Role models. They’re so important, aren’t they? And we all have them – one or two or three or more people we admire, people whose lives and accomplishments we would like to emulate. I have a BUNCH of role models. And today I’d like to talk about my role models from the LGBTQ+ community!
One of the reasons queer visibility is so important is that it allows LGBTQ+ youth to… to put a face on their future, as it were. It’s important for us to see LGBTQ+ adults both in our everyday lives and in the media. We need people who we can point to and say, “That’s it. That’s who I want to be. I want to do what they’re doing.”
I’m guessing that probably every queer kid has straight role models – I know I do – but for kids like us, there’s something special about queer role models. They come from similar backgrounds, have faced similar hurdles, et cetera. When they talk (or write) about growing up queer, I can relate to that. And when they talk about becoming successful in [insert chosen career here] despite all the setbacks, despite all the people who still don’t want to see LGBTQ+ people succeed, I feel less worried about my own future.
So without further ado, here are some of my LGBTQ+ role models.
Laverne Cox is probably my biggest role model! She’s a trans actress famous for her work on Orange is the New Black, which I… still haven’t seen. (I will eventually!) So I’m not particularly familiar with her acting, but I looooooove her activist work. She’s an AWESOME FEMINIST and frequently talks about intersectionality – how race, gender, sexual orientation, et cetera relate to and impact one another. I want to do volunteer activist work someday, and I’d like to help lots of people like she does.
She speaks at a lot of colleges, LGBTQ+ events, et cetera and I hope to meet her someday!(And when I do, I will quite literally stare up at her in awe, because I am a shrimpy 5’0″ and she is a majestic 5’11”. Apparently.)
Malinda Lo is another HUGELY IMPORTANT role model of mine: She’s a writer! Originally she worked in journalism – including a stint at AfterEllen, a queer women’s website that I love – and now she writes YA novels! ASDKFLSLFKJSJSDFL THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT I WANT TO DO WITH MY LIFE.
Orphu @ A Mirror Made of Words recommended her books to me, a fact for which I am eternally grateful. And I fell in love with those books. Ash was the first one I read; it’s a lesbian retelling of “Cinderella” and the BEST fairy tale retelling I have ever ever ever read. (It was so beautiful and sweet!) I also loved her dystopian fiction duology: Adaptation and Inheritance. (Aliens! Government conspiracies! Bisexual protagonists! Well-written love triangles!) I still haven’t read Huntress, the prequel to Ash, but I’m saving that one for a rainy day BECAUSE I JUST CAN’T BEAR TO FINISH THEM ALL AND THEN NOT HAVE ANYTHING NEW TO READ.
Basically her books are exactly the kind of stories that I myself would like to write.
Emily M. Danforth and Lev AC Rosen aren’t as well-known, but that doesn’t stop me from fangirling about their books, like, a ridiculous amount. Danforth wrote my FAVORITEST BOOK OF ALL TIME, The Miseducation of Cameron Post, which is about a teenage lesbian who’s sent off to “conversion therapy” in order to make her straight. Aaaand… she hasn’t published anything else yet, unfortunately, but I’ve heard that she’s working on a new book?
Rosen’s first novel – the only one I’ve yet read, actually – is All Men of Genius, a gloriously steampunk retelling of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest and Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. It has a few queer characters, and a LOT of gender-bending. The story is aimed at adults, but I think it works well as YA too. His latest books, published just this year, are Depth (a post-apocalyptic story set in underwater New York City after the polar ice caps melted) and Woundabout (a middle-grade fantasy novel).
These authors gave me wonderful stories, and they also have quite an influence on my future plans. I read their books right around the time I was beginning to consider different universities, and now I think I might want to go on to grad school after college and earn an MFA. (AKA Master of Fine Arts.) Danforth has an MFA in Fiction, and Rosen has one in Creative Writing and… gosh, their writing is so good so I’m guessing that degree must’ve made a huge impact? I wasn’t aware that one could earn further writing degrees until I read their author bios at the back of their books, so THANK YOU for introducing me to that possibility.
Some of my role models have – or had, actually, since three of the five people listed below are deceased – different careers than the one I have in mind for myself, but I still really really admire them. Because I’m mildly interested in the subjects they devoted their lives to, I guess? Because they were some of the best in their field, and I have a lot of respect for that even though I don’t want their jobs?
Anyway. One of them is Alan Turing, a British mathematician and cryptographer who was posthumously knighted for his work in WWII. (The Nazi code, Enigma? He helped to to decipher it, which shortened the war by an estimated two years or more. NEEEEEERD.) There will be an entire post about Turing sometime later this month, because he was awesome.
Another science-y role model is Sally Ride. My brother and I were obsessed with astronauts and outer space when we were really little, and I always thought she was SO COOL for being the first woman astronaut. It… really meant a lot to me to find out she was queer – she came out in her obituary – because it’s not easy to be a scientist if you’re female and/or LGBTQ+. Oh, and she started Sally Ride Science, an organization that promotes STEM education for youth, along with her girlfriend! THAT IS SO ADORABLE AND GEEKY AAAAAAH LIFE GOALS TBH.
Harvey Milk is also one of my role models. He was a politician in San Francisco during the 1970s, and was responsible for creating that city’s first LGBTQ+ rights ordinance.
Ugh, and now I feel bummed because those three people all died quite young – forty-one, sixty-one, and forty-eight, respectively – and it just makes me wonder… how much more could they have contributed to society? But I’ll try to look on the bright side: What they did accomplish during their lifetime was enormous.
…so! Let’s end this post on a high note! My final LGBTQ+ role models are Angel Haze and Mary Lambert, who are very much alive! Yay! Haze is a pansexual agender rapper, and OMG I LOVE THEIR MUSIC. I’m so impressed by their talent and accomplishments – at twenty-two, they’re only a few years older than me. I’m particularly fond of their song “Battle Cry.”
Lambert, meanwhile, is a lesbian singer-songwriter… who shares an interesting connection with Haze! Mary Lambert is best known for her collaboration with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis on “Same Love,” and then Angel Haze covered that song! And personally, I think Haze’s version is so much better… but this isn’t a dig at Mary Lambert! This is a dig at Macklemore for all the crappy “ally” things he’s done (and continues to do). Lambert’s solo work is OUTSTANDING; I just think “Same Love” is overrated and doesn’t have nearly as much depth as any LGBTQ+ themed song written by, you know, an actual LGBTQ+ person.
If you would like to learn more about any of the aforementioned people, check out these links! Some of them are my very own blog posts, other links lead to the individual’s personal website, and so on and so forth. Enjoy!
This post was a giant heartfelt THANK-YOU LETTER to those nine individuals for all they have done to inspire, encourage, and motivate me – in any way, however indirectly. But now it’s your turn: Who are your queer role models?
(…feel free to answer this question regardless of your gender identity and/or sexual orientation! I’m curious about which, if any, queer role models straight people have.)