LGBT History Month 2023 October 26 – 31

October 26: André Leon Talley FASHION JOURNALIST

b. October 16, 1948

d. January 18, 2022


 “I scorched the earth with my talent, and I let my light shine.”

He was the first Black person to serve as creative director of U.S. Vogue.

André Leon Talley was an extravagant, trailblazing fashion journalist and pop culture icon. He rose through the ranks of an elitist, historically white industry to become the creative director and editor at large at Vogue magazine. He was the first Black person ever to do so.

Talley’s path to fashion-industry legend was far from typical. Growing up in the segregated South, he was raised by his grandmother, who worked as a cleaning lady. He credited her with his earliest understanding of style—watching her, with her gloves and blue-rinsed hair, meticulously ready herself for church. When Talley was 9, he discovered Vogue at the library. As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, he found his passion and escape on its glossy pages.

After earning a master’s degree in French literature on a scholarship from Brown University, Talley began his career as an unpaid intern for fashion journalist Diana Vreeland. She found him a position at Andy Warhol’s Factory and at Interview magazine. He subsequently wrote for publications like Women’s Wear Daily, Ebony, and The New York Times.

Talley made his greatest mark at Vogue, where he started in 1983, first as fashion news director and later as creative director. He worked for W in Paris before returning to Vogue as editor at large, a position he held until 2013. He pushed for greater Black representation on the runway, on title pages, and in stories, and helped advance the careers of Black designers and models. During his tenure, Naomi Campbell became one of the first Black models to appear on a Vogue cover, and he and Karl Lagerfeld famously featured her in a quirky Vanity Fair photo homage to the classic film “Gone with the Wind.”

Described as “larger than life,” the exuberant 6-foot-6-inch tall Talley—frequently seen sporting a cape—cut a striking figure. He kept company with top designers, whom he impressed with his outsize talent, astute observations, and scholarly knowledge of French fashion history. He came to embody the idea of fashion itself, making guest appearances on shows such as “Sex and City” and “Empire.” He wrote multiple memoirs, curated exhibitions, and became a stylist for, and friend of, the Obamas. Asked about his sexual orientation, he once replied, “I’m not heterosexual. I’m saying I’m fluid in my sexuality, darling.”

Talley died from complications of a heart attack and COVID-19. His death was met with an outpouring of tributes from Anna Wintour, Tyra Banks, Marc Jacobs, Michelle Obama, and countless other famous friends and admirers.


b. February 21, 1956


“Trust your crazy ideas. If we always listened to the world that told us we She is a renowned couldn’t do it, we wouldn’t.”

She is renowned for engineering the first bio-artificial beating mammalian heart—a heart replacement made from specialized stem cells and natural structures.

Doris Taylor, Ph.D., is a cutting-edge researcher in the field of cardiovascular regenerative medicine. She is renowned for engineering the first bio-artificial beating mammalian heart—a heart replacement made from specialized stem cells and natural structures.

Taylor was born in San Francisco and moved to Europe with her family when she was 2. After her father died of cancer, they moved to Columbus, Mississippi, her mother’s childhood home. Taylor’s twin brother suffered from cerebral palsy and schizophrenia. Her father and brother’s illnesses inspired her to pursue a career helping others.

Taylor attended Mississippi University for Women, where she studied biology and physical sciences in a pre-med program. In her senior year, she fell in love with her roommate. The dean accused them of being lesbians and called their parents. Prevented from returning to campus for an extended period, Taylor ultimately failed her senior classes, excluding her from medical school.

Despite her devastating experience with discrimination and feelings of failure, Taylor eventually earned a doctorate in pharmacology from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. Thereafter, she worked at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, where she began her tissue-engineering research.

In 2008, leading a team of researchers at the University of Minnesota, Taylor used stem cells to engineer a beating rat heart and published a paper detailing the work. It was hailed as a landmark scientific breakthrough. By the time she was the director of regenerative medicine research at the Texas Heart institute, she had developed more than 100 of these biological “ghost hearts,” including nearly human-sized, derived from pigs.

Taylor is credited with many significant scientific breakthroughs. More than 200 prestigious journals have published her papers. She holds numerous patents and patent applications and has received myriad leadership and faculty appointments and awards. The American Heart Association named her work among the Top 10 Research Advances. She serves as a frequent keynote speaker and has been featured on the PBS “NOVA” series, the Discovery Channel, “60 Minutes,” CNN, and in countless other media.

Taylor is also a lifelong activist. During the AIDS crisis, she helped start the first buddy program, wrote the first brochure on gays and lesbians donating blood, and lectured on safe sex practices. She has advocated for the rights of individuals with HIV, among other social justice issues.

Taylor has founded several bioengineering firms dedicated to heart repair, including Organamet Bio, where she serves as CEO. Her goal is the eventual development of individually customized human heart replacements using patients’ own stem cells.

October 28: Evelyn Thomas U.S. MILITARY ACTIVIST

b. June 30, 1968


“Character is not bought or earned; it is lived.”

Her protest focused national attention on the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

Corporal Evelyn Thomas is a former marine and the founder of the Sanctuary Project for Veterans. As one of the “White House Six,” she was arrested for chaining herself to the White House fence in peaceful protest over the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

Raised by a struggling single mother, Thomas often did her homework by candlelight when her mother couldn’t pay the electric bill. She learned about the Civil Rights Movement and the philosophy of nonviolent resistance from her mother. Thomas came out to her when she was 17. Months later, in 1986, Thomas joined the National Guard with her mother’s authorization. She was not yet old enough to enlist on her own. The National Guard transferred her to the Marine Corps to serve her five-year commitment.

Thomas was stationed at Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, California. She was outed by a fellow Marine who discovered a letter from her mother mentioning a woman Thomas was dating. The letter made its way to Thomas’s commanding officer. Despite being a model cadet, she was laughed at, arrested by military police, and isolated. The Marines discharged her in 1991, under the national ban on gays and lesbians in the military.

Thomas subsequently enrolled in college. She earned her master’s degree and found a job as a high school teacher.

In 1994 the Clinton administration instituted “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT),” a policy permitting gays and lesbians to serve in the military if they kept their sexuality secret. A stop-gap compromise intended to end the official ban on LGBT service members, it created problems of its own.

In 2009, after the murder of August Provost, an African-American Navy seaman who was suspected of being gay, Thomas became an activist. She established the Sanctuary Project for Veterans (SPV) to offer a refuge and confidential services for LGBTQ people serving “silently” under DADT.

In 2010 Thomas and five other military activists chained themselves to the White House fence to protest DADT and were arrested. Although civil disobedience was a difficult decision, Thomas felt strongly motivated, especially to protect women of color, who were disproportionately silenced and sexually coerced because of the policy.

Thomas’s efforts, along with those of other activists, led to the abolishment of DADT in 2011. She was invited to witness President Obama signing the repeal. At the ceremony, she asked the president, “May I hug you on behalf of all the women of color impacted by DADT?” The two embraced.

Thomas is married. She is an openly gay educator who works to eliminate homophobia in schools.

October 29: Mpho Tutu van Furth SOUTH AFRICAN ANGLICAN PRIEST

b. 1963


“God challenges us to love those with whom we don’t agree.”

She is an internationally respected priest, author, and human rights activist.

The Reverend Mpho Tutu van Furth is a South African cleric, author, and activist. A leading human rights advocate and proponent of forgiveness, she was barred from preaching by the Anglican Church of South Africa after she married a woman.

Tutu van Furth is the daughter of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Nobel Prize-winning humanitarian and anti-apartheid activist. She was in her 30s when apartheid ended.

Growing up, Tutu van Furth had no interest in joining the clergy. Years of exposure to religious diversity finally inspired her to explore her own faith. At age 40, she received a Master of Divinity from Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

In 2004 Tutu van Furth began her ordained priesthood at Historic Christ Episcopal Church in Alexandria, Virginia. In 2005 she founded and became executive director of the Tutu Institute for Prayer and Pilgrimage, which provides spiritual renewal for people of faith and faith seekers. She collaborated on several books, including “Made for Goodness: And Why This Makes All the Difference” (2010), which she co-authored with her father, and “Tutu: The Authorised Portrait” (2011), with Allister Sparks, which chronicles her father’s life and accomplishments.

In 2011 Tutu van Furth moved back to South Africa, where she became executive director of the Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation. In South Africa she met Marceline van Furth, a Dutch visiting professor of pediatric infectious diseases. When they developed a romance, Tutu prayed about it and concluded, “If this is love, then it’s love.”

After her housekeeper was murdered in 2012, Tutu van Furth spoke publicly about her difficult journey to forgive the killer. In 2014 she published “The Book of Forgiving: The Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and Our World.”

When Tutu married van Furth in 2015, the Anglican Church of South Africa revoked her clerical license. As the daughter of a venerated archbishop who campaigned for LGBTQ equality and women’s ordination, Tutu van Furth was deeply hurt. She and her wife moved to the Netherlands, where Tutu was free to preach.

As a religious leader, human rights advocate, and champion of mercy, Tutu van Furth is a celebrated speaker. She has shared the stage with influential figures, such as the 14th Dalai Lama and the spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle. Among many other initiatives, she advocated for forgiveness in the wake of racial tensions and police shootings in the United States. She produced the 2021 documentary “Mission: Joy – Finding Happiness in Troubled Times.”

Tutu van Furth preaches at Vriburj Church in Amsterdam. She and her wife have four children.

October 30: Samira Wiley EMMY-WINNING ACTOR

b. April 15, 1987


“There’s some little girl out there watching [me] who can think differently about herself.”

She is best recognized for her roles in the TV series “Orange Is the New Black” and “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

Samira Wiley is an Emmy Award-winning actor and activist best known for her roles as Poussey Washington in “Orange Is the New Black” and Moira in “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

Wiley was born and raised in Washington, D.C. She credits her parents for her social conscience and moral compass. As preachers in a Baptist church, they were among the first to perform same-sex marriages, despite losing half their congregation because of it. Her parents were clear about taking a social stand, especially in the seat of federal government. Wiley came out to them when she was about 20.

Wiley was interested in acting as a child. As she neared graduation from her performing arts high school, she auditioned for multiple acting conservatories and was rejected by all of them. After Wiley attended one semester at Temple University, her mother convinced her to give Juilliard another try. She auditioned again and was accepted.

At Juilliard, a friend and writer for a new Netflix series, “Orange Is the New Black,” told Wiley about the project. When Wiley discovered that a classmate had won a part, she secured an audition for the role of Poussey Washington, a lesbian prison inmate. Convinced the character resided in her somewhere, Wiley determinedly landed the role.

Praised for her powerful on-screen presence and ability to carry the audience through the full spectrum of emotions, Wiley became a fan favorite. Poussey was written as a recurring character in the show’s first two seasons and elevated to a main character in season three. Wiley’s portrayal of the strong, bright, sensitive Poussey has inspired countless Black, queer, low-income, incarcerated, or otherwise marginalized women who saw themselves represented in a hit TV series for the first time. The character died in the penultimate episode of the show’s fourth season.

Wiley went on to star as another courageous gay character, Moira, in the award-winning dystopian television series “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Despite her initial concerns about typecasting, Wiley took the role because of Moira’s fully realized character and the importance of strong queer Black female representation. Her widely praised performance earned her an Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

Wiley has followed in her parents’ activist footsteps. The Human Rights Campaign presented her with a Visibility Award in 2015, and she has worked as a spokesperson for GLAAD. Her active social media presence affirms Black, LGBTQ, and gender-nonconforming youth.

In 2017, Wiley married Lauren Morelli, a writer for “Orange Is the New Black.” They have one child.


b. November 5, 1968


“You can choose not to be interested in politics, but you can’t choose to be unaffected by it.”

Penny Wong is the Australian minister for foreign affairs and leader of the government in the Senate. A respected force in Australian politics, she is the first Asian Australian and first LGBTQ person to hold the office.

Wong was born in Malaysia to an Australian mother and a Malaysian father. When she was 8, her family moved to Australia. She quickly realized that race factored into other people’s perceptions of her. She attended the University of Adelaide, where she studied arts and law. She joined the Australian Labor Party (ALP) as a student and led protests over planned changes to university funding.

After she graduated in 1992, Wong worked for a furniture industry union. She campaigned for better working conditions and wages for its members, especially underpaid immigrant women.

Wong served as an adviser on forest policy to the New South Wales Labor Government and practiced law before she was elected to the Senate in 2001. She was reelected four times: in 2007, 2013, 2016, and 2022.

After the election of ALP Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in 2007, Wong was appointed minister of climate change and water. In this role, she significantly expanded the country’s Renewable Energy Target, driving increased investment in wind and solar power. She represented Australia in international climate negotiations and developed the government’s carbon emissions trading scheme to reduce greenhouse gases.

In 2010 Senator Wong was appointed minister for finance and deregulation. She has delivered three budgets in the wake of the Global Financial Crisis and implemented a policy to promote gender equality at the senior level in public- and private-sector workplaces.

Wong became leader of the government in the Senate in 2013. After the next election, she was appointed leader of the opposition in the Senate, making her the first woman to perform both these roles. Wong made history again in 2022, when she was appointed minister for foreign affairs. She is the first Asian Australian and first LGBTQ person to hold this position.

Soon after she was sworn in, Wong visited New Zealand and other Pacific Island nations to emphasize cooperation on climate, regional Indo-Pacific, and indigenous issues. An Australian household name, Wong is praised as an effective politician.

A 2019 poll by The Australia Institute found Wong to be the most trusted federal legislator in the country.

Wong lives in Adelaide, Australia, with her partner and their two daughters. Copyright © 2023 – A Project of Equality Forum