rachel was in a romantic relationship with her partner, Dorothy Freeman, for over 11 years up until her death.

Rachel may not have been an activist for gay rights or even been open about her sexuality. Rachel’s passion and dedication to the environment make her not only a significant person concerning the environmental cause but also a person that the LGBTQIA+ community can be proud to call one of their own. The 1940s and 50s were a challenging time for many within the LGBTQIA+. Even though many stood up and made their voices heard, many were advocating in their own way, choosing to live ordinary lives with their loved ones in private. Americans and the world can thank Rachel for her work, raising awareness of the harmful effects of pesticides. She saw DDT and other dangerous chemicals banned through her dedication and commitment to the environmental cause.

Thank you, Ms Carson, may you never be forgotten


With countries around the world treating members of the LGBTQIA+ community differently, planning an overseas trip can be challenging. With over 233 country and 435 regional guides, Gayther guides provide you with all the information you need when planning your trip. From LGBTQIA equality to essential travel information, discover Gayther guides today
  About LGBTQIA+ Pioneers
Gayther Community - About Pioneers

The LGBTQIA+, Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender communities have been around for thousands of years and referenced in many texts, scriptures and paintings from as early as 2400 BC. The diverse community includes many famous and notable people, from emperors, kings, poets, and politicians. Many of which have played key and important roles throughout history.

Over the centuries, the treatment of the community and its members’ rights has changed, from individuals being tolerated and often on the fringe of society to becoming active targets and facing brutal persecution. It was only until the end of the 18th Century that things improved. Large scale global change only began to occur in the 20th Century, typically from the 1970s to the present day.

The New York Stonewall Riots in 1969 became a catalyst for the global gay liberation movement. However, many brave individuals have stood up and championed the community throughout history, often at significant risk to themselves. It is often hard to imagine what life must have been like even as recent as 40 years ago, left alone 200 years. With conservative and religious beliefs dominating society, many individuals were required to suppress and hide their true selves for fear of persecution.

It took a group of brave and fearless individuals to stand up and have their voices heard. To show the world that the rules, laws and opinions had to change. The change resulted in the freedoms and rights many of us now enjoy. Increase acceptance and protection within the law directly given the work and effort of these exceptional individuals. Though there have been significant developments relating to the equality status for many members of the LGBTQIA+ community, they are not so fortunate. Many people still live in countries and under regimes; even today, they are actively targeted and in constant fear for their lives. In those countries right now, activists are fighting to change the rights and laws. As individuals and all the risks, and for their bravery and desire to see change, we are truly grateful for all they are going for the global community. We know many of those activists will become pioneers in the future.

Gayther feels it is crucial to highlight and focus on these exceptional pioneers as a community and their contributions to fairer and more tolerant societies worldwide. To showcase all that they have accomplished and to ensure that they are never forgotten, so we would like to take this opportunity to introduce you to Gayther’s annual pioneer collection.

Other collections:
ADVOCATES | PIONEER COLLECTIONS:  2022 | 2021 | 2020 | 2019


The Gayther annual Pioneer collection is designed to highlight and showcase exceptional individuals from or associated with the LGBTQIA+ community. If you know of someone you believe should be featured, we would love to hear from you. As a global service, we love to feature lesser-known international advocates and pioneers whenever possible

Gayther Affinity is a private platform for the LGBTQIA+ community and their friends. A space that gives you the freedom to be yourself, helping you communicate with and connect to people similar to yourself from around the world and from all age groups and backgrounds. Get involved with groups discussions, ask questions or quickly search for inclusive business, services, and events near you. Gayther Affinity is committed to safeguarding its users. Through a closed network where user registration is required and enforcing block/report policies and functions to stop online abuse. Signup for your free Affinity account today.


IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: The advocates’ and pioneers’ collections are designed to highlight exceptional individuals worldwide. Though Gayther is an LGBTQIA+ community resource, some of the individuals featured may not identify or have confirmed their sexual or gender identity. Gayther believes in inclusivity and the right for people to choose whether they share personal details about themselves, including those in the public eye. Featuring a person is not meant to cause offence or controversy; instead, it is only our intention to showcase exceptional individuals. Though we endeavour to keep all information across the site updated, we do not provide any guarantees of the accuracy and completeness of any information displayed. This page may contain external links to third party websites; Gayther provides these links for your convenience and does not endorse, warrant or recommend any particular products or services. By clicking on any external links, you will leave Gayther and be taken to the third-party website, which you do so at your own risk and by accessing the site, you will be required to comply with the external third party’s terms and conditions of use and privacy policies