Last Friday, President Joe Biden named Jessica Stern as the US Special Envoy to Advance the Human Rights of LGBTQI+ Persons. This announcement made me feel hopeful as many human rights of LGBTQI+ persons are increasingly threatened in all regions of the world.
It also reminded me of an exhibit by Pakistani-Canadian artist, Zahra Siddiqui, with who I became familiar after reading her interview with the Huffington Post. She is a photographer, storyteller, and visual artist and is extremely intentional with her work to not only honor the existence of people of color but especially those in the LGBTQ+ community giving them visibility and representation. Siddiqui is best known for her work titled The Invisible Majority - a series meant to speak on the consciousness and civilization of our society. It's meant to empower the BIPOC and LGBTQI+ community as well as those who live along the margins of society. It speaks for the ones who exist but continues to not be valued or seen. I hope you find her work as inspiring and powerful as I do.
If you watch POSE or American Horror Stories then you might be familiar with Angelica Ross who plays Candy and Nurse Rita respectively. She is a trans woman, an actress, a transgender rights advocate, and a self-taught computer programmer who founded TransTech - a firm that helps employ transgender people in the tech industry. Founded in 2014, TransTech offers free career prep and courses on everything from coding to public speaking, as well as mentorship.
Before Ross began her career in acting, she was a webmaster for an adult website and taught herself skills such as photography and graphic design just from watching online video tutorials. As she began doing more work to customize the site, she eventually taught herself to code too.
Currently, Ross has been working on getting more LGBTQ+ centers across the country to become TransTech hubs. Prior to the pandemic, members could access the space Monday through Saturday and use that time to look for jobs, connect with mentors, or access systems to help them find freelance, remote work during their transition process. To learn more about TransTech and support its mission, please visit Transtechsocial.org.
You may know her as a former professional golf player, but Maya Reddy is also the Founder and CEO of Queer Asian Social Club and an LGBTQ+ activist.
A graduate of Claremont McKenna College, Maya was captain of the Varsity Golf Team and a three-time NCAA All American. She turned professional in 2015, played on the Cactus and National Women’s Golf Association Tours, and gained status on the Symetra Tour before having to take a step back from the sport due to its exclusive culture and the many harmful bigoted experiences she endured. As a result of that culture, Maya focused her pain on fighting for and becoming an advocate for LGBTQ+ inclusive policies in sports, working closely with organizations like Athlete Ally.
Today, Maya is dedicated to fighting for LGBTQ+ inclusive policies in sports and intends to use her J.D. to strengthen that work in inclusive policy formation, advocacy, and litigation defending trans and queer folks in athletics and elsewhere. What an inspiration!
It's hard to celebrate Pride Month without mentioning Vogue, and no, we're not talking about the magazine! Vogue, or voguing originated in the late 1980s and came from the Harlem ballroom scene of the 1960s.
William Roscoe Leake, also known as Willi Ninja, and the "Godfather of Voguing", and the Father of the House of Ninja, was very much a part of that scene. I first heard of him in the iconic 1990s documentary, Paris is Burning, which is on Netflix. The documentary focuses on drag queens living in NYC and their "house" culture (family) that provided a sense of community.
Willi was a self-taught dancer and even though he did not create this expression of dance, he perfected it and worked on refining it with clean, sharp movements. His influence can still be seen today. Kemetic hieroglyphics, the young Michael Jackson, Fred Astaire, Olympic gymnasts, and Asian culture inspired his movements.
It was through the House of Ninja that voguing moved from the underground ballroom scene to appearances in mainstream media. House of Ninja has had a fruitful history in the entertainment and fashion industries, even appearing in Madonna's Vogue music video. In the 1990s, House of Ninja began collaborating with major fashion designers including Malcolm McLaren to teach models — notably supermodels Naomi Campbell and Iman — about posture, movement, and posing through the art of Vogue. If you're interested in learning more about the ballroom dance scene, watch POSE on FX. It's a great to show celebrate Pride Month!
Today marks the start of Pride Month! To honor those who have played a pivotal role in pushing for LGBTQIA+ equality, I’ll be highlighting some of my favorite queer trailblazers for the month of June.
You can’t acknowledge Pride Month without mentioning Marsha P. Johnson, a Black, trans, bisexual woman, who lead the movement with protest and clashes for six days at the Stonewall Inn. On June 28, 1969 in New York City, police raided the gay club in Greenwich Village, which resulted in bar patrons, staff, and neighborhood residents rioting into Christopher Street outside. The protestors demanded the establishment of places where LGBT+ people could go and be open about their sexual orientation without fear of arrest.
Pride Month is largely credited as being started by bisexual activist Brenda Howard, also known as ‘The Mother of Pride’. She organized Gay Pride Week and the Christopher Street Liberation Day Parade a year after the Stonewall Riots. This eventually became what we now know as the New York City Pride March and was the catalyst for the formation of similar parades and marches around the world.