9 Contemporary Black Women LGBT Trailblazers

by Brittany Dawson

A recent report conducted by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law revealed approximately 1 million African Americans identity as LGBT. On Monday October 6th, the Supreme Court’s decision to deny reviewing same-sex marriage cases resulted in the freedom to marry in an additional 5 states: Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Utah, Indiana, and Virginia, a striking testament oton our nation’s progress towards creating safe spaces for LGBTQ persons.

Now, Black LGBTQ leaders, scholars, activists, and artists create arenas—whether through writing or music—to glow, speak, and be recognized, utilizing unique voices and experiences to galvanize our generation into action, inclusion, and understanding. These Black LGBTQ trailblazers are no longer relegated to the sidelines, instead, they’ve paved a way for our future.

Milan Alexander
Photo Credit: Youth Breakout

Youth Organizer Milan Alexander is a founding member of BreakOUT!, a New  Orleans based organization anchored on ending police brutality and criminalization of LGBTQ persons. BreakOUT! builds resistance through youth organization and leadership programs
Tona Brown
Trans violinist Tona Brown is the first openly transgender person of color to perform at Carnegie Hall. Brown also performed at the White House, yet another milestone for the LGBTQ community. “Being the first transgender woman of color to perform at Carnegie Hall is an enormous honor,” says Brown. “It’s sad to hear that in 2014 this is the case. But I’m very glad to be the person to break open the door for other amazing artists in the future.”

Laverne Cox
In 2014, Laverne Cox became the first openly transgender woman nominated for an Emmy Award for her portrayal of Sophia Burset in "Orange is the New Black" and the first to cover TIME magazine. The rising star is now using her huge platform to amplify the voices of other Black trans women. She's producing a documentary on CeCe McDonald as well as as other projects. Can't wait to see what she has in store.
Staceyann Chin
Jamaican-born poet, performance artist, advocate, and overall wunderkind Staceyann Chin translates her lived experiences so effortlessly, painting intimate portraits covering motherhood to coming out while pregnant. Chin’s recent work The Other Side of Paradise: A Memoir chronicles race, sexuality, and abandonment in ruthless, brilliantly polished prose. 

Candace Hardnett

Savannah, Georgia native Candace Hardnett founded LGBTQ friendly Agape Empowerment Ministry with hopes of diversifying places of worship. Joined by her partner Erika Majors, Agape Empowerment Ministry is a safe space for LGBTQ people to practice faith without persecution. 

Nia King
Fresh-faced author, producer, host, and public speaker Nia King has an eye for promoting inclusivity, visibility, and equality. Her recent book Queer and Trans Artists of Color includes interviews with trans and queer artists, experiences routinely muffled or erased in mainstream society. King stays true to advocacy by not compromising her identity and welcomes diverse voices, experiences, and opinions.

Mia Mckenzie

Photo Credit: Mia Mckenzie

Black queer feminist Mia McKenzie amplifies queer voices of color on her blog Black Girl Dangerous, dismantling the imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy in essays, critiques, and opinionated musings. McKenzie speaks at college campuses nationwide, toting multiple awards and recognitions under her belt: The Summer We Got Free, McKenzie’s first novel, won the 2013 Lambda Literary Award for debut fiction. 

Janet Mock

Photo Credit: lev radin / Shutterstock.com

Janet Mock’s New York Times best-selling memoir “Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More" speaks on her identity as a trans woman. Mock joins a growing number of visible trans women of color in traditionally cisgender spaces—Mock was recently named contributing editor at Marie Claire.

Out filmmaker Dee Rees is best known for directing and writing Pariah (2011), a short film influenced by her own coming-out-story. Pariah follows 17 year old Aike’s path of acceptance, love, and courageousness in an intricate framework of narratives. Rees’ captivating narrative style elucidates Black queer experiences in a public sphere.

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