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LGBT role models in history

Welcome to LGBTQ+ History Month 2022! After sharing Hayley’s story this time last year, we decided this year we wanted to cast the net wider and delve into the history books and provide you with LGBT role models in history. (Yeah that’s right we read.) This February we will be doing some banging articles on some of our favourite queer icons, now and then. From artists to activists, novelists to campaigners, these inspirational trailblazers have each made a contribution to modern queer culture.

Our list includes influential members of the LGBTQ+ community who have strived for equality and acceptance and many of whom have helped to shape the queer little world we live in. Many of these queer icons remain under-represented or their narratives marginalised/ covered up. One had their letters & writing physically destroyed after their death to stop their stories and experiences of queer life and love from being shared. Not cool.

Here at Nonchalant this February, after learning about these legends we wanted to share one of their incredible stories every day. (Check the Socials: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram.) To get you going, we are giving you a sneak peak of what’s to come in this article.

Musical Legend & Queer Icon: Linda Perry

Music Icon Linda Perry: Photo Credit: Nick Stepowyj

When it comes to queer icons it doesn’t get a lot more impactful than Linda Perry. She is an American singer-songwriter, musician, and record producer. Perry started her music career as the lead singer and songwriter of the 4 Non Blondes.  4 Non Blondes began by playing shows at lesbian bars in San Francisco. All of the band members were openly gay and developed a large lesbian following as a result. In 1992 they signed a record deal in the US and released their first and only album, ‘Bigger, Better, Faster, More!

Perry went on to form two record labels and composed and produced hit songs for several other artists. In our opinion, she is responsible for most Queer Anthems of the early 2000s. It, will blow your mind….. her writing credits include: ‘Beautiful‘ by Christina Aguilera. ‘What You Waiting For?’ by Gwen Stefani; and mic drop…. ‘Get the Party Started‘ by Pink.

Pink also worked with Perry to write and record ‘Missundaztood‘, Pink’s second album, (the z is screaming early 2000’s) and well… One of the main reasons that everybody loves Pink. Perry has also contributed to albums by Adele, Alicia Keys, and Courtney Love. Perry married actress Sara Gilbert in 2014. (Star of ‘Roseanne‘, ‘Big Bang Theory‘& ‘The Connors‘).

Suffragette, Activist, Queer Icon & Actual Royalty: Princess Catherine Duleep Singh

Suffragette & Activist Catherine Duleep Singh

Catherine Duleep Singh was born on 27 October 1871. Arguably one of our favourite queers. This queer icon was the Daughter of the former ruler of Punjab, India, and the god-daughter of Queen Victoria, she lived an openly gay lifestyle during the often repressive Victorian era.

In the early 20th century, Catherine was an avid supporter of the suffragist movement. She was a member of the Fawcett Women’s Suffrage Group, National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS), and was involved in numerous events that ultimately secured British women the right to vote. Go on girl!

After traveling the world, in 1904 Princess Catherine moved to Germany where she lived with her partner, Lina Schäfer. Despite life in Germany becoming increasingly difficult for them during the rise of the Nazi Party, Catherine and Lina remained there until Lina’s death in 1937. During this time, they helped numerous Jewish families escape to France and to the UK, supporting them in resettling and re-establishing their lives.

After Lina’s death, Catherine returned to England, continuing to valiantly fight for the rights of women in the UK and abroad. If you stan her as much as we do why not learn more about her?

Trans Activist & Author: Juno Roche

Author & Queer Activist Juno Roche: Photo Credit: My Genderation

Next on our list of queer icons is internationally recognised writer and campaigner, Juno Roche’s books eloquently explore their trans experience and broader concepts of gender identity. Juno’s frank and vulnerable lived experience is narrated in their books and articles, including Queer Sex (Longlisted for the Polari First Book Prize) and Trans Power: Own Your Gender.

Juno is also the founder of Trans Workers UK and the Trans Teachers Network. Juno’s campaign ‘Why Trans Teachers Matter’ discussed the importance of the trans community being better represented and visible in schools. Get reading Juno’s book.

Queer Icon & Author: Vita Sackville-West

Queer Icon Vita Sackville West

Born in Kent in 1892, Vita Sackville-West grew up in Knole House, her family’s estate. Sackville-West was a successful author and garden designer. In 1913 she married diplomat and fellow author Harold Nicholson. Vita and Harold were polyamorous, with their writing chronicling numerous extramarital relationships. Her most prominent and high-profile romances were with Virginia Woolf and Violet Keppel.

Sackville-West hoped that her memoir, ‘Portrait of a Marriage’ would help society’s understanding of her sexuality and the polyamorous relationships enjoyed during her marriage. She talks about how they were always in love with other people and each gave the other full liberty ‘without inquiry or reproach’. The book was blocked from publication, only released in 1972 by her son, who updated the original text to include some of his father’s writings.

In conservative 1920s Britain, Sackville-West’s choice of dress was also taboo. She wore tailored suits, trousers, and top hats, which was super uncommon at the time. Fuck you patriarchy.

Trans Activist Model & Queer Icon: April Ashley

April Ashley MBE English model, actress, and author. Ashley is one of the earliest British people known to have had sex affirmation surgery. She was later photographed for British Vogue and appeared opposite Joan Collins in the film Road to Hong Kong‘ in 1962. Ashley was outed by a UK newspaper in 1961 (DICKS) which left her career in tatters. She moved first to Spain and later to LA to start a new life away from the tabloids.

In 2005 Ashley successfully appealed to the UK Government to grant her a birth certificate recognising her as female. (The UK had introduced the Gender Recognition Act 2004.) Ashley was made an MBE in 2012 for her campaign work for the transgender community.

About LGBTQ+ History Month

At Nonchalant, on the daily we celebrate the achievements, activism and bravery of our community, it isn’t just for February (it is for life not just for February). But as it is LGBTQ+ History month it would be rude not to celebrate the absolute legends that help us live the way we do today.

In 2003, February was the month when Section 28 was abolished in England and Wales, a policy that prohibited the “promotion” of homosexuality in schools. (Scotland were of course ahead of the game, binning it in 2000). After this LGBTQ+ History Month was established to help promote the often unrepresented history of our community both in schools and in the wider community. So here is to all the amazing and progressive queer icons of our past and to those that continue to fight for equality today.

We hope you enjoyed our chosen icons and keep an eye out for our other queer icons featured across our socials.

Happy Reading

Team Nonchalant x

Nat Stevens
Nat Stevens

Nat is a London native currently living and working in South London. She came back from living in Singapore last year and is spending lots of time catching up on all the fun London has to offer. Nat is Most likely to be found taking photos, cooking, running, exploring London’s galleries or spending too much money on food. (Also on a constant quest to find the best Chinese food in London)

Find me on: Instagram

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