Alice N'kom, Cameroon
As we cover the struggles LGBT people in Cameroon face, attorney Alice N'kom is often in the background, defending them from homophobic laws. N'kom, who is the founder of the Association for the Defense of Homosexuals, has defended countless LGBT Cameroonian people as they navigate a legal process designed to discriminate against them.
Author, activist, and scholar Irshad Manji is one of the most vocal proponents for change and equality within Islam. She writes extensively about reconciling faith with progressive freedom, and, well, she's been called Osama bin Laden's "worst nightmare."
"At my Islamic school, I asked too many questions, and got expelled at age 14," she says on her website. "Later, studying Islam on my own, I made a truly surprising discovery: It is possible to reconcile faith with freedom."
Her book The Trouble With Islam Today: A Muslim's Call for Reform in Her Faith has been published in 30 countries, though many Muslim nations have banned it. She currently is the director of New York University's Moral Courage Project, which teaches leaders to challenge intellectual conformity and self-censorship.
Li Yinhe, China
Li Yinhe has broken a lot of ground in China in terms of sexuality, gender, and LGBT rights over the last several decades. She's known as China's "first sexologist," which has been a significant feat, given the history of China's censorship and inclination to avoid talking openly about sexuality. Her first book, published in 1992, included comprehensive surveys about gay men, and she has continued to push for establishing marriage equality as well as LGBT legal protections in China.
"The majority of Chinese believe sex is a negative thing that can't be talked about in public," Li said.