February marks LGBT History Month in the UK. It is a time to celebrate the achievements of the LGBTQ+ rights movement, not only to highlight the often forgotten role of LGBTQ+ people in history, but also to look to the future. In the USA, LGBT History Month takes place in October, to coincide with National Coming Out Day on October 11th.
Here are 10 pioneering women, some LGBTQ+ and others allies, who have consistently fought for equality and diversity.
10. Sarah Paulson
This leading lady has a variety of roles in her repertoire, but is perhaps best known for her many terrifying incarnations in American Horror Story. When she is not gracing our TV sets or the silver screen, she is often speaking out for the LGBTQ+ community. Sarah Paulson has described her sexuality as “fluid” and dated actress Cherry Jones between 2004 and 2009. She is currently in a relationship with actress Holland Taylor.
9. Nicole Faraday
Nicole Faraday's energy, on and off the TV screen, is contagious. Her Bad Girls character, Snowball Merrimen, was described by one fan as having the face of an angel, which masked an evil and cold personality – this perhaps explains why Faraday is a panto favourite! Starring in Emmerdale and Casualty, a recent project includes the film Ask the Cheat, which is doing the rounds at UK film festivals. Faraday is bi and has highlighted the stereotypes that bi people face, from both LGBTQ+ and straight people. Faraday makes a point of supporting a number of LGBTQ+ Pride festivals in the UK.
8. Ellen Page
“I'm here today because I am gay, and because maybe I can make a difference, to help others have an easier and more hopeful time.” Ellen Page came out in a moving speech at the Human Rights Campaign's Time To Thrive event, aimed at young LGBTQ+ people, in 2014. Page's breakthrough role came in Juno and she has appeared in a string of films, including the X-Men franchise. Page campaigns across a range of human rights issues, including LGBTQ+ and women's rights. She married Emma Portner, a dancer and choreographer, in 2018.
7. Lucy Spraggan
Lucy Spraggan became a household name on The X Factor in 2012 and has been writing and singing songs ever since. Spraggan has released several albums, including my personal favourite I Hope You Don't Mind Me Writing. Spraggan came out at the age of 14 and has consistently used her platform to help the LGBTQ+ community.
6. Samira Wiley
Samira Wiley is best known for her portrayal of Poussey Washington in Netflix's compelling prison drama Orange Is The New Black. As a black queer woman, Wiley is a role model who is frequently recognised for her LGBTQ+ rights campaigning and her visibility. Wiley married Lauren Morelli, one of the writers behind Orange Is The New Black, in 2017.
5. Paris Lees
The British Vogue columnist and trans activist Paris Lees fights for LGBTQ+ rights, social justice and the environment, issues which she argues are inextricably linked. Lees speaks with incredible clarity and reflects the concerns of an entire generation. Beautiful and outspoken, Lees is loved within the LGBTQ+ community and beyond.
4. Sharon Osbourne
Sharon Osbourne is a global phenomenon, using her star power to highlight many issues, including LGBTQ+ rights and HIV/AIDS awareness. Throughout her career she has consistently been a friend of the LGBTQ+ community, not just when it was fashionable to do so. Part of a massively talented family, she graces our TV screens and will long continue to do so.
3. Kelly Osbourne
Kelly Osbourne goes to extraordinary lengths to help the LGBTQ+ community and people impacted by HIV/AIDS. She is kind, generous and compassionate, the staunch ally LGBTQ+ people need! The star of many TV shows, Kelly Osbourne is also a singer/songwriter, author, model and fashion designer. She uses her platform to highlight LGBTQ+ rights at countless Pride festivals and awards ceremonies.
2. Saara Aalto
Saara Aalto has always had that special X Factor – she creates great music, has a vivacious personality and passion for the LGBTQ+ cause. Her music is often LGBTQ-inspired, such as Dance Like Nobody's Watching, the official song of Pride in London 2019. She advocates for LGBTQ+ rights globally.
1. Ellen DeGeneres
It was 1997 when Ellen DeGeneres came out, quoted on the cover of TIME magazine with the words: “Yep, I'm gay.” This made her one of the world's most famous lesbians and since then she has inspired LGBTQ people, not just through her visibility and honesty, but also by campaigning for LGBTQ+ rights. Her talk show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, has been going strong since 2003.
Hopefully these women inspire you as much as they do me!
If you would like to learn more about LGBT History Month, then why not check out the LGBT History Month website: https://lgbtplushistorymonth.co.uk