October 6: Roxane Gay BEST SELLING AUTHOR
b. October 15, 1974
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“If people cannot be flawed in fiction, there’s no place left for us to be human.”
She is a best-selling author and the first Black woman to write for Marvel Comics.
Roxane Gay is a cultural critic and a best-selling author and editor. She has served as a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, The Guardian, Salon, and Rumpus, and her work has appeared in countless other periodicals. She was the first Black woman to write for Marvel Comics.
Gay was born in Omaha, Nebraska, and spent her childhood summers visiting family in Haiti. At age 12, she was raped by a gang of boys. Gay attended Phillips Exeter Academy, one of the most prestigious boarding schools in the country.
She went to Yale University but dropped out at age 19, when she could no longer suppress the trauma of her early sexual assault. Her emotions began to fray, and she abruptly moved to Arizona with a man 25 years her senior.
Her parents located her, and Gay returned to Nebraska, where she earned her master’s degree. She received her Ph.D. in Rhetoric and Technical Communication from Michigan Technological University in 2010 and began teaching English at Eastern Illinois University, while working as a magazine editor. She has since held professorships at Purdue and Yale Universities.
In 2011 Gay published “Ayiti,” her first short story collection. In 2014 she published her debut novel, “An Untamed State,” and an essay collection, “Bad Feminist,” which became a New York Times best seller. From 2015 to 2018, she was a columnist for The Guardian magazine.
In 2016, with help from Yona Harvey, Gay wrote the Marvel Comic series “World of Wakanda.” A spinoff of Black Panther, the series earned praise for its LGBTQ representation.
Gay released her second short story collection, “Difficult Women,” in January 2017. It became a national best seller. Six months later, she published “Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body.” Her second New York Times best seller, the book sparked debate over fatphobia and Gay’s obesity, which she says serves as her “fortress.” She edited the anthology, “Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture,” published in 2018, which includes essays from Gay and 29 other writers.
Gay collaborated with Medium magazine to create Gay Magazine, which debuted in 2019. The same year, TKO Studios published her heist thriller, “The Banks.”
In 2021 Gay launched “The Audacity,” a newsletter and book club featuring work by underrepresented American authors.
She has earned numerous awards, including the Lambda Literary Award for Excellence in Literature and the PEN Center USA Freedom to Write Award. Gay identifies as bisexual.
She is married to Debbie Millman, an artist.
October 7: Lesley Gore SINGER COMPOSER
b. May 2, 1946
d. February 16, 2015
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“I just kind of lived my life naturally and did what I wanted to do.”
She was a national singing and songwriting sensation, best known for her 1960s pop hits.
Lesley Gore was a singer and songwriter, best known for her 1960s pop hits, including “It’s My Party” and “Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows.”
Gore, née Lesley Sue Goldstein, was born in Brooklyn, New York. She grew up in Tenafly, New Jersey, and attended Dwight School for Girls. At age 16, she was discovered by the prominent music producer Quincy Jones.
In 1963 Gore recorded her first and biggest hit, “It’s My Party.” The single quickly went gold, selling more than 500,000 copies. The same year, Gore released her first album, “I’ll Cry If I Want To,” which included other favorites like “Judy’s Turn to Cry.” Her second album followed shortly thereafter. It comprised more big hits, such as “Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows” and the feminist anthem “You Don’t Own Me.”
Gore graduated from high school in 1964 and appeared in the concert film “T.A.M.I. Show,” alongside top artists such as Chuck Berry, Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, and The Beach Boys. In 1965 she performed three songs in the movie “The Girls on the Beach.”
Gore studied literature at Sarah Lawrence College. She graduated in 1968. Although she had signed a five-year contract with Mercury Records that was extended for a sixth year (through 1969), rock music had begun to dominate the airways. By then, her songs had stopped selling as well.
After her contract with Mercury Records ended, she signed with MoWest records. She released her first album in a half decade, but it did poorly. In 1980 she composed songs for the film “Fame,” including the Academy Award-nominated “Out Here on My Own.”
Gore co-wrote the song “My Secret Love” for the 1996 film “Grace of My Heart,” about a closeted lesbian singer. It was loosely based on her life. Throughout 2003, Gore served as a recurring host of the LGBTQ public television newsmagazine “In the Life.”
In 2005 Gore came out publicly on “AfterEllen” and disclosed that she had been in a relationship with Lois Sasson, a jewelry designer, since 1982. Although Gore never tried to hide her sexuality, she said she had not advertised it, due to the music industry’s homophobia.
During her career, Gore released 12 albums, composed music for numerous productions, and appeared in films, documentaries, and television episodes. She has been praised as a feminist and LGBTQ rights activist.
Gore died of lung cancer at age 68, just a few months before her wedding to Sasson. The couple set the date immediately after same-sex marriage was legalized. They had been together for 33 years.
October 8: Miss Major Griffin-Gracy EARLY TRANSGENDER ACTIVIST
b. October 25, 1940
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“I’d like for young transgender people to go to school, learn like everyone else does, and then get out there and live their lives.”
She is a lifelong LGBTQ activist who participated in the seminal Stonewall Uprising.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy is a lifelong LGBTQ activist. She participated in the seminal Stonewall Uprising in 1969. She assisted infected people during the AIDS crisis in the 1980s, and she has been advocating for trans women of color, particularly those who have survived incarceration in men’s prisons, for more than four decades.
Assigned male at birth, Griffin-Gracy was raised in the South Side of Chicago. As a teen, she met an older drag queen who taught her how to dress and apply cosmetics. Griffin-Gracy attended drag balls and immersed herself in drag culture. She gradually came out to her family but continued to present herself publicly as a male.
At age 16, Griffin-Gracy enrolled in college and lived in the men’s dorm. She was outed by her roommate, after he discovered her women’s clothing, and expelled. Her attempt at college elsewhere ended similarly. She moved to New York at age 22, where she earned money as a drag performer and sex worker.
In the 1960s, police raids of drag shows and other gay hangouts were commonplace. A regular at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, Griffin-Gracy was arrested on June 28, 1969—the first night of the historic Stonewall Riots—when she joined other patrons fighting police who stormed the bar. A year later, while working as a prostitute, she was arrested and incarcerated for robbing a customer. She spent five years in and out of prisons, where she was humiliated and abused. The experience motivated her to help other trans women in trouble.
After her release, Griffin-Gracy entered a relationship with a cisgender woman. They had a son together and moved to San Diego in 1978. After they broke up, Griffin-Gracy continued to co-parent their child.
In California, Griffin-Gracy worked with a food bank, helping trans women who were incarcerated, homeless, or suffering from addiction. At the height of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s and ’90s, she assisted community members at the Tenderloin AIDS Resource Center.
Around 2004 Griffin-Gracy joined the Transgender Gender-Variant & Intersex Justice Project (TGIJP) to assist incarcerated trans women. She later became its executive director. In 2019 she founded House of GG, a sanctuary offering a range of services for trans and gender-nonconforming people.
Griffin-Gracy has received numerous honors and is the subject of the award-winning documentary “Major!” (2015). She co-authored “Miss Major Speaks: Conversations with a Black Trans Revolutionary,” published in 2023. She and her partner, Beck Witt, a trans man and fellow activist, have a 2-year-old biological son. They live in Arkansas.
October 9: Brittney Griner WNBA SUPERSTAR
b. October 18, 1990
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“Don’t worry about what other people are going to say … if you’re just true to yourself, let that shine through.”
She is one of the greatest female professional basketball players of all time.
Brittney Griner is a seven-time WNBA All-Star, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, and an LGBTQ advocate. She ranks among the greatest women’s basketball players of all time. After her highly publicized imprisonment in Russia, she vowed to help other Americans detained abroad.
Griner was born in Houston, Texas. She showed tremendous aptitude for basketball early on. During her junior year of high school, a YouTube compilation of her extraordinary dunks amassed almost seven million views.
Griner shattered records and steered her high school team to the Texas 5A girls’ basketball state championship. She was selected for the 2009 WBCA High School All-America team, and the mayor of Houston named May 7, 2009, “Brittney Griner Day.”
Griner accepted a basketball scholarship to Baylor University. She set multiple records, becoming one of the best shot blockers in the history of the women’s game. In 2012 she led Baylor to a perfect 40-0 season (a first for any college basketball team) and an NCAA title. She received both the Naismith and Wooden Awards and was named the AP Player of the Year, among other honors.
In 2013 the Phoenix Mercury drafted Griner. That same year, she came out publicly as a lesbian and was named a WNBA All-Star. In 2014 she helped the Mercury win the WNBA finals—their third time ever—and became the first out gay athlete to receive a Nike endorsement deal. She also released her memoir, “In My Skin: My Life On and Off the Basketball Court,” written with Sue Hovey, describing her struggles as an African-American lesbian.
In 2015 Griner married fellow player Glory Johnson. A month before, they were both arrested for a domestic dispute and suspended for seven games. They divorced after a year.
In 2019 Griner married Cherelle Watson and played for a sixth time on the WNBA All-Star team. In 2016 and again in 2021, she played on the U.S. women’s Olympic basketball team and won the gold both times.
Like many other WNBA players, Griner sought supplemental income in the off-season playing overseas. In February 2022, authorities in a Russian airport discovered a vape cartridge for prescription cannabis in her luggage. She was arrested on alleged drug smuggling charges and sentenced her to nine years in a penal colony. After unrelenting pressure, President Biden secured Griner’s release in December 2022 in a one-forone prisoner swap.
In 2023 TIME magazine named Griner to its list of 100 most influential people. She lives with her wife in Arizona and continues to play for the Phoenix Mercury. She is one of the greatest female professional basketball players of all time. “Don’t worry about what other people are going to say … if you’re just true to yourself, let that shine through.”
October 10: Maura Healey GOVERNOR OF MASSACHUSETTS
b. February 8, 1971
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“I hope as governor I can make sure that I’m leading the fight against bigotry and discrimination”
She is the first female and first openly lesbian governor of Massachusetts.
Maura Healey is a trailblazing American politician. Previously the first out LGBTQ state attorney general in the United States, she became the first female and first openly lesbian governor of Massachusetts in 2023.
Healey grew up in Hampton Falls, New Hampshire, the eldest of five siblings. She attended Harvard University, where she majored in government and captained the women’s basketball team. After graduating cum laude, she played professional basketball in Australia for two years.
Healy returned to the U.S. and earned her Juris Doctor in 1998 from Northeastern University School of Law. She clerked for a U.S. district court judge in Massachusetts and worked for various law firms before serving as a special assistant district attorney. In 2007 she was named chief of the Civil Rights Division under Massachusetts Atty. Gen. Martha Coakley. During her tenure, Healey led and won the state’s lawsuit challenging the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which banned same-sex marriage.
Healy announced her candidacy for Massachusetts attorney general in 2013. She won the Democratic primary handily, securing key endorsements, and defeated her Republican rival by a landslide in 2014. The victory made Healey the nation’s first openly lesbian state attorney general.
Healey was re-elected in 2018. Her agenda included suing Purdue Pharma over OxyContin and Exxon Mobil over climate-change issues.
In 2022 Healey entered the Massachusetts gubernatorial race. She swept the primaries, winning the endorsement of prominent politicians, most notably Vice President Kamala Harris. She went on to trounce the Trumpendorsed Republican nominee, returning the office to the Democrats. The historic election made Healey Massachusetts’ first female and first out lesbian governor. Her victory also broke the state’s “curse of the attorney general.” During the previous 65 years, six AGs before her had run for governor and lost. Healy and Oregon’s Tina Kotek, who assumed office at the same time, became the first two openly gay elected female governors in America.
Healey feels a particular responsibility to support LGBTQ youth, with whom she periodically played basketball along the campaign trail for governor. She has fought for the rights of women and the LGBTQ community throughout her career. Among other initiatives, she is committed to protecting the right to safe and legal abortion and to gender-affirming care for trans kids.
Healey is in a relationship with Joanna Lydgate, her former deputy AG. The couple lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She is the first female and first openly lesbian governor of Massachusetts. Maura Healey b. February 8, 1971 “I hope as governor I can make sure that I’m leading the fight against bigotry and discrimination.”
October 11 Jazmine Hughes WRITER & EDITOR
b. October 25, 1991
© EARL WILSON WRITER & EDITOR
“When I came out … I delightedly rediscovered the new me over and over again.”
She is a highly successful associate editor and writer at The New York Times.
Jazmine Hughes is a highly successful young associate editor and writer at The New York Times and has contributed to numerous other publications, including Elle, Cosmopolitan, and the New Yorker. She draws on her experience as a queer woman of color to pen perceptive, quick-witted observations that are equal parts unique and relatable.
Hughes grew up in New Haven, Connecticut. She was homeschooled with her four sisters until fifth grade. Her journalism career began at Connecticut College, where she studied government and creative writing. She joined the student newspaper during her freshman year and worked her way up, becoming the editor in chief in her senior year. From 2011 to 2012, she landed editorial internships at New York magazine and the New Haven Register and earned a certificate in publishing from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
Hughes found her first job as a fact-checker for New York magazine. She was one of only two Black employees. She began writing, and in 2014 became a contributing editor for The Hairpin, a women’s blog. The Huffington Post named one of her blog commentaries among the 28 pieces from 2014 that every woman should read.
Hughes’s work garnered praise for its accessibility, poignancy, and humor. She earned particular attention for writing about her experience with impostor syndrome. To increase visibility and opportunities for professionals like herself, she cofounded the website Writers of Color, a database of minority writers and their work, searchable by location and keywords.
In March 2015, The New York Times hired Hughes as an associate editor. A few years later, she came out at the age of 26. In October 2019, Vogue featured her personal essay as part of its collection, “On Coming Out, Slow and Not Always Steady: 6 Stories.” In it, Hughes wrote: “I delightedly rediscovered the new me over and over again. I wanted to change the way I dressed and the way I smelled and the way I carried myself; I needed everyone to treat me exactly the same and yet entirely differently.”
Praising her as an “innovative editor” and a “gifted writer,” The New York Times made Hughes a full-time metro reporter for the paper and a staff writer for the magazine in 2020.
Among other recognition, Hughes was named to the Forbes list of 30 Under 30 (in the media) in 2018. She received the ASME NEXT Award for Journalists Under 30 in 2020 and the National Magazine Award for profile writing in 2023.
October 12 Eddie Izzard BRITISH COMEDIAN & ACTOR
b. February 7, 1962
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“Comedy is a great weapon of attack.”
Her breakout U.S. comedy show won two Emmy Awards.
Eddie (a.k.a. Suzy) Izzard is an award-winning British comedian, actor, and philanthropist. Hailed as the foremost comic of a generation, she is known for her surreal, meandering monologues.
Izzard was born male in Aden, Yemen, to English parents. The family moved to Northern Ireland before settling in Wales. When Izzard was 6, her mother died of cancer.
Izzard studied drama at the University of Sheffield. She knew she was gender-fluid as a youngster and identifies “broadly” as transgender. She came out at age 23 and began cross-dressing in public. Always switching personas, Izzard adopted female pronouns permanently in 2020.
After university, Izzard worked in comedy clubs and as a street performer. Her breakthrough came in 1991, performing as part of “Hysteria 3,” a televised AIDS fundraiser at the London Palladium. In 1993 she booked the Ambassadors Theatre in London for a one-person show. It earned her a British Comedy Award for Best Live Stand-up Comedian.
Izzard launched a second successful show in 1994 and staged an award-winning third show in 1995 that toured major cities outside the UK. Her U.S. break came with “Eddie Izzard: Dress to Kill” (1999), which aired on HBO and earned her two Emmys. She has performed overseas in French and German, which she speaks fluently.
Izzard’s extensive body of work includes more than 30 films and numerous television and theater shows. She made her movie debut in 1995 and performed alongside Bob Hoskins and Robin Williams in the dramatic thriller “The Secret Agent” in 1996. Her subsequent films include “The Avengers,” “Oceans Twelve,” and “Victoria & Abdul,” for which she gained 26 pounds and was virtually unrecognizable as Prince Bertie of Wales.
As a voice actor, Izzard has performed in animated films such as “Cars 2” and “The Lego Batman Movie.” Her stage credits include the title roles in “Edward II” and “Lenny.” She was nominated for a Tony for her leading role in the Broadway revival of “A Day in the Death of Joe Egg.”
Izzard has raised millions of dollars for Sports Relief, a UK charity that aids vulnerable people worldwide. An endurance athlete, she ran 43 marathons in 51 days throughout the UK and 27 marathons in 27 days across South Africa. She is also a major donor to the British Labor Party.
Among other awards, Izzard received the Annual Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism, presented at Harvard University. She is the subject of a documentary and the author of a New York Times best-selling memoir.
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