The Imitation Game, up for eight Academy Awards on Sunday, gave us a glimpse into the life of Alan Turing, a codebreaker who helped turn the tide of World War II for the Allies. Turing (pictured above) was a gay man who left the world a better place, but like so many LGBT heroes, he was forced to live a closeted life that denied him the full pleasure of his achievements and success. While Turing is now finally getting his due -- last year, the Queen of England officially pardoned him, lifting his 1952 conviction for homosexuality -- there are others like him worthy of recognition.
George Washington Carver (1864-1943)
George Washington Carver was born into slavery in southwestern Missouri during the Civil War. A sickly child, Carver threw himself into education and was admitted to Iowa's Simpson College as the only African-American student, eventually joining the faculty after graduating. He would then head the agriculture department at Tuskegee University, where he devised agricultural innovations, including new uses for peanuts and sweet potatoes, including oil, flour, and ink. His work paved the way for modern advances in biofuels and cleaning products. Gay rumors followed Carver at Tuskegee, which were not dispelled when he and his research assistant, Austin Wingate Curtis, Jr., began living together. Curtis worked hard after Carver's death to preserve his companion's legacy.
Oliver Sipple (1941-1989)
Oliver Sipple, a highly decorated U.S. Marine and Vietnam War Veteran, saved President Gerald Ford's life during a 1975 assassination attempt in San Francisco. Sipple was among thousands waiting to catch a glimpse of Ford and noticed the woman next to him had drawn a gun and was pointing it at the president. His quick lunge at the woman saved Ford's life. Sipple was quickly thrust into the media spotlight and despite his request that his homosexuality remain a secret, he was outed by the San Francisco Chronicle. Sipple sued the newspaper for invasion of privacy, but the Chronicle eventually won the drawn-out legal battle. After the assassination attempt, Ford merely sent Sipple a thank-you letter, but the president would later contend a White House invitation was not witheld because Sipple was gay. Sipple, sick and nearly penniless, died of pneumonia in 1989 at age 47.
Florence Nightingale (1820-1910)
Known as the founder of modern nursing, Nightingale trained and managed British nurses caring for soldiers in the Crimean War. She laid the foundation for the modern profession with her establishment of the nursing school at St. Thomas' Hospital in London. While it was never confirmed by Nightingale that she was in fact a lesbian, she refused marriage proposals from men and made it known she preferred the company of women. This quote is attributed to Nightingale: "I have lived and slept in the same beds with English Countesses and Prussian farm women. No woman has excited passions among women more than I have."
Bayard Rustin (1912-1987)
Bayard Rustin was a leader in civil rights movement of the 20th century. In 1947 he planned the first Freedom Ride, which challenged segregation on interstate bus systems and inspired further such rides in the 1960s. Rustin combined his organizational skills with support for nonviolent resistance and became a key adviser to Martin Luther King Jr. He was often arrested for his stances and spent two years in prison for refusing to register for the draft. Widely known as gay to his contemporaries, Rustin was also jailed for homosexual activity in 1953 and often attacked as a "pervert" by his political opponents. Although he rarely served as a public spokesman, his influence on civil rights never dimmed. Rustin died in 1987; 26 years later, President Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Hans Scholl (1918-1943)
Hans Scholl was a founding member of the White Rose movement in Nazi Germany in the 1940s, leading opposition to Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party. The group produced six political resistance leaflets that demanded freedom for the German people, called Hitler a murderer, and encouraged resistance and revolt against his regime. The White Rose leaflets, distributed throughout Germany, became a rallying cry, and anti-Hitler graffiti began appearing in Munich, Scholl's home. The Gestapo was on the hunt for the leaflets' authors and Scholl, his sister Sophie, and the other founders of White Rose were discovered in February 1943 and immediately executed; Scholl's last words were "Long live freedom!" Prior to beginning the White Rose movement, Scholl was arrested and tried under the German code that criminalized homosexuality.
Teresa Butz made the ultimate sacrifice for her partner during a nightmare come true. In 2009, Butz and her partner were awakened in the middle of the night to see a naked man standing at the foot of their bed holding a butcher knife. For 90 minutes the women were raped and stabbed. When Butz saw that her partner was losing massive amounts of blood and growing weak, Butz tackled the maniac, allowing her partner to run from the room. Butz then hurled a nightstand through a window and dove out of it. She bled to death on the street, while her killer ran from their Seattle home. Butz's partner survived -- she was there when Butz's mentally disturbed killer, Isaiah Kalebu, was convicted of aggravated murder, attempted murder, rape, and burglary.
Tori Johnson (1976-2014)
In December, 18 people were taken hostage by Muslim extremist Man Haron Monis in a cafe in downtown Sydney, including cafe manager Tori Johnson. After hours of being held at gun point, Johnson noticed the gunman getting tired and tried to wrestle the gun out of his hand. Unfortunately, Johnson's attempt failed and he was executed by Monis. To Johnson's credit, that gunshot is what prompted police to force their way into the cafe, kill Monis, and save the lives of 16 hostages (another hostage, Katrina Dawson, died before police stormed the restaurant). Johnson's partner of 14 years, Thomas Zinn, spoke after his death about their dreams of being married one day, once it was legal in Australia.
Leonardo da Vinci
Known as one of the greatest painters in history, the man behind the Mona Lisa and the Last Supper was more than just an artist. He was the preeminent mind of the Renaissance, intrigued by anatomy, technology, and alternate energy sources, subjects he advanced with his studies and drawings. da Vinci was also very human; at the age of 24, he was charged with sodomy (accusations later dropped because, allegedly, the men charged with him were from wealthy families). Though the television drama Da Vinci's Demons included some of the artist's gay relationships, no mainstream film has done the same.
Torill Hansen and Hege Dalen
Four years ago, Norway suffered the worst terrorist attack in its history. It was a horrific tragedy that claimed 77 lives, but would have been much worse if not for the actions of Torill Hansen and Hege Dalen, a couple vacationing at a campsite across from Utoyan Island. The women heard gunshots coming from the campsite, where a man named Anders Behring Breivik was murdering scores of people. They jumped in a boat and, making four trips, ferried 40 teenagers to safety as bullets hit the side of their craft.
Daniel Hernandez Jr.
As an intern with Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, 20-year-old Daniel Hernandez Jr. was only five days on the job when tragedy struck. On January 8, 2011, Gifford and her team set up a booth in front of an Arizona supermarket to talk to her constituents -- Jared Lee Loughner walked up to the booth, shot Giffords in the head, and then turned his gun on the crowd, ultimately killing five people. Hernandez, a certified nursing assistant, sprung to action: He wrapped Safeway aprons around Giffords's head and sat her upright so she didn't drown in her blood. Hernandez held Giffords's hand as she was wheeled on a gurney toward an ambulance -- he told her not to worry, he would contact her husband and parents. Hernandez's quick actions helped save the congresswoman's life. Unlike Sipple, Hernandez was embraced as a gay hero and later elected to a Tucson-area school board.
Eric Alva (born 1970)
Staff Sergeant Eric Alva was the first Marine injured in the invasion of Iraq. He was in charge of 11 Marines in a supply unit when he stepped on a land mine in 2003, resulting in the loss of his right leg. Alva was given a Purple Heart for his bravery and received medical discharge after his service of 13 years in the United States Marine Corps. Alva went on to become an LGBT rights activist, eventually featured on the cover of The Advocate, and a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, focusing on the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell."
Frances Power Cobbe (1822-1904)
Born in 1822, Frances Power Cobbe was known as one of the most influential women to speak out against domestic violence and animal abuse. She founded the National Anti-Vivisection Society, a nonprofit animal welfare organization in London. As a writer, Cobbe published several articles on feminism, spousal abuse, and the legal rights of women in marriage. She was a member of the executive council of the London National Society for Women's Suffrage. In 1860, Cobbe met Mary Lloyd, who shared her love for animals, and the two were together until Cobbe's death.