Leaders and Advocate staff tell us the five LGBT people who influenced them the most.
None of us springs fully formed into the people we become. Even though we share commonalities, LGBT Americans aren’t influenced on our journey by the same people. There might be some overlap, but the leaders, performers, athletes, and our own editors on these pages recognize a wide range of influences, from actors to activists to athletes, filmmakers, feminists, friends and first-kisses, mentors, and media insiders. Some of those who have impacted today’s influencers the most are woven throughout this issue. Now tell us, who influenced you?
James Baldwin, selected by Scott G. Brown
Scott G. Brown (Author of Stonewall 46 Anniversary: Notes of a 1969 Stonewall Participant)
• Frank Kameny • Del Martin • Bayard Rustin • James Baldwin • Dame Edith (Edie) Windsor
Essex Hemphill and Marlon Riggs, selected by Charles Stevens
Charles Stevens (Columnist and founder of Counter Narrative)
• Dr. Ibrahim Farajajé, theologian, cultural worker, activist • Essex Hemphill, poet and activist, who edited Brother to Brother: New Writing by Black Gay Men • Marlon Riggs, filmmaker of Tongues Untied, Black Is…Black Ain’t • Audre Lorde, black lesbian feminist, poet, essayist, activist, critic • Eric Rofes, scholar, essayist, activist; led L.A. LGBT Center and Shanti Project
Robyn Ochs, selected by Lynnette McFadzen
Lynnette McFadzen (President of BiNet USA)
• Brenda Howard, organized the first Pride event in New York City • Lani Ka’ahumanu & Dr. Loraine Hutchins, cofounders of BiNet, editors of Bi Any Other Name • Robyn Ochs, editor of the 42-country anthology Getting Bi: Voices of Bisexuals Around the World (pictured) • Faith Cheltenham, former president of BiNet, the country’s largest bisexual organization
Michael Callen, selected by Sean Strub
Sean Strub (Founder of Poz magazine, author of Body Counts: A Memoir of Activism, Sex, and Survival, head of Sero Project)
• Michael Callen • Jean O’Leary • Joseph Sonnabend • Mario Cooper • Naina Khanna
Allison Bechdel (above center), selected by Trish Bendix
Trish Bendix (Editor of Go Magazine, former longtime editor of AfterEllen)
• Ariel Levy • Sarah Schulman • Terry Castle • Jill Soloway • Alison Bechdel
T. E. Lawrence, selected by Patricia Nell Warren
Patricia Nell Warren (Author of the first contemporary gay fiction to make the New York Times best-seller list)
• T. E. Lawrence, British World War I hero and author of Seven Pillars of Wisdom. The first book I ever read that broached a gay theme. • Federico Garcia Lorca, the great Spanish poet murdered by the Franco regime during the Spanish Civil War [because] his sexuality had started to become public knowledge. • Ann Bannon. Her novel Odd Girl Out was circulating quietly in the dorm at the Catholic college I attended in the 1950s. • David Kopay, the pro football player who became a friend of mine after he came out in his own 1976 book, The David Kopay Story. He was one of the inspirations for my own book The Lavender Locker Room. • Roberta Zenker, my fellow Montanan whose emergence as a transgender activist — and her book, Trans Montana — had a big impact in my native state.
Patricia Highsmith, selected by Tracy E. Gilchrist
• Eric Rofes, gay anthropologist and author of Reviving the Tribe. He was speaking controversial truths about the emotional and spiritual importance of sex — and the exchange of bodily fluids — between gay men, many years before the advent of PrEP or what it means to be undetectable. Twenty years later I am still referencing his work and influence. • Michael Callen. The original face of AIDS, who lived unapologetically and, in 1983, participated in the creation of The Denver Principles, the first manifesto for people living with AIDS. • Sean Strub, a tremendous influence and advocate, in the truest sense of the word, for the rights and voices of people living with HIV. • Essex Hemphill, a black gay man who wrote about blackness in the queer community as well as HIV. He not only explored these issues for other gay black men but helped enlighten others such as myself. • Michael Kearns, among the very first out, HIV-positive professional actors (he came out in The Advocate). He has been a transparent person about HIV and addiction his entire life. For ages, he was the ‘go-to’ actor to portray someone gay and/or living with HIV, since he was the only actor who would do it.
Paul Lynde, selected by David Artavia
David Artavia (Associate editor)
• Paul Lynde • Ross Mathews • Ryan Murphy, creator of Glee and Feud • RuPaul • Nate Berkus, interior designer
Lorraine Hansberry, selected by Maisha Yearwood
Maisha Yearwood (Award-winning Harlem-based playwright and screenwriter)
• Ellen DeGeneres. Ellen is a role model to me because she affirms that it’s OJ for everyone, straight and LGBT alike, to be themselves. And she uses her platform as a talk show host and celebrity to support people and causes that advance equality. Plus, she’s mad funny! • RuPaul. As a gender-nonconforming woman, I feel a kinship with drag queens because they’re completely free in their self-expression. RuPaul’s quote “We’re all born naked, and the rest is drag” has helped me understand that my choice in self-presentation as a black, butch lesbian is no different than that of the Wall Street businessman or the Malibu socialite. I love RuPaul for that quote alone. • Lorraine Hansberry. As a playwright I’m in awe of the success and impact that Lorraine Hansberry [had] with her play A Raisin in the Sun. She was nominated for a Tony and was the first black playwright and the youngest American to win a New York Critics’ Circle award. In addition to creating award-winning work that challenged racism, she was also an advocate for the lesbian community before Stonewall. Her articles about feminism and homophobia were published in The Ladder under the sly pen name L.H. • Gladys Bentley. As a Harlem native I’m particularly proud of Gladys Bentley, who built a wildly successful music career while being a gender-bending lesbian in the 1920s. The daring she brought to her creative work is something that I try to emulate. She is an inspiration. • Angela Davis. She is probably the most famous black lesbian former prisoner. Having been in prison myself, her leadership in criticizing mass incarceration and its disproportionate impact on the African-American community helped me understand my own struggle and inspired me to try to use my experience to inform and uplift other former prisoners and their families.
Phyllis Frye, selected by Monica Roberts
Monica Roberts (A founder of TransGriot and National Transgender Advocacy Coalition)
• Caroline Cossey. She helped me put a name to what I was experiencing. • Dawn Wilson, the trailblazing Kentucky-based advocate • Marisa Richmond, Nashville activist, Democratic politico, college professor • Phyllis Frye, godmother of the trans rights movement • Kylar Broadus, trailblazing black, trans man
Bayard Rustin, selected by Diego Sanchez
Diego Sanchez (Policy director, PFLAG; former adviser to Congressman Barney Frank; the first out transgender staff member on Capitol Hill)
• Barney Frank. I’m greatly honored that he brought me to Capitol Hill to learn from this champion and blaze some trails together. • Bayard Rustin. I identify with him navigating life with silent victories, having grown up in the rural South ... I empathize deeply with him being left behind by his [civil rights] peers. • Mary L. Bonauto. Aptly titled our Thurgood Marshall, and brilliant deliverer of marriage equality. • Judge Phyllis Randolph Frye. The nation’s first out trans judge is someone I have known for nearly 40 years. • Sylvia Rivera. Knowing and working with Sylvia was a humbling attitude check-in for me. Her Stonewall roots became my tree trunk.
Judy Wieder, selected by Neal Broverman
Neal Broverman (Executive editor)
• Cleve Jones, longtime activist portrayed in Milk and When We Rise • DeRay Mckesson, Black Lives Matter activist • Judy Wieder, former editor of The Advocate) • Andrea James, trans writer, producer, activist, and founder of Deep Stealth Productions • Robert Garcia, out mayor of Long Beach, Calif.
RuPaul, selected by B. Scott
B. Scott (One of the earliest YouTube stars, Ebony advice columnist, and author of forthcoming book Just B)
• RuPaul • Ellen DeGeneres • Boy George • George Michael • Greg Louganis
Armistead Maupin, selected by Candis Cayne
Candis Cayne (Actress and author)
• Armistead Maupin • Patricia Field • Danna Davis • Boy George • Lina Bradford
Harvey Milk, selected by Tyler Oakley
Tyler Oakley (YouTube celebrity)
• Harvey Milk, for standing up for what’s right and never backing down • Marsha P. Johnson, for showing what it means to be truly fearless • RuPaul, for redefining family and teaching self-love • Janet Mock, for expanding my mind • Ellen DeGeneres, for showing that kindness changes the world
Jim Buzinski, selected by Cyd Zeigler (sports journalist and cofounder of Outsports) (Pictured, Jim Buzinski)
Cyd Zeigler (sports journalist and cofounder of Outsports)
• Jim Buzinski, cofounder, Outsports. No gay person but my husband has had a bigger impact on my life. • Rich Ross, group president, Discovery Channels. By example and intention, he showed me what being a young gay professional looked like. • Rich Campbell, president & CEO, Atlantis Events, founded in 1991. Those cruises have changed my life. • Brian Bey, real estate agent. “Football is practice for life,” Brian told me when I first met him with the New York Gay Football League. He taught me more than he will ever know. • Dan Pinar. From the moment I saw this handsome man at the Crown & Anchor, I knew what love at first sight was.
Max Wolf Valerio, selected by Jacob Anderson-Minshall
Jacob Anderson-Minshall (Senior editor): Those who sustained us and created our culture before the internet age
• Lesbian feminists Audre Lorde, Barbara Smith, Adrienne Rich • Authors Leslie Feinberg (Stone Butch Blues), Judy Grahn (Another Mother Tongue), and the women of Naiad Press (including founders Barbara Grier and Donna McBride) • Trans men Jamison Greene, Lou Sullivan, Matt Kailey, and Max Wolf Valerio • Lesbian musicians Cris Williamson and Ferron, bi womyn’s musician Holly Near, and Olivia Music (later Olivia Travel) founder Judy Dlugacz • Media founders like Windy City Times’s Tracy Baim, Curve’s Frances Stevens, Wolfe Video’s Kathy Wolfe, and Fatale Video’s Nan Kinney
Angela Davis, selected by Leanne Pittsford
Leanne Pittsford (Founder and CEO, Lesbians Who Tech, Start Somewhere, and include.io)
• Megan Smith, Obama’s chief technology officer, VP of Google X • Kara Swisher, Recode founder and editor • Kate Kendell, executive director of National Center for Lesbian Rights • Angela Davis, activist and author • Lydia Polgreen, editor in chief of HuffiPost • Octavia Butler, Pen Lifetime Achievement and MacArthur award-winning author
Frank Ocean, selected by LeQuan Chapman
LeQuan Chapman (Out gay track star for Shippensburg University and athlete of the year for 2017)
• Frank Ocean. I’ve been an Ocean fan since his first mixtape. His personal and bold storytelling inspires me to be honest and take chances when I’m writing music. • Ru Paul. Drag Race encouraged me to be proud, not ashamed, of who I am. • Laverne Cox. Through Laverne’s activism, I’ve learned to not be afraid to speak up about things I’m passionate about. • Robert Harper. My uncle. He understands what it’s like to be a GBT man of color. His advice has helped me through some of my toughest times. • Caitlyn Jenner. The former Olympian pushes me to live courageously, on and off the track.
Chad Allen, selected by Savas Abadsidis
Savas Abadsidis (Managing editor)
• David Keeps, Details editor. I had four years’ worth of Details chronologically ordered on my bookshelf by senior year of high school. I sought Keeps’s advice when I felt attacked by the media who said that my A&F Quarterly wasn’t a “real” magazine. [He] came out and said publicly that the Quarterly was doing more innovative stories than most “real” magazines at the time. I still go to him for advice. • Stuart Elliot, advertising columnist for The New York Times. I was obsessed with advertising my whole life and to have Elliott … write about me at the tender age of 26 was the most amazing thing ever. • Sam Shahid. The been the single most influential person in my life. A surrogate father, mentor, and now dear friend. As creative director at CRK Advertising, Shahid was responsible for everything from Brooke Shields’s “Nothing Comes Between Me and my Calvins” ad to the famous Marky Mark campaign where he dropped his drawers. • Bryan Singer, director of X-Men and TheUsual Suspects. Meeting Bryan was one of the singularly transformative moments in my life. I’ll never forget the night he took me out to talk about breaking up with my first real boyfriend. I was at a career high but felt miserable. Bryan told me that the reason he hadn’t attended the Academy Awards when The Usual Suspects won was because he was crying over the love of his life. It put things in perspective for me and was one of the most insightful caring conversations I’ve had. • Chad Allen, out actor, Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman. He was the first boy I ever kissed. My friends talked me into putting on some black lipstick and eyeliner. I was looking in the mirror, kind of amazed at how good I looked. Then a drag queen walked in, looked at me, and cackled to his friends, “Look, it’s Liza Minnelli’s son!” Allen came up behind me and whispered in my ear that he thought I looked hot. I was smitten. I recognized him, not from any of his big roles, but from an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, which he thought was cute. He grabbed me by the back of my head and kissed me. How’s that for a first kiss?
Jackie Beat, selected by Ross Mathews
Ross Mathews (Host of Hollywood Today Live and the podcast Straight Talk with Ross Mathews)
• Early '90s Madonna. She was the first celebrity who I ever heard talk and sing about bisexuality, which was huge for me. • Pedro Zamora. In the early days of reality shows, his bravery and honesty about being gay and HIV-positive on The Real World had an enormous impact on my generation’s perceptions of both. • RuPaul. His song and video "Supermodel"changed my life! It made me realize that you didn’t have to fit into a certain mold to be successful. • Sandra Bernhard. A brilliant comedian who can slice into outdated, sexist, and homophobic ideas with her razor-sharp wit. • Chaz Bono. His courage to live his truth about being trans long before everyone was talking about it, and despite becoming a tabloid favorite, has always inspired me.
Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, selected by Robin Tyler
Robin Tyler (Lesbian comedian and activist whose lawsuit helped bring marriage equality to California)
• Rev. Troy Perry, founder of Metropolitan Community Church. His starting a Christian church that welcomed gays saved thousands of lives. • Activists Frank Kameny, Barbara Gittings, and Kay Lahusen. Lahuse was the country’s first out lesbian photojournalist. She did covers for The Ladder. • Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, whose article I read when I was a 16-year-old in Canada. I came out immediately. • Sylvia Rivera for the Stonewall riots and Harry Hay for forming Mattachine Society (an early gay organization). • Nicole Murray-Ramirez, Empress of the Queen’s Court and courageous activist. Nicole used to call Troy, herself, and me “the Golden Girls!” Murray-Ramirez rode in San Diego’s first Pride parade in 1974, in drag in a open car — and dealt with jeers head held high. Since then he’s founded numerous organizations and is the only gay activist to be elected to all four national boards of the Marches on Washington.
James Earl Hardy, selected by DeMarco Majors
DeMarco Majors (Actor and out athlete, played pro basketball on the international circuit, wrote, directed, stars in forthcoming movie 7)
• Joe Hawkins, all-American football player from Weber State. He has shown me no matter what life throws at you to always keep your head up and fight the good fight for our people. • Malcolm Roberts, an accountant and friend. The rare friend who will love you through your struggles even if it means to distance themselves so that you learn life’s lessons. • Deondray Gossett and Quincy Grossfield, producers of The DL Chronicles. The presence of this couple in our community is so inspiring. Not just their work as producers and writers, but as a same-gender-loving couple with 20 years of hardship, love, and wisdom that they share with each of us. • James Earl Hardy, author of B-Boy Blues) As a young man hiding from the world, afraid of my addiction, afraid of my severe dyslexia, I read a book by this author that changed my life. One day I met him and he told me he admired my courage and strength, and I was humbled by his presence. • Doric Wilson, who participated in the Stonewall Riots. I heard him speak and share what happened at Stonewall. The passion was still in his voice even though he was clinging to some of his last moments in life. Doric listened to me next share my story. He was so moved that he said, “You are the reason why I fought ... thank you for being you.” It brings me to tears every time I think of how I was respected by a man that paved the way for me to stand for who I am to become.