Five LGBTQ People Who Have Changed the World

Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs. I’m sure you’ve heard of these people and what they’ve done. However, there are many people within the LGBTQ spectrum that have made major differences in the world and how we view it. Most of the time, however, they are swept under the rug. This article serves as a way to show how much the members of the LGBTQ community can accomplish and make a difference in the world.

Alan Turing

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Without this man, TravelPride, and all websites for that matter, would not exist. Alan Turing was born in June of 1912. As a young boy, Alan displayed high intelligence. During his teenage years, he became particularly interested in math and science. Fast forward to 1936 when Turing wrote a paper titled “On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem” in which he presented the idea of a machine capable of computing anything that is computable. The modern computer was based on Turing’s paper. In addition to being the father of the modern computer, he was also skilled in code-breaking. During World War II, Turing decoded many German ciphers. He played a pivotal role in deciphering intercepted code messages that enabled the Allied forces to defeat the Nazis multiple times. Turing moved to London in the mid-1940s. During this time, Turing designed the Automatic Computing Engine which eventually led to the invention of the modern computer. Unfortunately, Turing’s life did not end happily. Homosexuality was illegal in the UK in the early 1950s, so when Turing admitted to police to having a sexual relationship with Arnold Murray, he was arrested and charged with gross indecency. After his arrest, Turing had to choose between probation and hormone treatment to reduce his libido or imprisonment. He chose the former and was chemically castrated by a synthetic estrogen hormone. In addition to this, Turing was also prohibited from continuing his work with cryptography. Because of this, Turing committed suicide by asphyxiation by cyanide poisoning.

Barbara Gittings

By Kay Tobin Lahusen

Barbara Gittings was a bright child and during her high school years and was a candidate for the National Honors Society. However, she was denied entry because her teacher believed that Barbara had “homosexual inclinations.” While at Northwestern University, she developed a very close friendship with a female classmate which led people to believe that Barbara was a lesbian. This made her question her sexuality and went to a therapist who attempted to cure her of her homosexuality. However, she did not have the necessary funds to continue seeing her therapist. Still curious about her sexual orientation, she read as much as she could on the topic but most of what was written was that homosexuals were “deviants” and “perverts.” Still curious to learn about homosexuality, she took a night course in psychology in which she had a brief affair with another woman. At the age of 18, Barbara moved to Philadelphia by herself. She traveled to New York City occasionally and dressed as a man and visited gay bars because she wanted to immerse herself in the gay community.

At the age of 24, Barbara traveled to California to visit ONE, Inc., a gay rights organization. While in California, Barbara was inspired by ONE, Inc. and decided to form the lesbian rights organization, Daughters of Bilitis, or DOB, alongside Dorothy Taliaferro and Phyllis Lyon. DOB was the first lesbian civil and political organization in the United States. The organization educated homosexual women about coming out, their rights, and about gay history. Daughters of Bilitis eventually became an educational resource for homosexuals and mental health researchers.

Sally Ride

Sally Ride was the first female American astronaut to go into space at the age of 32. Sally Ride graduated from Stanford University with bachelor’s degrees in English (which is what I’m studying) and physics. In 1978, she earned a Ph.D. in physics. Her specific areas of study were free electron lasers and astrophysics. She eventually came to work for NASA where she helped develop the space shuttle’s Shuttle Remote Manipulator System, which is a series of robotic arms that is designed to deploy and capture payloads. Before going into space, the media was concerned about her exploring space because of her gender. People would ask questions like “Will the flight affect your reproductive organs?” and “Do you weep when things go wrong on the job?” Despite this sexist language, Ride went into space twice and eventually founded NASA’s Office of Exploration.

So, why is Sally Ride included in this list? While she was married to a fellow astronaut, Steve Hawley, for five years, it was revealed after her death that she was in a 27-year-long relationship with Tam O’Shaughnessy, a childhood friend and retired professor of school psychology at San Diego State University. This relationship makes Sally Ride the first LGBT astronaut to go to space.

Lucy Hicks Anderson

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Born Tobias Lawson in Waddy Kentucky, Lucy Hicks Anderson lived as a woman from 1920 to 1945. The term did not exist at the time but Anderson could have been described as a transgender person. When she started attending school, she wore dresses and began calling herself Lucy. She married and divorced Clarence Hicks in New Mexico and then moved to California where she married Reuben Anderson. However, it was discovered that she was biologically male and she was charged with committing perjury when she signed the application for a marriage license. Anderson said to physicians “I defy any doctor in the world to prove that I am not a woman” and during the perjury trials, she said, “I have lived, dressed, acted just what I am, a woman.” She also said, publicly, that a person can be one gender but belong to another. While transgender people existed when Anderson was alive, they did not get much publicity as there was no term for transgender people. However, Lucy Hicks Anderson can definitely be considered a pioneer for transgender rights, as she was relentless in her belief that transgender people existed as they are and that they are just like everyone else.

Mark Bingham

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Mark Bingham, born to Alice Hoagland and Gerald Bingham, aspired to be a filmmaker and carried around a camera with which he used to record a personal video diary. He attended UC Berkeley and while in college, he played on two national-championship-winning rugby teams in the 1990a. After graduating at the age of 21, he came out as gay to his friends and family.

Mark Bingham is different from the other entries in that he did not pioneer rights for people, create something, or start an organization. Mark Bingham is different in that he, along with Tom Burnett, Todd Beamer, and Jeremy Glick, formed the plan to retake Flight 93 from the Al-Qaeda hijackers during the September 11th terrorist attacks. He led the effort to retake the plane which resulted in the plane crashing in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, which prevented the hijackers from crashing the plane into a building in Washington D.C., which was most likely the U.S. Capitol Building or the White House. This act of heroism saved hundreds of lives and prevented mass destruction and further international conflict. After his death, he was honored for having proven that gay men do not always adhere to their stereotypes and that they can achieve great and heroic things.

There you have it, five LGBTQ people who have made an impact on the world. It goes to show that sexual orientation and gender identity do not matter as they are only a small part of who a person is. If you have any person that you think should have been mentioned, tell me about them in the comments so that they can be recognized alongside the five people mentioned above.


Originally published at TravelPRIDE.