By Annie Sisk
Every June, Pride Month commemorates the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan, and the historic fight for civil rights for LGBTQ+ individuals in the United States and across the globe. As important as it is to honor the past, it’s crucial to acknowledge those advocating for a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive world. Here are eight LGBTQ+ leaders who are changing the world for the better.
The first openly gay immigrant to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, Garcia is a former mayor and current representative for California’s 42nd Congressional district.
Born in Lima, Peru, he immigrated to America with his mother when he was five years old. He earned a doctorate degree in educational policy and taught communications and educational policy at area colleges and universities before becoming involved in politics.
Known for his socially progressive views, Garcia represents diverse communities and advocates for the LGBTQ+ community in California and elsewhere. Most recently, when the Los Angeles Dodgers uninvited a well-known activist group from its annual Pride Night.
Danica Roem made headlines when she ran for Virginia state legislature and defeated a conservative incumbent who described himself as the state’s “chief homophobe.” She became the first openly transgender state legislator to win election, and was re-elected in 2019 and 2021.
In 2022, Roem published her memoir, “Burn the Page.” She told NPR, “I want to encourage people to own their own narratives and set fire to the stories that they don't want to be in anymore. My worry is the 41% of trans people who attempt suicide because they feel that they don't have hope that others are trying to take away from them.”
Charlie Sprinkman stumbled into grassroots advocacy and activism as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. During his post-graduation work as a traveling representative for a beverage company, he struggled to find LGBTQ-friendly spots. He decided to create a digital map for that purpose, allowing LGBTQ+ business owners to add themselves to the map.
The project is called “Everywhere Is Queer” and includes businesses of all types divided between pizzarias, florists, bars, gyms, hair stylists, and more. The map is still expanding and now includes LGBTQ+ businesses in Europe, Asia, Australia, and South America. Sprinkman also created an Instagram account that shares LGBTQ-oriented travel tips and life advice.
The first lesbian elected governor in the U.S., Maura Healey was elected Governor of Massachusetts in 2022. Her historic win was a watershed moment for the LGBTQ+ community and followed her earlier win as the first openly LGBTQ+ person elected as a state’s attorney general in 2015.
Among other initiatives, Healey has made it a priority for her administration to hire more women. Her staff includes 52 employees, 69% of whom are women. She’s also prioritized making her staff more representative of the state’s diverse population by bringing in more Black and Hispanic workers.
Justin Sylvester is a TV host whose past gigs include E! Network’s Emmy-nominated “Daily Pop,” among other shows. He grew up in a small Louisiana town and says he knew from the age of five years old that he was gay, although he remained in the closet through high school.
After being featured on Bravo’s “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills,” he began seeking other on-camera positions. In 2021, he was featured on the OUT100 list, calling it his “Bar Mitzvah into the gay world.” Sylvester says he always tries to help boost others up the media career ladder. You can hear more from him in our Motivational Mondays episode where he shares how you can create an amazing life.
Sherenté Mishitashin Harris
For Sherenté Mishitashin Harris, being authentically themselves is a stunning act of courage. A member of the Narragansett tribe, Harris learned the traditional tribe dances of their father, a war dancer. They then began exploring their mother’s dances when they turned 16 and after coming out as Two Spirit.
Dancing is just a medium for what Harris sees as the real mission, which is storytelling. Harris believes it’s crucial to tell their people’s stories, especially those of people like them, as these stories have historically been suppressed and forgotten. Harris is a 2019 TedX speaker and was also named one of Teen Vogue’s 2020 “5 Young Transgender Activists to Know on Trans Day of Visibility.” You can learn more about Harris in a 2022 documentary, “Being Thunder.”
Bruna Gil is the manager for channel sales at LinkedIn, and the global co-chair for Out@In, the platform’s LGBTQ+ network. There, she leads an international team of over 50 advocates and LGBTQ+ supporters to help foster a more inclusive and supportive world.
Gil also serves as a leading partner to LinkedIn’s diversity and inclusion team. She’s been featured in employee videos about relevant topics, including LGBT Pride Month. She also serves on the board of GiveOut, an award-winning community foundation that funds global LGBTQ+ activism efforts.
Greg Louganis brought home gold medals in the 1980s and is the most decorated diver in U.S. history. He remains the only Olympic diver to sweep diving events in two consecutive games. He’s also a well-known and highly respected activist, author, and motivational speaker.
Louganis created a course called “Finding Your Rhythm” that’s designed to help students uncover inner reserves of strength and power, and achieve goals using tools such as visualization. You can hear more about his activism and philosophy in this episode of Motivational Mondays.
Celebrating Those Leading the Way
These impressive leaders in the LGBTQ+ community have broken through personal and professional barriers. The NSLS is deeply committed to honoring their work and following the example they set through their advocacy and activism. To that end, we’ve adopted our own diversity, equity and inclusion policy to encourage equality in every area of leadership.
There’s still work to be done to close the gaps in DEI policy and practice and that’s one reason why it’s important to honor LGBTQ+ leaders who are changing the world.