In honor of June being LGBT Pride Month, we at Professional Diversity Network are excited and humbled to highlight these 6 LGBT leaders who are radically impacting today’s society. We believe these 6 individuals are #ProudtoBe bold and inspiring the movement towards equality and appreciation for the LGBT community.
1. Ellen Degeneres
Ellen Degeneres catalyzed the beginning of America’s modern discussion of LGBT issues after she came out in 1997. At the time, Ellen was starring in her sitcom Ellen and became the first prime-time sitcom star to be openly homosexual. Despite the fact that the show’s ratings quickly dropped resulting in its cancellation, Ellen continued to engage people in the LGBT conversation by pursuing a variety of different roles, starting The Ellen Degeneres Show and marrying her longtime girlfriend, Portia de Rossi. Ellen also transcended the status-quo by becoming a CoverGirl in 2009, standing out as not only an LGBT leader, but a feminist icon revered by the strong and independent women of America. Ellen has been a champion for progress within the television and film industry and continues to motivate people all across the country with her anti-bullying campaigns to disregard limitations and be happy, no matter what your profession is.
2. David Pérez
David Pérez is currently the president of the Latino GLBT History Project, a growing project that focuses its efforts on educating and enriching the Washington D.C. LGBT Latino community with historical knowledge, cultural celebrations, and leadership development. Aside from immensely expanding his project, Pérez also serves as the Director of Development for the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), one of the largest Latino-membership organizations in America. Pérez is an excellent example of a leader who takes pride in his diverse backgrounds and looks to empower those around him who share in these unique backgrounds. Within LULAC, David also heads the national LULAC LGBT equality project in addition to his position on the District of Columbia Mayer’s GLBT Advisory Committee. Pérez is an extraordinary leader committed to the positive development of LGBT and Latino populations everywhere.
3. Laverne Cox
Laverne Cox, most commonly known as the star of Netflix’s popular series, Orange is the New Black, has emerged as a pioneer for not only LGBT movements, but specifically for transgender equality. Starring in her role, she is the first trans woman of color to have a lead role in a mainstream show like Orange is the New Black. Cox also recently made history by being the first transgender woman to grace the cover of TIME Magazine. Cox has used her talents and spotlights like her inclusion in TIME Magazine to shed light upon LGBT issues like bullying, discrimination, and abuse that often come with living as an LGBT individual. Additionally, she’s been featured on various major news networks like CNN, MSNBC, and ABC to project her message of living a genuine lifestyle, void of gender expectations. Cox mentions in Time’s article “The Transgender Tipping Point” that she sees the LGBT movement as a greater one of social progress that addresses issues relating to race, gender, and identity.
4. Margaret Cho
Margaret Cho has been an incredible spokesperson for a diverse range of issues using comedy routines, music videos, and her blog as a platform for discussion. Cho comments on both social and political problems related to the LGBT community, substance abuse, Asian-American stereotypes, and many other subjects often stemming from her personal experiences. In 2004, Cho started a website called Love is Love is Love in support of legalizing gay marriage in the U.S and after gay marriage became legal in California, she was designated as a deputy to perform gay marriages in San Francisco. Cho has also been commended multiple times for her efforts in creating awareness for issues surrounding LGBT individuals, Asian-Americans, and women. Among these awards are the Golden Gate Award presented to her in 2000 by the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) and the Justice in Action award she received from the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund.
5. Antonio Simoes
Voted #1 on OUTstanding’s Top 50 List of inspirational and successful LGBT professionals, Antonio Simoes is the Head of Banking for the UK and Head of Retail Banking and Wealth Management for Europe for HSBC Bank. Simoes has long been out and harnessed the power of diversity by taking on multiple initiatives that encourage professionals to embrace their backgrounds and lifestyle choices. In addition to his personal initiatives as a Chief Executive at HSBC, he’s also held a position within the company as UK Diversity & Inclusion’s Committee Chair and he’s also the Senior Sponsor of HSBC’s Pride employee network. While Simoes could flaunt his impressive employment record at McKinsey and Goldman Sachs, MBA from Columbia University, or 2013 Diversity Champion of the Year Award given as a part of the 2013 European Diversity Awards, Simoes states that looking back, he’s more concerned with the “difference he made to the thousands of people that work with [him] and that flourished for what they were, regardless of their background or life choices.”
6. Jason Collins
Jason Collins revolutionized the sports world after he became the first openly gay athlete on any U.S. professional sports team to publically come out. Since coming out in May 2013, Collins has become a trailblazer for LGBT athletes everywhere. Fellow NBA star Kobe Bryant, President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle, and corporate sponsor Nike have all commended Collins for his bravery and willingness to be honest with his teammates and his fans. The day the online Sports Illustrated article was posted announcing his coming-out, the periodical experienced a record 3.713 million individual visitors to its website. Collins became a part of another milestone as he recently signed with the Nets, making him the first publicly openly-gay athlete to play on any U.S. professional sports team. In honor of Matthew Shepard’s death in 1998 that was a result his homosexuality, Collins chose #98 to wear on the back of his jersey. If that wasn’t commemorative enough, the NBA announced that all proceeds from his jersey sales will benefit the Gay, Lesbian, & Straight Education Network and the Matthew Shepard Foundation.
So, how do these #ProudToBe leaders that are on the cutting-edge of progress inspire you? Or, what about anyone not on this list? Let the community know below!
Happy Pride Month!