Meet the next batch of queer artists, athletes, activists, and more who will dot the Castro sidewalks in an LGBTQ Walk of Fame known officially as the Rainbow Honor Walk. Twenty are already canonized on the block, and now 24 more will join them.
The rules: They're dead, they were queer-identified (even if not "out" during their lifetime in a contemporary sense), and their contribution to culture and society demands our daily remembrance. “LGBT history is world history,” Rainbow Honor Walk Co-Founder and Board President David Perry is quoted in a release. “These 24 individuals represent real battles fought during their lifetimes for equality, equity and justice. They are symbols to hold up to future generations so that we may learn from them and continue their work.”
The grand vision for the honor walk is to have the plaques, which cost about $5,000 a piece, extend from the Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy on 19th Street down to Castro Street. Ideally they'll also go down 18th Street and up Market Street to the LGBT Center at Octavia.
The Bay Area Reporter explains that of $120,000 needed for the project, $25,000 has been raised. One key player: The San Francisco Human Rights Campaign Action Center and Store, whose income has generated more than $15,000 for the Rainbow Honor Walk. Next comes a public fundraising campaign.
“Our hope as a board is that people from around the world will walk the Rainbow Honor Walk and take away inspiration and education,” Perry added. “Some of these names are well-known. Some are barely known. All deserve to be known.”
Here are the honorees, with the descriptions coming from the Board:
• Alvin Ailey (1931-1989) Gay American ballet dancer and choreographer credited with popularizing modern dance and revolutionizing African-American participation in 20th-century concert dance.
• W.H. Auden (1907-1973) Gay English poet known for love poems such as “Funeral Blues,” poems on political and social themes such as “September 1, 1939,” and poems on cultural and psychological themes such as “The Age of Anxiety.”
• Josephine Baker (1906-1975) Bisexual American-born French dancer, jazz and pop music singer, actress, and world-famous entertainer who refused to perform for segregated audiences in the United States. She was the first black woman to star in a major motion picture, Zouzou (1934).
• Gladys Bentley (1907-1960) Lesbian American pianist, singer, and performer during the Harlem Renaissance whose comical, sweet, and risqué performances included songs about her female lovers.
• Glenn Burke (1952-1995) First openly gay major league baseball player who was discriminated against by Major League Baseball and whose raised hand, after a home run, led to the invention of the high five.
• Quentin Crisp (1908-1999) Gay English writer and raconteur whose flamboyance attracted increasing public interest in his views about social manners and the cultivating of style.
• Divine (1945-1988) Gay American singer and actor specializing in female roles made famous by director John Waters.
• Marie Equi (1872-1952) Lesbian American physician and political activist devoted to providing care to working-class and poor patients, providing health care information to women, and fighting for civic and economic reforms, women’s right to vote and an eight-hour workday.
• Fereydoun Farrokhzad (1938-1992) Gay Iranian singer, actor, poet, TV and radio host, writer, and iconic opposition political figure who advocated for an open society that accepted all people.
• Barbara Jordan (1936-1996) Noted American politician and civil rights leader widely considered to be the first open lesbian elected to Congress, representing Texas in the House of Representatives.
• Kiyoshi Kuromiya (1943-2000) Japanese-American civil rights activist, founder of the Critical Path Project, one of the earliest and most comprehensive sources of HIV treatment information.
• Audre Lorde (1934-1992) Lesbian American writer, radical feminist, and political activist whose works expressed anger and outrage at civil and social injustices she observed throughout her life.
• Leonard Matlovich (1943-1988) Decorated American soldier, widely recognized as the first to challenge the U.S. military’s ban on homosexuals serving in the armed forces.
• Freddie Mercury (1946-1991) Bisexual British singer, songwriter, record producer and lead performer with the rock group Queen.
• Sally Ride (1951-2012) Lesbian, physicist and first American female astronaut in space.
• Sylvia Rivera (1951-2002) American transgender activist and founder of the Gay Activist Alliance.
• Vito Russo (1946-1990) Gay American film historian, activist and author of The Celluloid Closet that brought awareness to LGBT characterizations in film.
• José Sarria (1922-2013) Political activist, the first openly gay candidate for public office in the United States and founder of the Imperial Court system.
• Maurice Sendak (1928-2012) Gay American illustrator and author of children’s books, best known for Where the Wild Things Are.
• Rikki Streicher (1926-1994) Lesbian American political activist and founder of the Gay Games Federation.
• Gerry Studds (1937-2006) American politician and the first openly gay member of the U.S. Congress.
• Lou Sullivan (1951-1991) American author, activist, and female to male transgender pioneer who is widely credited for the modern understanding of sexual orientation and gender identity as distinct, unrelated concepts.
• Chavela Vargas (1919-2012) Lesbian Costa Rican-born singer known for her rendition of Mexican rancheras and for her contribution to other genres of popular Latin American music.
• We’wha (1849-1896) Zuni Native American Two-Spirit/Mixed Gender Tribal Leader who was male-bodied but performed primarily “feminine” tasks as well as serving as a mediator.