Stu Rasmussen, the first transgender mayor in the United States, had been elected in the small town of Silverton, Oregon, twice before transitioning, and then again after. A movie theater owner, former cable installer, and computer expert, Rasmussen ran on a fiscally conservative, locally-focused platform. When protestors appeared from out of state the town’s residents arranged a counter-protest in which they crossdressed out of solidarity. To raise money for the city Rasmussen has sold selections from his prodigious shoe collection. A musical based on his life (and election) was produced in Seattle and included in the New York Festival of New Musicals.
Rasmussen’s personal website is available here and his Facebook page is here.
Vasil Trayanov Boyanov, who goes by the stage name Azis, is a gay Bulgarian Roma pop-folk singer who performs in a drag-ish hodgepodge of outfits. Azis boasts an impressive discography including dozens of singles, and his concerts sell out quickly. His atypically-gendered modeling and open homosexuality have been sources of controversy, as when billboards featuring him kissing his then-husband while shirtless were censored for being too graphic. Outside of music and scandal Azis was narrowly defeated in a run for parliament as a member of the Eurorama party. For his accomplishments Azis was declared the 21st most important Bulgarian of all time in 2006 by the television program Velikite Balgari.
No quote can summarize activist, sex worker, performer, and politician Jamie Lee Hamilton more elegantly than this excerpt from The Walrus profile of her: “She became a Native Princess, a Ms. Gay Vancouver, and, inevitably, an honorary member of the travelling cast of A Chorus Line.” For over three decades she pushed for Canadian laws targeting sex workers to be overturned using a mixture of dramatic tactics and community building; she even became Canada’s first trans person to run for public office and nearly won a seat. She also sits on the board of directors for the Greater Vancouver Native Cultural Society, an aboriginal advocacy group.
Hamilton’s Twitter feed is available here; her Facebook page is here.
The death of transgender Tammany Hall staple and bail bondsman Murray Hall in 1901 caused a minor scandal in the daily papers when his trans status was disclosed to the coroner by his physician (to the physician’s credit, he refused to comment publicly). Hall had died of untreated breast cancer after living as a man for more than a quarter century, including two marriages to women and dutiful ballot-casting at every opportunity. By all accounts he lived up to the political machine stereotype, cigars and whiskey included, which the Times used as a dig against the politicians who “flatter themselves on their cleverness” but who had been fooled by Hall’s behavior into believing he was a cis man.
The Smithsonian hosts a more complete biography of Hall here; a solid collection of cited excerpts from Hall’s news paper coverage is available here.
Politician, journalism professor, and winning contestant on Brazil’s Big Brother, Jean Wyllys is an unlikely champion for LGBT rights. An academic to the core, Wyllys had entered the competition to conduct an ethnographic study, but came out publicly during filming, making him the show’s first openly queer contestant. He moved into the political realm and joined up with the Socialism and Freedom Party, then won his Parliamentary election, becoming the country’s first openly gay MP. At the time of this posting he is focusing on social reforms like combatting homophobia from Brazilian religious factions and improving the legal status of prostitutes.
His Facebook account can be found here; his Twitter, here. Both are in Portuguese.
Such close partners that Wikipedia lists them both under the same entry, Dorothy “Del” Martin and Phyllis Lyon were at the vanguard of the 20th century United States’ lesbian rights movement. When police raids locked them and several lesbian friends out of bars and dance venues, they formed the social club that would become the Daughters of Bilitis, with Martin at its head. Their newsletter, The Ladder, was the first of its kind – a nationally distributed lesbian publication. After they moved on, Martin became the first out lesbian elected to the National Organization for Women (NOW), as well as an active participant in the San Francisco political scene. Lyon-Martin Health Services, a clinic for queer women that has been active since the 1970s, was named in their honor.
In addition to being inseparable activists, Martin and Lyon were romantically involved for over five decades until Martin’s death. They were the first couple to wed in San Francisco when same-sex marriage was legalized in 2004, and first in line again when it was re-legalized in 2008.
Harvey Milk, the first openly gay public official in California, served only eleven months on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, a far shorter span of time than the five years he spent campaigning. During his time in the city he helped turn the Castro neighborhood into a powerful economic and political force, an achievement that led him to style himself ‘The Mayor of Castro Street’ (also the name of Milk’s biography by journalist Randy Shilts); while in office, he helped champion a gay anti-discrimination law and a dog feces ordinance, and defeat a statewide ballot initiative that would have made firing gay teachers mandatory. Shortly before his assassination by a former fellow supervisor, Milk recorded three monologues, one containing a memorable, fatalistic line: “If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door in the country.”
Milk’s death and the subsequent (often misunderstood) leniency of his murderer’s sentence inspired the White Night Riots and enshrined him as a martyred figure in the gay popular consciousness. His name is now attached to one of two queer San Francisco Democratic Clubs, a nonprofit advocacy group, and a host of other works.