Too often, LGBTQ+ legends don’t receive their flowers until they’re dead (if at all). Despite the huge numbers of queer people making impactful moves in various sectors, we see the same names over and over again so it can be easy to forget how mighty our communities really are.
To highlight some of the amazing work being done locally and internationally, by politicians, athletes, creatives and activists alike, we’ve put together this list of low-key legends you should get to know:
Born in Trinidad to an English mother and Trinidadian father, LGBTQ+ activist Jason Jones is known around the Caribbean for being one of the foremost queer organisers on the islands.
In 1985 Jones moved to the UK to study theatre and experience London’s vibrant queer communities. Three years later he began advocating against homophobic legislation such as Section 28 alongside distinguished activists like Ian Mckellan and Michael Cashman. He has since continued his work in queer advocacy and art, staging his first public drag show in Trinidad in 1992 and more recently in 2018, winning a landmark legal challenge at the High Court of Trinidad and Tobago which decriminalised intimacy between adults of the same sex.
In this interview with Caribbean Collective magazine, Jones reflects on all that he’s achieved and the work that’s yet to be done.
Bilal Baig is a Canadian writer and actor who created and stars in Sort Of, a HBO comedy series about a non-binary Canadian-Pakistani person struggling to reconcile all the many facets of their identity. Sort Of is hilarious, ground breaking, gut-wrenching (and best of all, bingeable) and can be streamed from the UK on Now TV and Sky Go and internationally via HBO Max.
Parinya Charoenphol AKA Toom is a transgender Thai boxing champion, model and actor who identifies as kathoey, a fluid, third gender specific to Thai culture. In 1998 aged 16, Charoenphol was embraced by the Muay Thai world and quickly became a champion and an icon, though the industry exploited her gender identity as novelty to reach wider audiences. A year later she retired from the sport and underwent gender reassignment surgery. When she made a comeback to boxing in 2006, she was just as popular and skilled as always and these days she teaches Muay Thai and aerobics to school children. Her rise to fame is the inspiration behind the 2003 film, Beautiful Boxer.
Manvendra Singh Gohil
Heir to the Maharaja of Rajpipla, Manvendra Singh Gohil is considered the first openly gay prince in the world and is one of India’s most outspoken queer activists.
He came out publicly in 2006 via a newspaper interview that shocked and enraged the people of Rajpipla, some of whom went as far as to burn effigies of the prince. He was disowned by his family shortly after and he went straight into advocacy work, joining the governing board of Asia Pacific Coalition on Male Sexual Health in 2007 and working with various organisations that support Indians with HIV. In 2018, he opened his palace grounds to vulnerable queer people in need of resources and shelter.
Chrystos is an indigenous American two spirit writer and advocate whose literary works explore civil rights, social justice and feminism. Inspired by the work of Audrey Lorde, Joy Harjo and Elizabeth Woody, Chrystos’ poetry offers slick and scathing analyses of colonialism, class and gender constructs as well as explorations of Native American culture and more universal themes like love sex and culture.
They were one of the major organisers working to free Norma Jean Croy and Leonard Peltier and have campaigned for the rights of various First Nations tribes.
Transgender artist Tatenda Shamiso writes, directs and performs dramatic and musical work around themes of community, belonging and collective identity and is particularly interested in explorations of queer joy and the nuanced experiences of multiculturalism in the diaspora.
His play, No ID “is a goofy, tender and fast-paced solo piece which investigates the continuity of a trans man’s identity through the lens of his bureaucratic and medical gender transition as an immigrant in the UK”, which has recently finished a run at Peckham Theatre. He is also currently a guest lecturer at the Theatre and Performance department of his alma mater Goldsmiths.
Amaranta Gómez Regalado
Amaranta Regalado is a muxe woman, social anthropologist and activist. In 2003 she ran as a candidate for Federal Deputy of the Mexico Possible party and garnered international attention to her campaign as the first transgender candidate in Mexican history.
She has spearheaded several projects around sexual education in the country, as well as doing work on HIV/AIDS prevention and being a member of the state committee against homophobia.
Adeola Carew is a lawyer, feminist, writer and sexual health educator from Freetown Sierra Leone. Much of her advocacy work takes place on social media and particularly Tik Tok, where she produces content about the realities of LGBTQ life in West Africa, women’s safety and sexual and reproductive health while encouraging conversations around the advancement of feminism in the country.
Her NGO, Safe Space, was founded to provide support to at-risk women and girls in Sierra Leone’s capital who have little access to sexual health resources and education.
He Xiaopei is a leading queer feminist filmmaker, activist, and director of Beijing-based NGO Pink Space (粉色空间), an NGO dedicated to promoting sexual rights and gender equality. She worked for fourteen years for the Chinese State Council where she was involved with healthcare reform.
Her film, Our Marriages: Lesbians Marry Gay Men, explores how two lesbian couples in Northeast China negotiate norms and expectations around marriage, and the possibilities for queer life in Chinese society.