Marriage Equality Advocate
b.February 4, 1957
“I’m not in this just to change the law. It’s about changing society.”
Evan Wolfson is the founder of Freedom to Marry, a group that advocates for same-sex marriage rights in the United States. He is one of the first attorneys to publicly champion marriage equality and the author of the book “Why Marriage Matters: America, Equality and Gay People’s Right to Marry.” Wolfson was named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People. As a lawyer, he argued Boy Scouts of America v. Dale before the Supreme Court.
LGBT rights became an important part of Wolfson’s advocacy early in his career. He wrote his 1983 thesis at Harvard University on the legal question of same-sex marriage. He also publicly debated the issue at Yale University. As a young lawyer, he wrote a Supreme Court amicus brief that helped win a nationwide ban on race discrimination in jury selection and helped eliminate the marital rape exemption.
For many years, Wolfson worked for the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, where he directed the Marriage Project and coordinated the National Freedom to Marry Coalition. He argued the Hawaii Supreme Court case involving same-sex marriage as well as a Vermont case that eventually led to the creation of civil unions in the state.
Wolfson launched Freedom to Marry in 2001, saying, “I want gay kids to grow up believing they can get married.” He wept reading Justice Kennedy’s opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges (the 2015 Supreme Court ruling in favor of nationwide marriage equality), remembering the years of struggle, strategy, arguments and previous cases that laid the groundwork for the landmark Obergefell decision.
Wolfson is married to Cheng He. They live together in New York City.
William “Big Bill” Tilden II
b.February 10, 1893
d.June 5, 1953
“Never change a winning game; always change a losing one.”
Bill Tilden is considered one of the greatest men’s tennis champions in history. He was the No. 1 player in the world for six years, from 1920 to 1925. During that time, he became the first American to win Wimbledon.
Born to privilege in Philadelphia, he first picked up a racket as a small child. By the time he was 22, he had lost both parents and his brother. Struggling with immense grief, he preoccupied himself with tennis, which became his primary means of recovery. He wrote about the game in several noteworthy books, including “Match Play and the Spin of the Ball.” By 27, he had attained championship status.
Tilden’s countless wins include 14 major singles titles: a World Hard Court Championship, 10 Grand Slams and three Pro Slams. He also won a record seven U.S. Championships. His all-time tennis achievements include a career match-winning record and winning percentage at the U.S. National Championships.
Tilden won his third and final Wimbledon in 1930 at age 37, before turning pro. He was the oldest man to win a Wimbledon singles title. He went on to tour and was notorious for holding his own against much younger players. When Tilden was 52, he and his longtime doubles partner, Vinnie Richards, won the professional doubles championship—the same title they had won 27 years earlier.
Tilden was considered quite flamboyant. He dabbled in acting on stage and in film, and rumors about his homosexuality circulated. When he was arrested and imprisoned twice for sexual misbehavior with teenage boys, his world collapsed. He was shunned by his fans and fellow players and banned from teaching tennis at most clubs. Questions remain about whether he was targeted because of his sexuality. At the time, homosexual sex was illegal.
In 1959, Tilden was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island.
Tim’m T. West
July 6, 1972
“There are aspects of ourselves that we are encouraged never to reveal, but I’m not a unicorn.”
Tim’m T. West, born Timothy Terrell West, is a hip-hop performance artist, poet, activist and educator. He has produced nine albums, written extensively about hip-hop culture and has been a spokesperson for a new generation of openly gay musicians.
West was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. He had a speech impediment as a child that caused him to stutter and repeat the “m” in his name, which led him to include it in his moniker. West was a respected student and athlete who became interested in music at a young age. He was interviewed by recruiters from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point while in high school, but was rejected when he told them he was gay.
West was an active Boy Scout and a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormon). But when he came out to his bishop and was rejected, he struggled with depression and anxiety and even contemplated suicide. He admitted later that the experience influenced his youth outreach as an adult.
West was a serious college student. He attended Duke and Howard Universities and later The New School for Social Research in New York, where he was exposed to the spoken word and poetry scene. While pursuing his master’s degree at Stanford University in 1999, West discovered he was HIV positive. The revelation inspired him to begin his youth advocacy work and to join with friends to launch the queer hip-hop group Deep Dickollective. West coined the term “homohop” to describe homophobia in the hip-hop community.
As a solo artist, West has released music and published many books, including “Red Dirt Revival: a Poetic Memoir in 6 Breaths.” He performs, writes poetry and hosts “Front Porch,” a spoken word showcase that travels to colleges and universities. He also created a one-man show called “Ready, Set, Grow: A Coming of Age Story” about his life.
He launched MyWritingProfessor.com and continues to advocate for youth with Teach for America, where he combines education and advocacy to improve the experience of LGBT students in public schools. West’s daughter, Shannon Rose Matesky, is also a spoken word artist. They both live in Chicago.