Entertainment Trailblazers in LGBTQ+ Activism

June 9, 2017

The entertainment industry has its share of human rights activists, especially for the LGBTQ+ community. Whether for queer or trans rights, these amazing individuals have stood up for what they believed in. Here are a few entertainment individuals whom the New York Film Academy salutes as pioneers in the field of LGBTQ+ rights.

Ellen DeGeneres

DeGeneres famously came out on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” in 1997 before staging her own coming-out on her sitcom “Ellen.” Her coming-out-of-the-closet episode, entitled “The Puppy Episode,” received some of the show’s highest ratings.

She became the first openly lesbian actress to play an openly lesbian character on television. Since then, DeGeneres has had a hugely successful career, hosting both the Academy Awards and the Grammys as well as her own daytime talk show, “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” She continues to remain a crucial advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016 from Barack Obama.

George Takei

Beloved as “Star Trek’s” Lieutenant Sulu, Takei officially came out in 2005 to oppose then-California governor Arnold Schwarzanegger’s veto of same-sex marriage legislation. Takei’s use of social media — he has over 10 million followers — has made him a pioneer in using Facebook to advance LGBTQ+ rights. Additionally, he is active in state and local politics. In 2014, he won the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD)’s Vito Russo award, given to openly gay media professionals who have made important contributions for the LGBTQ+ community.

Laverne Cox

Transgender actress and comedian Laverne Cox first rose to prominence playing Sophia Burset on Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black.” She became the first openly transgender actress to be nominated for an Emmy in the acting category, as well as the first transgender person to have a wax figure of herself at Madame Tussauds.

In 2017, she became the first transgender actress to play an openly transgender character in CBS’s “Doubt.” Her success and activism has sparked conversations about transgender acceptance.

Parvez Sharma

This New York-based Indian filmmaker became famous in the LGBTQ+ community when he released his documentary “A Jihad for Love,” about gay and lesbian Muslims. He received the GLAAD Media Award in 2009 for his efforts.

A celebrated journalist who commentates frequently on CNBC and MSNBC, Sharma was named “one of the 100 gay men and women who have helped shape our culture during the year” by OUT Magazine in both 2008 and 2015.

Emily Rios

Latino and lesbian actress Emily Rios stars as an openly lesbian character on FX’s “The Bridge.”

“I’m gay, personally, so being Mexican and a lesbian — this is why I love the character because I deal with the same type of things with my own family,” Emily said in an interview. But her character doesn’t just focus on issues surrounding LGBTQ+ rights. “I want it to be an incidental thing, which is what happens in our everyday life.”

How will you be celebrating Pride Month? Let us know in the comments below.