LGBTQ+ individuals have made lasting contributions to many facets of society including politics, the arts, and computer science. However, the stories of many of these individuals and their achievements have often remained untold.

In this post, we’re highlighting the legacies of some inspiring activists, artists, mathematicians, and writers who had a lasting impact on the world. While this is by no means a comprehensive list, feel free to use it as a starting point to build more inclusive lessons.

7 LGBTQ+ Individuals Who Made a Lasting Impact

Here are just a few notable LGBTQ+ figures from the past and present who you and your students may not be familiar with.

Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) 

Frida Kahlo was a Mexican artist best known for her creative self-portraits, namely The Two Fridas and Self Portrait with Cropped Hair. She’s celebrated for painting with vibrant colors with influences from indigenous Mexican cultures, and for exploring aspects of identity, race, class and colonialism in her work.

Bayard Rustin (1912-1987)

Rustin was an LGBTQ+ and civil rights activist best known for being a key adviser to Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. He organized the 1963 March on Washington, and in 2013 was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his activism, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

Alan Turing (1912-1954)

Alan Turing was a British mathematician, logician, and cryptographer who made major contributions to mathematics, computer science, artificial intelligence, and biology. He is best known for breaking the code for the Nazi Enigma machine, the supposedly unbreakable ciphering machine that the German government used to send military messages during World War II. This ultimately enabled the Allies to defeat Adolf Hitler in World War II. 

Audre Lorde (1934-1992)

Audre Lorde was an American writer, feminist, and activist whose writings shine a light on the multifaceted nature of identity. Among her most notable works are her poetry collections From a Land Where Other People Live and The Black Unicorn, and her memoirs on her struggle with cancer, The Cancer Journals and A Burst of Light.

Marsha P. Johnson (1945-1992)

Marsha P. Johnson was a Black transgender woman and activist who spent much of her life fighting for equality. She was a key figure in the LGBTQ+ rights movement in the United States and is attributed with spearheading the protests at Stonewall in 1969. Alongside fellow activist Sylvia Rivera, she founded STAR, an organization that supports homeless transgender youth. 

Ifti Nasim (1946-2011)

Ifti Nasim was a Pakistani poet who moved to the United States to avoid persecution for his identity. His collection of poems, Narman, is thought to be the first LGBTQ+ book of poetry written in Urdu. He also co-founded SANGAT, an organization which supports the South Asian LGBTQ+ community.

Tammy Baldwin (b. 1962)

Tammy Baldwin earned her place in history in 1998 when she became the first woman to represent Wisconsin in Congress and first openly gay person elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. In 2012, she made history again with her election to the Senate. Throughout her political career, she’s been an advocate for anti-discrimination and women’s rights.

For more ideas on how to build LGBTQ+ inclusive classrooms, check out: