From Marsha P. Johnson to Janet Mock: 13 LGBTQ+ Activists Who've Shaped American History

Image Description: ACT UP activists hold "Silence = Death" signs and others at the queer rights demonstration on Capitol Hill in 1993. Photo Courtesy: Brooks Kraft LLC/Sygma/Getty Images

Pride Month may be over, but queer history is American history — and it's essential that we recognize the movements and activists who provided the framework for the modern queer liberation movement. The fight for rights for LGBTQ+ people extends well beyond marriage equality. Even now, activists and allies are fighting against anti-trans legislation and garnering support for the Equality Act — which would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include explicit protections for LGBTQ+ folks. While we may be familiar with present-day activists, like Janet Mock and Laverne Cox, it's important to recognize both their accomplishments and the legacies folks like them are carrying on. 

Founded in 1987, the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, or ACT UP, is an international, grassroots political group that's still working to end the AIDS pandemic. Back in the '80s, the group's motto became "Silence = Death" — and that notion holds true today. Not only does being complicit, does not speaking out, do nothing to dismantle oppression and achieve equity and liberation, but silence also allows folks to forget LGBTQ+ history — and, in a sense, silences the trans and queer activists who fought to be heard. 

With this in mind, we're taking a look at 14 of the most influential LGBTQ+ activists. Some of them fought battles decades ago, while others are leading today's biggest fights, but, no matter the cause, all of them have forever shaped — and reshaped — American history. 

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