Updated: Mar 30
Don’t let Women’s History Month end without acknowledging the contributions of LGBTQ+ women throughout history. Not sure where to start? We’ve got you covered. The following six women are heavy hitters in LGBTQ+ women’s history.
Yes, the first American woman in space was also LQBTQ+. Ride was married to a man (and fellow astronaut) named Steven Hawley for five years, but her obituary revealed that she spent 27 years in a relationship with a female journalist named Tam O’Shaughnessy. After going to space in 1983, Sally Ride became the director of the California Space Institute. She also worked as a professor at the University of California, San Diego. Ride died in 2012 and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Freedom the next year.
Photographer and curator Hulleah Tsinhnahjinnie identifies as Two Spirit, meaning s/he has both male and female spirits. Descended from the Seminole, Muscogee, and Navajo Nations, Tsinhnahjinnie uses her/his art to highlight Indigenous responses to colonialism. Today, Tsinhnahjinnie is a professor at the University of California Davis and director of the C.N. Gorman Museum.
Descended from Indonesian and Dutch parents, Toto Koopman modeled for both Vogue and Coco Chanel—and worked as a spy during World War II. She passed information to the Italian resistance throughout the war and contributed to espionage missions with her male partner. After World War II, Koopman met and fell in love with a woman named Erica Brausen, with whom she spent the rest of her life. Together, they opened the Hanover Gallery in London. Koopman died in 1991.
In addition to being LGBTQ+, the author of A Raisin in the Sun was a political activist and supported the communist movement. Lorraine Hansberry married a man, Robert Nemiroff, but secretly carried on romantic relationships with women. These were confirmed in Hansberry’s personal correspondence. Hansberry died in 1965 of pancreatic cancer. She was only 34 years old.
Though married to fellow artist Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo was openly bisexual. She shared a close friendship with Georgia O’Keefe, with whom many believe she had an affair. Kahlo is also believed to have been involved with Josephine Baker. She died in 1954 at the age of 47. Today, Kahlo is remembered as one of Mexico’s greatest artists.
Honk Kong native Cecilia Chung became chair of the San Francisco Human Rights Commission in 2008. She was the first transgender woman and first person living with HIV in the position. Chung also founded Positively Trans, an organization that connects transgender people who are HIV positive.
If you’re looking to learn more about the LGBTQ+ female experience, check out Buzzfeed’s list of 21 Books Queer Women (and Everyone Else) Should Read. It’s full of more stories by and about queer women who get sh*t done.