9 Pioneers Of The Gay Rights Movement You Need To Know (But Probably Don't)

Shout out to these brave men who refused to stay silent.

If you know even the slightest bit about queer history, you've heard of gay activists like Harvey Milk and Larry Kramer. But there are scores of others who get less attention than they deserve. In honor of October's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) history month, we present nine men in history you may not be as familiar with. 

Alexander the Great

Born in Macedonia around 356 B.C., Alexander the Great created one of the largest empires in the ancient world. While there is no conclusive evidence about his sexuality, historians have long speculated about his relationships with men

Magnus Hirschfeld

Born in 1868 in what is now Poland, sexologist Hirschfeld is often considered the "Einstein of Sex" and was an outspoken advocate for gay and transgender rights. Starting in the late 1890s, he started writing about sexuality and founded the world's first gay organization in Berlin. 

Harry Hay

In 1950, Hay and a group of friends in L.A. formed the Mattachine Society, one of the earliest gay rights organizations in the U.S. The group was the subject of an FBI investigation between 1953 and 1956.

Frank Kameny

In 1957, Kameny was dismissed from his position as an astronomer for the U.S. Army due to his sexuality. While his numerous attempts to appeal his dismissal were fruitless, many decades later he received a formal apology in 2009 on behalf of the U.S. government.

Bayard Rustin

Rustin, an openly gay civil rights activist and adviser to Martin Luther King Jr., is best remembered as the chief organizer of the 1963 March on Washington. He was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama in 2013. 

Christopher Isherwood

Born in 1904 in Manchester, England, Isherwood was an openly gay novelist and writer known for myriad works including A Single Man, which later became a movie staring Colin Firth and Julianne Moore. He made sexuality a theme in his work, including in his revered 1976 autobiography titled Christopher and His Kind

John Fryer

At the 1972 convention of the American Psychiatric Association, when homosexuality was still considered a mental illness, Dr. Fryer gave an anonymous speech -- he was wearing a mask -- in front of his colleagues that started with the words, "I am a homosexual. I am a psychiatrist." His heartfelt words have been cited as a key factor in the association's decision to declassify homosexuality as a mental illness.

Troy Perry

Reverend Perry founded the Metropolitan Community Church in 1968 as a reaction to his experience with discrimination from the religious community because of his homosexuality. He hopes the church, which has grown to nearly 200 congregations worldwide, is to provide an inclusive faith-based space for the LGBT community. 

Simon Nkoli

Born in 1957, Nkoli was a South African, anti-apartheid, gay rights and AIDS activist. Among his countless contributions to the LGBT community was his formation of the Saturday Group in the early 1980s, the first black gay group in Africa.

This list could go on forever, so join the conversation! What gay pioneers come to mind for you? And check out this list of 11 lesbians in history you ought to know. 

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