LGBTQI Awareness Month 2012

April 2012 marks the University of Rochester's second annual LGBTQI Awareness Month. To commemorate the month, we're celebrating LGBTQI activists by featuring women whose work and bravery helped change society, one step at a time.

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Evelyn Hooker

Evelyn Hooker (1907-1966) was a psychologist whose path-breaking study argued and gave evidence that homosexuality was not a mental disorder (as it had been widely-described during that time), but a variance of human sexuality. Hooker’s study, first published in 1957 in the Journal of Projective Techniques, served as a foundation for most political and philosophical work dealing with LGBTQ rights. Her work was integral in the successful removal of homosexuality from the American Psychiatric Association (APA) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Hooker was awarded the APA's Award for Distinguished Contribution to Psychology in the Public Interest in 1991.

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Marsha P. Johnson

Marsha P. Johnson (1944-1992) was a transgender LGBTQ rights activist and a popular figure in the New York City art scene from the 1960s through the 1990s. She was a leader in clashes with the police amid the Stonewall Riots in 1969, and a co-founder of Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR). When a judge asked Johnson what the "P" in her name stood for, she replied “Pay It No Mind." The statement became her signature phrase. Johnson was photographed for an Andy Warhol series and interviewed by Allen Young for his book Out of the Closets: Voices of Gay Liberation.

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Barbara Gittings

Barbara Gittings (1932-2007) was a prominent activist for gay equality. She organized the New York chapter of the Daughters of Bilitis (DOB), the first lesbian rights organization in the United States. She also served as editor for The Ladder, the national DOB magazine, from 1963-1966. Gittings was prominent in the first protests against the U.S. government’s ban on the employment of LGBT individuals and, among her many accomplishments, she formed the first professional gay caucus within the American Library Association.

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Sylvia Rae Rivera

Sylvia Rae Rivera (1951-2002) was a transgender activist involved in Vietnam War protests, the Civil Rights and Feminist movements, and the Gay Rights Movement. She is particularly well known for her involvement in the Stonewall Riots. Rivera was a founding member of the Gay Liberation Front, as well as Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR), which she co-founded with her mentor, Marsha P. Johnson. Rivera reinstated STAR as an active political organization in 2001, fighting for the New York City Transgender Rights Bill and for a trans-inclusive New York State Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act. STAR also sponsored street pressures for justice when Amanda Milan, a transgender woman, was murdered in 2000.

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Adrienne Rich

Adrienne Rich (1929-2012) was an American poet, essayist, and feminist. In her essay, “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence”, Rich argued that lesbianism was an extension of feminism, and challenged the notion of women’s dependence on men, particularly as economic supports and as well as for sexual expression. She brought attention to heteronormativty and advocated a lesbian existence, a term for the historical and contemporary presence of lesbian creation, and a lesbian continuum to include the entire range of a woman-identified experience. 

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