Many people have served as trailblazers for their efforts regarding the rights and recognition of LGBTQ+ people across the country and the world. Due to those efforts, scores of individuals no longer feel as though they are relegated to the shadows for fear of being uniquely them. The following are some who have contributed heavily to LGBTQ+ causes.

Marsha P. Johnson. Marsha P. Johnson became a significant figure in LGBTQ+ and AIDS activism in the 1960s and 1970s. During her lifetime, “transgender” wasn’t the term of choice, but today she would be considered as such. Together with friend Sylvia Rivera, Johnson founded S.T.A.R. (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries) to give resources and shelter to LGBTQ+ homeless youth. Johnson also marched as part of the Gay Liberation Front in response to the Stonewall Riots. Johnson died in 1992 from an apparent suicide, but her closest friends felt something was amiss. Johnson’s life is chronicled in the 2017 Netflix show, “The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson.”

Laverne Cox. Laverne Cox is a household name thanks to her role on the popular series “Orange is the New Black.” She is the first openly transgender person to earn a primetime Emmy nomination and to appear on the cover of Time magazine. She also is the first African American transgender woman to star and produce her own TV show. Cox is a strong presence on social media and serves as inspiration for the transgender community.

Edith Windsor. In 2015, the United States Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage is a constitutional right. The scores of people who are now able to legally marry can thank Edith Windsor for that opportunity. Windsor married Thea Spyer in Canada in 2007. When Spyer died, she left all of her money to Windsor, but the United States did not recognize their union. Windsor was asked to pay taxes on Spyer’s estate for an amount beyond what a spouse would typically be required to pay, prompting her to take her case all the way to the Supreme Court. The Court ruled in Windsor’s favor, and two years later, same-sex marriage became federally recognized.

The Fab Five (Queer Eye for the Straight Guy). The “Queer Eye” series originated on Bravo in the early 2000s, bringing together gay-identifying style and fashion experts to provide makeovers for straight men. In the Netflix reboot, Tan France, Jonathan Van Ness, Bobby Berk, Karamo Brown, and Antoni Porowski orchestrate similar makeovers, but also speak openly about their personal struggles and experiences with discrimination and homophobia. The stars use their celebrity to empower other LGBTQ+ individuals.

Sharice Davids. When she was elected to Congress after defeating her Republican opponent, Davids became the first openly LGBTQ+ Kansas citizen elected to Congress. She’s also one of the first two Native American women (a member of the Wisconsin Ho-chunk or Winnebago people) to hold Congressional office.

All of these people are just the tip of the LGBTQ+ advocacy iceberg. Many individuals, perhaps inspired by these brave individuals, continue to blaze new trails for the LGBTQ+ community globally, including in Western New York.