American activist Lily McBeth, who had led a prior career selling medical equipment, made headlines after returning to work as a substitute teacher following her coming out as transgender. Although the school boards in her two local districts voted to reinstate her citing a legal rationale (although New Jersey’s transgender anti-discrimination law was not passed until a year later), several parents vehemently disagreed. A full-page newspaper advertisement protesting her rehiring was taken out, and one parent was interviewed on a nationally-broadcast talk show. McBeth herself did several interviews and is credited with raising awareness of transgender issues in her home state. She retired soon after due to the steep drop in teaching assignments she received, which she claimed was due to discrimination; one of the school district disagreed, pointing a full-time substitute that they had recently hired.
When San Francisco’s South of Market district (known for its working-class gay leather community) was at risk of being labeled a blight and forcibly restructured in the 1980s, lesbian activist Kathleen Connell helped found the Folsom Street Fair to bring the community together in protest. Although she retired from the organizing committee only a few years in, the fair, as she recounts in an article on its website, flourished into a world famous celebration of all things queer and BDSM.
Outside of queer activism Connell has helped found multiple environmental organizations; at the time of this writing she runs at least one and teaches college courses on the side. Her environmentalism, as she describes here, is tied to her identity as a lesbian. While she ran an environmentalist blog, it has not updated since 2011.
American gay rights activist and trained cinema geek Vito Russo was the author of The Celluloid Closet, a book chronicling the history of film censorship experienced by the queer community that developed from his lecture tour and was later made into its own movie. Frustrated with the demeaning portrayals of gays and lesbians in films, Russo went on to co-found GLAAD (originally Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation), an organization dedicated to the promotion of a positive queer television and cinema canon; a test for measuring the role of queer characters in film was even named after him. Russo was also among the founding members of ACT-UP. The powerful speech he delivered at several rallies about the role of homophobia in the spread of HIV/AIDS is archived online, and he appears in the documentary Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt. A documentary about Russo’s life was produced several decades following his death by HBO Films. Documents from his life are stored at the New York Public Library and will be open to the public beginning in 2015.
The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein lead a tumultuous life of both creative and temperamental outbursts. He was a student of some of the most famous names in his field, Bertrand Russell included, but always left their company feeling disillusioned. His own linguistic take on philosophical questions was groundbreaking and earned him recognition as one of the 20th century’s most important philosophers. Outside of academia he was decorated for his bravery during the first World War, and briefly taught at a school for young children where he gained a reputation for his corporal punishments and obsession with mathematics. He also studied mechanical engineering.
Despite being described as a gay philosopher, Wittgenstein had several female lovers interspersed with his male ones, including one he proposed to, indicating that he may be more accurately described as bisexual. He avoided sex itself, claiming that it got in the way of love; for that reason he is also (tentatively) tagged here as asexual.
While it should not be taken as biographical fact, Wittgenstein has received the high honor of a dedicated Uncyclopedia page.
Medieval historian and Yale University faculty member John Boswell was both gay and a Catholic convert. Among his many talents, he could read more than fifteen languages. His research focused on historical religious perspectives on homosexuality, which earned him both widespread praise and criticism from Catholic and gay communities alike; the daily comic strip Doonesbury was dropped from four newspapers after presenting its own humorous take on Boswell’s ideas. One of his more controversial theories (with an entire book dedicated to it) was the argument that same-sex unions similar to marriage were commonly sanctioned by the Roman Catholic Church. He came into further conflict with queer academics because he held to a more essentialist view of homosexuality – that is, that it had always existed in the form of individuals primarily attracted to members of the same gender – which contrasted with the popular social constructionist view.
Named one of the Advocate‘s “Forty Under 40” in 2010 and one of Utne Reader‘s “50 Visionaries Who are Changing Your World” in 2009, transgender attorney and law professor Dean Spade has been getting attention for his work in areas of queer rights that have largely been ignored by the broader public, such as the rights of queer immigrants and prisoners. He founded the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, a nonprofit organization that offers legal assistance to trans people who have difficulty accessing services. His writings, including the book Normal Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics and the Limits of the Law, are geared toward criticism of capitalism and social structures such as monogamy and military service.
In addition to being the life partner of– and collaborator with world famous Finnish author and illustrator Tove Jaanson, Tuulikki Pietilä was an accomplished graphic artist and professor in her own right. She had nearly two decades of formal study in her profession, during which she began participating in exhibitions; her first solo attempt came midway through her time in Paris, two years before she finally completed her schooling. Her relationship with Jaanson (also originating during her student years) was marked by its longevity and its peace (they ran a gallery and vacationed together) as well as its openness: the two released footage of their time together in several documentaries in the mid-1990s, making them a visible Finnish same-sex couple.