Black LGBTQ+ Icons

Black LGBTQ+ Icons

We’re celebrating LGBTQ+ History Month by looking at inspiring LGBTQ+ icons from throughout history until the present day. We’ve put together a selection of Black LGBTQ+ trailblazers and explored how they have made history and helped to change the world, in areas such as the arts, culture, sports, politics, and more.


Miss Major Griffin-Gracy (also known as Miss Major) is a Black American transgender author, activist, and community organiser for transgender rights. Miss Major has participated in activism and community organising for a range of causes, and has served as the first executive director for the ‘Transgender Gender Variant Intersex Justice Project’.




Pearl Alcock was a Jamaican bisexual artist. Alcock arrived in London in 1958 from Jamaica as part of the Windrush generation. She went on to open a dress boutique in Brixton and underneath the boutique was an illegal club that acted as a refuge and place of great significance for the local gay community. As it was the only gay bar in Brixton, it also attracted Black men from across London who wanted to feel safe in a space free from racism.


Marsha P Johnson was an African-American LGBTQ+ rights activist. They were gender non-conforming and identified as a ‘drag queen’ with Marsha P Johnson as their drag persona’s name rather than the name given to them at birth. The P stands for ‘pay it no mind’ which was their motto when faced with discrimination and adversity. Although they never self-identified as transgender, they lived as Marsha permanently which means they’re often described now as a trans woman.  Best known for their involvement in the 1969 Stonewall riots, Marsha was one of the key figures who stood up against police and led a series of protests and riots demanding rights for gay people. They also advocated for homeless LGBTQ+ youth, people impacted by H.I.V/AIDS and transgender rights.


Audre Lorde was a self-described ‘black, lesbian, feminist, mother, poet, warrior’ who made significant contributions in feminist theory, critical race theory and queer theory. Lorde is largely credited for coining the term ‘intersectionality’ and wrote extensively on the intersections of race, gender, and class. Before her death in 1922, she participated in an African naming ceremony in which she took the name Gamba Adisa which means ‘Warrior: She Who Makes Her Meaning Known’.




Bayard Rustin was an activist who had a career in the civil rights movement. In his early career he worked alongside Martin Luther King Jr, contributed to the organisation of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963, and coordinated a boycott of public schools in Harlem to protest segregation. Rustin was a closeted gay man for most of his career, however his sexuality was speculated and held against him throughout his life.





Justin Fashanu was an English footballer who was the first professional football player to come ‘out’. Fashanu died in 1998 by suicide after being tragically harassed by homophobic British tabloid press.


Phyll Opoku-Gyimah is a Black British activist who founded UK Black pride in 2005. Black Pride is Europe’s largest celebration of African, Asian, Middle Eastern, Latin American and Caribbean heritage LGBTQ+ people, attracting nearly 8,000 people each year.







Edward Enninful was born in Ghana, and was until recently the editor in chief of British Vogue. He started leading the magazine in August 2017. During his time as editor in chief he has helped shape a new vision for fashion not just in the UK, but globally. He also wrote a memoir, A Visible Man, where he details his story about going from a working class outsider to the heights of the fashion industry, and how he has always championed inclusion and representation in the worlds of design and photography.

Laverne Cox is a trans Black trailblazer. Following her acting career she was the first trans person to be on the cover of TIME magazine. She was also the first trans person to win a Daytime Emmy, as well as the first trans person to play a transgender series regular on broadcast television, and also the first trans person to be nominated for a Primetime Emmy for acting. These honours only scratch the surface of the contributions she has made to trans awareness.




Tanya Compas is a youth worker and content creator based in London. Tanya founded ‘Exist Loudly’ in 2020, which is a non-profit organisation dedicated to supporting black LGBTQ+ youth from London. The charity launched ‘Queer Black Christmas’ in 2019, to help tackle homelessness amongst black LGBTQ+ young people.

Remi Burgz is a radio host and DJ who presents on BBC 1Xtra’s radio show. Remi is a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community, and encourages other black women in the industry to be themselves and get comfortable in their own skin.



Photo credits

Miss Major Photo credit: Quinn Dombrowski, CC BY-SA 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Audre Lorde Photo credit: Elsa Dorfman, CC BY-SA 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Bayard Rustin Photo credit: Leffler, Warren K., photographer; cropped by Beyond My Ken (talk) 09:59, 25 November 2010 (UTC), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Phyll Opoku-Gyimah Photo credit: Wazaja, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Laverne Cox Photo credit: Sachyn Mital, CC BY-SA 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons