SFGN’s “Speak OUT” is a weekly feature giving a regular voice to South Florida LGBT leaders. This week’s question is “In celebration of Women’s History Month, name a lesbian, past or present, that has or continues to inspire you.”
I can’t say there’s just one lesbian that has inspired me, if not many who have come before us and paved the way, and those who continue to blaze trails…. Women like Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, Barbara Gittings, Audre Lourde, Roberta Achtenberg, Lorri Jean, Kate Clinton, and the women who need only one name: Chris and Meg, Ellen, Martina, Melissa… There have been, and continue to be, a great number of women from whom I derive inspiration – most of them, however are not the ‘famous’ ones… they’re the ones I’m honored to know and call my friends.
— Denise Spivak, Director of Member Relations and External Affairs for CenterLink: The Community of LGBT Centers
Our community owes Robin Bodiford a debt of gratitude for her early grassroots efforts on behalf of our tribe. She helped set the stage for LGBT rights in Broward and for the political power that is now evidenced by our past and current LGBT elected officials in Broward.
— Ken Keechl, noted trial attorney and LGBT rights activist
Comedian Kate Clinton is someone who has inspired me to remain politically vigilant because she has a laser focus on social justice issues and is brilliant in how she frames her comments and her comedy to skewer right-leaning hypocrisy. Other intelligent comedians tackle the same issues from the left, such as Bill Maher, Lewis Black, and Dennis Miller (before he became a right-wing shill), but it wasn’t until I heard Kate in Provincetown in the early ‘90s that I realized how important it is that LGBT voices enter the political humor arena on our own behalf. Her comedy gets smarter every time I see her – but that could also be because the opposing side just keeps offering better material with every year. Her Dick Cheney-shoots-his-friend-in-the-face bit is comedy gold!
— David Jobin, executive director of The Stonewall National Museum & Archives
Gay rights pioneer Barbara Gittings was a prime mover of lesbian/gay visibility in those critical pre-Stonewall years. She taught me to swing for the fences when challenging seemingly unassailable mainstream institutions, to never give up, and to be sure I'm having fun being a "movement junkie."
— Toni Armstrong, Founder/Director of BLAST Women of WPB
I have no idea how on earth I, as a young girl in Iowa, encountered the work and life of Gertrude Stein, but I did. I remember thinking that she said what she wanted to say, and even men listened to her. I was delighted that she had broken away and gone to France, where she lived with Alice B. Toklas. As an adult, I visited her Paris apartment and felt deeply moved by this woman who died before I was born, but who gave me "permission" to speak my mind and be who I am, in a very real way.
— Judy Ireland, Assistant organizer for BLAST Women of WPB
I'd like to salute one of our pioneers — Barbara Gittings. She was a key figure in the campaign to persuade mental health groups to declassify homosexuality as a disorder. She also participated in one of the first gay rights demonstrations at the White House, in 1965, calling for an end to antigay discrimination in the federal government.
— Lori Lynch, Executive Director, LGBT Visitor Center of Miami Beach
No doubt my favorite and I believe most influential lesbian that has made history is Ellen DeGeneres. She made history in 1997 by becoming the first openly gay woman in a TV series. Even before that, Ellen never denied who she was and was never intimidated by those who would try to derail her, or her career. She is a courageous woman who has paved the way for others and is sure to go down in history as a pioneering lesbian. She inspires me to speak my mind and be a leader to those who follow us. Kudos Ellen, you Rock!
— Mimi Planas, president of Log Cabin Republicans Miami
What do Virginia Apuzzo, Urvashi Vaid, Kerry Lobel, Lorri Jean, and Rea Carey all have in Common? Besides being some of the most inspirational leaders of our movement, they all had a big hand in helping to shape the current national discussion and acceptance of LGBTQ community when they were Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. During Women's History Month, you should learn about each one of them and the huge impact they have had on our movement!
— Lee Rubin, Blogger and Community Organizer
In 1974, Elaine Noble won a seat in the Massachusetts State House, becoming the first openly gay person to do so nationally. When she ran for the U.S. Senate, I volunteered to drive her around the Commonwealth to meet potential voters. She is a true hero of our movement, and now enjoys a quieter life on a farm in northern Florida.
— Brian McNaught, noted columnist, author and LGBT activist