Meet five LGBTQIA+ leaders who are transforming their communities in creative ways.
These visionaries are unapologetically making safer spaces for LGBTQIA+ people around the country through music, art, politics and activism.
Maebe A. Girl
Maebe A. Girl is the first drag queen elected to public office in the U.S. She currently serves on the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council in Los Angeles.
“Two of my big priorities on the neighborhood council are LGBTQIA+ issues, as well as homelessness issues, here in Los Angeles,” Maebe told In The Know.
While Maebe could have run on her birth name she decided to make a more political choice.
“I decided to run as Maebe A. Girl because I know that I have a more powerful voice when I’m in drag,” she said. “Drag is inherently political. People pay attention to you when you’re in drag.”
After struggling with insecurities as a young man, he learned to shed them on stage.
“Being myself or not being myself doesn’t really feel like a question, it’s a very obvious choice for me and I’ve been very fortunate to express myself. I step out on stage and I become a different person,” Whiteside said.
CJ is a gender creative activist who has accomplished a lot for the LGBTQIA+ community at only 12 years old.
“I [played] an important role in making my school the first of its kind in my district,” CJ told In The Know. “It used to be segregated, this is a boy’s dress code and this is a girl’s. And I made it just one.”
Since CJ led the charge, 26 other schools have joined in creating inclusive dress codes.
“Knowing that I could make a difference, it just feels good to know that I can help someone else,” CJ said. “That’s why I just think it’s so important to give back to the community.”
Jenkins is the vice president of the Minneapolis City Council and the first Black woman who’s openly transgender elected to public office in the U.S.
“There have been news articles all around the world. It creates awareness, it creates an understanding that transgender people are humans,” Jenkins told In The Know.
Jenkins earned 73 percent of the first-choice votes to win her election.
“I get the distinct honor and privilege to lift up the voices of some of the most marginalized people in our culture and society,” Jenkins said.
Big Freedia is a bounce music artist from New Orleans. She has collaborated with Beyoncé, Lizzo, Kesha and RuPaul.
Despite being a pop culture icon today, growing up wasn’t as easy.
“It was really difficult just being black and gay in the neighborhood,” Big Freedia said. “It wasn’t something that was so accepted, family members whispered about it, they had meetings about it saying, ‘Oh, he’s gay.’ You know people in the neighborhood would tease me. I would have to fight.”
For 20 years, Big Freedia has spread New Orleans culture through bounce music, an energetic style of hip-hop with call-and-response lyrics.
“Music is a way to relieve all of that,” Big Freedia said. “Get in the studio, go make a great song. Work with other artists and collaborate. Feels really good though, just being the ambassador of bounce music and to see the culture spread out into the world.”
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