Kathy Kozachenko, CeCe McDonald, Freddie Mercury
First “Out” Elected Official
b. ca 1954, date unconfirmed
“It is clear that they [Ann Arbor City Council members] don’t ever plan to enforce complaints under sexual preference.”
Kathy Kozachenko was the first openly gay person to be elected to a public office in the United States. In 1974 she was elected as a Human Rights Party candidate to the City Council of Ann Arbor, Michigan.
In the early 1970s only 10 cities in the United States had laws specific to homosexual rights. Most of these pertained either to housing or public employment. Ann Arbor was an exception. The city had enacted a human rights ordinance that protected homosexuals in both housing and employment. Kozachenko ran on a platform that the law had not been enforced. When the city refused to prosecute a restaurant manager who had allegedly separated two women who were dancing together, homosexuals in the town rallied. Said Kozachenko, “It is clear that they [City Council members] don’t ever plan to enforce complaints under sexual preference.”
Kozachenko won against a Democratic contender by 43 votes. She was the first to prove that an openly gay person could run for and be elected to public office. Kozachenko helped pave the way for Harvey Milk, who was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977.
b. May 26, 1989, Chicago, Illinois
“I felt like they wanted me to hate myself as a trans woman.”
CeCe McDonald is a transgender prison-reform activist. While on her way to the grocery store with friends, she encountered a drunken group outside of a bar. Seeing McDonald and her friends, the group began taunting them with racial, homophobic and transphobic slurs. After taking a stance that their hate speech would not be tolerated, McDonald was assaulted with a shattered drinking glass across the face. The attack perforated her cheek and lacerated her salivary gland.
McDonald defended herself against a second assailant with fabric shears, the only weapon she had. The assailant died.
McDonald was arrested and imprisoned. After two months in prison, she finally received care for her wounds.
Experiencing the inhumane treatment of prisoners firsthand, McDonald began speaking out against the criminal justice system. “Prisons aren’t safe for anyone, and that’s the key issue,” she said. For McDonald, the issue of safety included her status as a transgender female in a men’s prison. Transgender prisoners were assigned to prisons based on their sex at birth rather than their gender identity. The penal system frequently placed them in solitary confinement—a psychologically debilitating isolation—purportedly for the safety of the individual. The experience served to strengthen McDonald’s character and establish her resolve to become a transgender leader. “Free CeCe,” a documentary about her experiences, focused on the issue of violence against trans women of color.
b. September 5, 1946, Zanzibar, Tanzania
d. November 21, 1991, London, England
“Success has brought me world idolization and millions of pounds. But it has prevented me from having the one thing we all need, a loving, ongoing relationship.”
Freddie Mercury ranks among the most sensational rock ’n’ roll vocalists in history. He was one of the leading musicians, record producers and songwriters of the 1980s.
Born Farrokh Bulsara to Parsi parents, Mercury was a British citizen who spent his childhood in India. At age 7, he began to study piano. When he was 8, he matriculated to an all-boys school near Bombay (now Mumbai). While enrolled there, he adopted the name “Freddie” and formed a band, the Hectics. In his teens, he moved with his family to Middlesex, England.
When he was 24, Mercury, with guitarist Brian May and percussionist Roger Taylor, formed Queen. Mercury designed the crest of the band, which features the zodiac signs of all the band members, a ribbon circled in the form of a Q and a phoenix symbolizing continual rebirth.
Mercury’s unique musical style blended pop, disco, rockabilly, and operatic influences. He wrote many of Queen’s most popular songs, including “Another One Bites the Dust,” “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” “We Are the Champions” and his elaborate masterpiece, “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
Mercury was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the UK Music Hall of Fame. He ranks 18 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of 100 greatest singers of all time. “Bohemian Rhapsody,” one of the best-selling singles of all time, was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2004.
Mercury died at 44 of AIDS-related illness.