The Black queer community certainly has a lot to be proud of these days. From sports to television, from music to advocacy, there’s a growing number of Black queers who are making moves in their respective fields, while courageously living out loud. Here, we salute a few of the LGBT trailblazers who are doing the work of creating and redefining culture.
1. Laverne Cox: Cox can be found starring in Netflix’s new original hit series, Orange Is the New Black, as the prison’s hairstylist Sophia Burset.The award-winning actress, producer and activist recently made history by being the first transgender person to appear on the cover of Time. She’s also slated to produce and host a one-hour documentary with MTV and Logo on transgender identifying youth. The film, Trans Teen: The Documentary will air this Fall.
2. Brittney Griner: Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner was the number one 2013 WNBA draft pick. The out and proud lesbian has garnered a myriad of awards, including, 2014 WNBA Western Conference Player of the Week, 2013 WNBA All-Star, two 2012 ESPYs (Female Athlete of the Year and Best Female College Athlete), McDonald’s 2009 All-American and more. This year, Griner released her memoir In My Skin, detailing her life on and off the court and she’s currently developing a mobile application for children who have been bullied.
3. Janet Mock: A recent Stonewall Community Foundation Vision Award recipient, Mock is at the forefront of transgender advocacy. In 2012, she launched #GirlsLikeUs, a social media-driven movement that encourages trans women to live visibly. Mock, a multiple award-winning wordsmith writes and speaks nationally about the importance of intersectionality in social justice work. The former People.com editor became a New York Times-bestelling author with her 2014 memoir Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More.
4. Dr. Kortney Ryan Ziegler: A writer, visual artist and filmmaker, Ziegler is the force behind a massive transgender hackathon, which spotlights trans-created and trans-led startups. The first person to hold the Ph.D of African American Studies at Northwestern University, he is the director of the award-winning documentary, STILL BLACK: a portrait of Black transmen, runs the GLAAD Media Award nominated and Black Weblog Award-winning blog, blac(k) ademic, and was named one of Top 40 Under 40 LGBT activists by The Advocate.
5. Tona Brown: A violinist and mezzo-soprano, Brown recently became the first openly-transgender Black performer at Carnegie Hall. With an international career spanning from North America to Europe, Brown is also the first African American transgender woman to perform for an American president. Amongst performing, Brown created her own show, Conversations with Tona Brown, where she interviews people of the LGBT community and provides education on proper queer terminology.
6. Tiq Milan: Milan has been a part of many important social awareness campaigns such as Live Out Loud’s Homecoming Project, LGBT Funders Men and Boys of Color Initiative and GLAAD’S Spirit Day. Alongside Laverne Cox, Milan recently appeared on The Katie Show to discuss issues that the transgender community faces. The transgender advocate and journalist is currently the Senior Media Strategist for National News at GLAAD.
7. Siya: Hailing from Brooklyn, Siya has independently released music for the past decade and performed nationally amongst hip-hop veterans and icons. Co-signed by Grammy-Award winning rapper T.I. and recognized by R&B sensation Tank, Siya garnered a production deal in 2012 with Tank’s Soundbase Entertainment. The openly-gay rapper now is slated to star in Oxygen’s new reality series, Sisterhood of Hip Hop alongside fellow women rappers Diamond, Brianna Perry, Bia and Nyemiah Supreme, which debuts August 12.
8. Michael Sam: Sam is a defensive end for the St. Louis Rams. The University of Missouri scholarship recipient was a 2013 unanimous All-American and the Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year as a senior. The first openly-gay player drafted by the NFL also was a Chuck Bednarik Award, Hendricks Award and Lombardi Award semifinalist.
9. Big Freedia: Coined the “Queen of Bounce,” Big Freedia is a New Orleans musician known for dominating bounce music (a subgenre of New Orleans hip-hop) and making rumps shake. The gay and proud artist has appeared on the HBO series Treme, Jimmy Kimmel Live! and Last Call With Carson Daly, just to name a few. He can be seen on Fuse TV, as the star of his reality show, Big Freedia: Queen of Bounce on Wednesdays at 11pm ET.
10. Wade Davis: Davis is a former free agent NFL cornerback, who played for the Washington Redskins, Tennessee Titans and Seattle Seahawks. Davis also played overseas for the Berlin Thunder and the Barcelona Dragons during his football career. While playing with the Thunder he won the World Bowl IX. Retired from the NFL, Davis is now an activist and educator. The openly-gay former football player is currently the executive director for the You Can Play Project, an advocacy organization that works to eradicate homophobia in professional sports.