As a playwright, writer and actor, Harvey Fierstein is a pioneer who introduced LGBT characters and stories that knocked down barriers on Broadway and in Hollywood, and also opened the hearts and minds of millions. In 1982, Fierstein wrote and starred in "Torch Song Trilogy," for which he won his first two of four Tony Awards. After breaking new ground on Broadway, "Torch Song Trilogy" became one of the first feature films to feature an openly gay lead character played by an openly gay actor. Fierstein continued to introduce audiences to diverse LGBT people and reinforce a central theme of self-expression with his legendary Broadway hits "La Cage aux Folles," "Kinky Boots," and "Casa Valentina." Fierstein is also beloved for his unforgettable acting roles in films including "Mrs. Doubtfire" and "Independence Day," as well as television appearances on shows including "Nurse Jackie." Fierstein will next reprise his iconic role of Edna Turnblad in NBC's upcoming television special "Hairspray Live!"
The Advocate is a trailblazing publication that was created in 1967 following America's first known riot in protest of LGBT harassment at the Black Cat Tavern in Los Angeles. That year, two and a half years before Stonewall, The Advocate began as a newsletter to inform LGBT citizens of their rights in case of arrest. For the past 49 years, The Advocate has become the LGBT periodical of record – pioneering LGBT journalism with articles written by seasoned LGBT journalists devoted to reporting on issues from a LGBT perspective. During the AIDS epidemic editors worked tirelessly to convince gay and straight celebrities to use the magazine as a vehicle to comfort a readership that one former Editor-In-Chief says was, 'choking on the self-hate most straight institutions were spewing at them about AIDS.' In the early 90s and 2000s – The Advocate was an unwavering platform of LGBT visibility – helping k.d. lang, George Michael, Chaz Bono and Melissa Etheridge come out, while giving icons like Ellen DeGeneres and allies like Hillary Clinton and President Obama an open forum to speak out. Well before every single LGBT social and civil rights victory was fought in the mainstream, it was featured – in depth - within the trailblazing pages of The Advocate.
Billie Jean King
Billie Jean King is not only one of the first prominent professional athletes to be openly lesbian, but is renowned in the tennis world for being one of the greatest to ever play the game. King won 39 Grand Slam singles, doubles and mixed doubles titles and her work to open doors for women and LGBT people made and changed history. In 1972, she became the first woman to be named Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year and was inducted to the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1987. In 2014, President Obama selected Billie Jean King to be a part of the official US Delegation to the Sochi Winter Olympics and she used the platform to speak out against anti-LGBT laws in Russia and around the world. She has been a staunch supporter of the Elton John AIDS Foundation and LPAC, an organization dedicated to increasing the political power of lesbian and queer women. She also founded the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative to inspire a new generation of leaders on issues including diversity and inclusion. In 2009, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest award that can be given to a civilian in the United States, for her work to advocate for equality for women and LGBT people.
Marsha P. Johnson & Sylvia Rivera
Marsha 'Pay It No Mind' Johnson and Sylvia Rivera were two of New York City's earliest and most vocal transgender leaders. They have been identified as some of the first people to fight back in the Stonewall Riots and, in the early 1970s, they co-founded Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR), later renamed Street Transgender Action Revolutionaries. STAR broke down barriers and demanded visibility and equality for transgender and queer people of color not only in mainstream circles, but within the LGBT community at a time when transgender people and people of color were too often relegated to the fringes of the movement. The women also provided food, shelter, and clothing for homeless transgender and queer youth at the shelter they founded, STAR House. Johnson and Rivera marched in the first LGBT Pride March in 1970 and continued to do so together until Marsha's unsolved death in 1992. Before her death, Johnson was a muse for Andy Warhol and a beloved figure in New York's queer community. Rivera continued her fearless advocacy until her passing in 2002. The Sylvia Rivera Law Project, which is dedicated to providing legal support to New York City's transgender people of color and low-income transgender people, was named in her honor. The mark that the two women left on the transgender community, and LGBT community as a whole, will never fade.
Subhi Nahas made history by becoming the first person ever to present eyewitness testimony to the United Nations regarding ISIS persecution of LGBT Iraqis and Syrians. After a childhood friend joined ISIS and called for his murder, Nahas fled Syria and was granted asylum in the United Sates. He now helps other LGBT people in the Middle East earn refugee status and will serve as Grand Marshal of this year's iconic NYC Pride March. During the "Trailblazer Honors," Nahas will speak about building a bridge between LGBT people living in the US and the Middle East.