By: Gisselle Venable
Women’s History Month exists to recognize women and the contributions they’ve made in the world, and LGBTQ women are no exception to this. The LGBTQ community has a strong history that’s being built upon each day. Lesbian, bisexual, transgender, asexual and so much more are under the umbrella of LGBTQ history, and women have had prominent roles in pushing for the future.
Ivy Bottini was a lesbian woman who established a number of organizations for the LGBTQ community. She was born in 1926 and grew up in a period when being outwardly queer was not common. She didn’t have the labels and resources available today to even realize she was queer, but her work in the community allowed that knowledge to exist today.
Bottini did not adopt the label of lesbian until she was 42 years old, shortly following her founding of the New York chapter of the National Organization for Women. It is in this organization that she brought to light the problems that lesbians face in the world, and she continued to do so as she created spaces for the LGBTQ community.
Bottini founded AIDS Network LA, the Los Angeles Lesbian/Gay Police Advisory Board and the nonprofit organization Gay & Lesbian Elder Housing and continued to serve as an activist for the community until her death in 2021.
Sylvia Rivera was a transgender woman who was a pioneer for modern transgender activism. Her troubled childhood on the streets led her to become tough and empathetic to those in similar situations. What sets Rivera apart from other transgender people at this time is that she was open about her sexuality, often wearing makeup as a child and rejecting gender norms.
As she grew older, she found herself a part of the community. Rivera is even cited as participating in the historic Stonewall riot of 1969, an event that shaped LGBTQ history today.
Rivera’s importance lies in what she did for not only herself, but others. She was often known for helping the homeless, people of color and gender-nonconforming individuals. Rivera was empathetic with those who had to go through the same struggles as she did, so with her friend and fellow transgender activist Marsha P. Johnson, she founded Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR).
STAR aimed to provide shelter for homeless transgender youth, an all-too-common occurrence that still happens today. Rivera’s dedication and persistence in being seen for who she was lives on today in the spirit of transgender activism.
Pragati Singh is an asexual woman from India. Although she isn’t as well known in LGBTQ history, she is currently pioneering progress for the asexual community in India and across the world. Asexuality is a lesser known identity, but is quickly becoming more well-known in the world thanks to people like Singh.
Asexual people are those who feel little to no sexual attraction. Like every identity, it’s under an umbrella. Singh, seeing what little representation and support asexuals had, began by founding Indian Aces, a Facebook page meant to provide support for the asexual community and the erasure it faces. This was India’s first asexual group, providing a voice and space of comfort for asexual people in the nation.
Singh’s dedication to the community didn’t stop there. She also conducted and provided research on asexuality all around the world, creating much-needed education surrounding the identity. In 2019, Singh was named one of BBC’s 100 women, an honor given to the most innovative and influential women of our time.
Singh’s steps may seem small, but there’s no doubt that she is making history for the asexual community in the future. Change always starts somewhere, and every moment is history in the making.