For LGBTQ+ people, there is so much to be said for the importance of representation – seeing yourself, your love, your gender reflected in the media and society around you. But just as important as seeing yourself on screen is the work that goes on behind it, often unacknowledged: the tireless grassroots activism of many campaigners to bring legislative change that improves the rights and lives of LGBTQ+ people.
For International Women's Day, we wanted to shine a light on just some of the women who are maybe not as famous as Ellen DeGeneres or Lena Waithe but have made history for the LGBTQ+ community off screen. They fought (and continue to fight) homophobic and transphobic societies by working to change policies, carving out space for underrepresented members of the community or undergoing pioneering surgeries. These legal shifts and acts of defiance to institutionalised queerphobia are how we reached a point where same-sex marriage is legal in 28 countries around the world. However, there are 55 countries where there is no protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation, and 70 countries where consensual same-sex sexual acts between adults is criminalised. We still have so, so far to go.
This is only a snapshot of the momentous women who have worked and continue to work to improve the lives of LGBTQ+ people, and is by no means exhaustive. They are women fighting in different ways, in their native cultures, towards one common goal: a world where LGBTQ+ people have their freedom and human rights protected and respected.