The United States celebrates Pride Month in June to recognize the Stonewall riots, but Pride isn’t celebrated all around the world. However, LGBTQ rights have shifted in pretty much every continent over the past few decades. Here’s a look at some influential people who represent LGBTQ rights in their countries and who have often had to overcome discrimination and doubt in order to own their identity—with pride!
1. Hong Kong: Denise Ho
Did you know that being male and gay in Hong Kong was illegal until 1991? While it’s legal today, the government doesn’t recognize gay marriage or parenthood. Denise Ho is the first mainstream female singer to declare herself lesbian, almost twenty years after she gained popularity. Ho supported pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong and not only was she arrested for participating in these marches, but she was also blacklisted and banned from performing in China.
2. New Zealand: Parliament
In 2013, New Zealand became the thirteenth country in the world (not to mention the first country in the Asia-Pacific) to legalize same-sex marriage and adoption. Did you know that New Zealand’s parliament of political leaders is the queerest in the world, with twelve out of 120 members identifying as gay? The country has a majority of residents supporting same-sex marriage and relationships.
3. Thailand: Tanwarin Sukkhapisit
While it’s legal to be LGBTQ in Thailand, there’s no legal recognition of marriage, adoption, or parenthood. In 2019, Thai filmmaker and now politican Tanwarin Sukkhapisit was the first openly transgender politician to be elected. Unfortunately, they were removed from office in 2020, a move that some called unjust.
4. India: Kalki Subramaniam
Did you know that India is one of the countries that legally allows single LGBTQ people to adopt kids but not LGBTQ couples? LGBTQ status became legal in 2018, but same-sex marriage is still under consideration. Kalki Subramaniam was one of the leading voices behind the Supreme Court judgement that legalized transgender identity and she uses art, films, and literature to support transgender empowerment. She also founded the first tamil magazine for transgender women.
5. Somalia: Diriye Osman
Did you know that it’s illegal to be LGBTQ in Somalia? In fact, being gay is punishable in the country. Diriye Osman is an author, critic, and visual artist, who was born in Somalia but eventually moved to the United Kingdom. He’s now one of the top LGBTQ writers to watch in the United Kingdom.
6. Uganda: Kasha Nabagesera
Uganda is one of the few countries to have removed LGBTQ rights. In fact, LGBTQ status is currently illegal. After being expelled from schools for her sexual orientation, Kasha Nabasgesera studied hard and eventually became a gay-rights activist. Despite being arrested for speaking her mind, she continues to lead the fight for LGBTQ justice in Uganda.
7. United States: Sally Ride
While being gay or getting married is considered legal in the United States (this was a state-by-state process from 2004 to 2015), gender rights aren’t protected in all states, and were only recently accepted by the military. However, Sally Ride became America’s first woman in space and possibly the first acknowledged gay astronaut. Unfortunately, this revelation came well after her death in 2012.
8. United Kingdom: Tom Daley
The LGBTQ rights movement in the United Kingdom has evolved dramatically in the past twenty years and today, LGBTQ people enjoy near unanimous freedom, including the ability to serve in the army. Tom Daley, an Olympic diver, took a while to declare to the world that he was gay. He says that once he came out, he knew it wouldn’t affect his sport and that he should be judged for his performance in the water, not his identity.
9. Australia: Ian Thorpe
Australia is one of the few countries that allows equal adoption rights and has always considered LGBTQ identity to be legal for women. After years of denying it, Ian Thorpe, a five-time Olympic champion swimmer decided to come out as gay, in the hopes that it would make it easier for others in the sport.