The creative arts offer individuals a voice to showcase their unique experiences while navigating the complex world we live in. And for the LGBTQ+ community, art and creativity are particularly important as they enabled creators to express their sexuality and gender identity before social acceptance of the queer community became widespread. Even today, LGBTQ+ creators use their work for personal expression, to explore their existence within a marginalized community, and to critique the heteronormative society we live in.
In celebration of Pride Month 2021, we’re highlighting nine different LGBTQ+ creators that everyone should know. From singer-songwriters and actors to authors and visual artists, the LGBTQ+ community’s immense contribution to the creative ecosystem is undeniable.
Gilbert Baker is a well-known name in the LGBTQ+ community. From a young age, he was drawn to art in all of its forms, especially fashion design. He joined the military hoping it would be an escape but was met with homophobia during basic training as he was openly gay. Eventually finding himself in the more accepting city of San Francisco, he became an advocate for gay rights and created the iconic rainbow pride flag in 1978. The rainbow pride flag quickly became a symbol to represent his community—a symbol for it to show its pride up in the sky for everyone to see. The flag was first publicly flown on June 25, 1978 for the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade and remains the most iconic and recognizable symbol for the gay community, with people around the world flying it proudly.
This flag was the first step in giving LGBTQ+ artists a voice to show the world their culture, history, and feelings. Today, there are countless LGBTQ+ artists in the world proudly creating and exhibiting their works for all to see.
Christina Quarles is a queer, biracial artist who, through her work, shows ambiguous figures to highlight her own experiences of living in a body that does not conform to white, heteronormative, patriarchal ideals. Through her work, she strives to create a conversation with people and teach them about the ambiguity that LGBTQ+ and POC face in their everyday lives. She also wants to help them understand that there are people in the world who have questioned their identities every day of their lives.
Chris E. Vargas
In 2013, interdisciplinary artist Chris E. Vargas founded The Museum of Transgender History & Art (MOTHA). His goal in creating it was to bring a visual history of transgender culture and art into existence. The museum does not have a physical location—rather, it’s an ongoing project that both celebrates the lives of trans, non-binary, and gender non-conforming individuals and highlights the hardships they have gone through. He also does work away from the museum, much of which is comprised of videos that illustrate the complex ways that queer and trans people find their place within pop culture.
Tee Franklin is the comic book writer of the critically acclaimed graphic novel Bingo Love, which tells the 60-year love story of two women. The book was nominated for a GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Comic Book. Franklin is a self-described “queer, disabled, woman of color” and is also a writer for Image Comics. She is the first Black woman hired by the company and hopes this opens the door for other comic creators from marginalized groups.
Matt Palmer is an LA-based singer-songwriter. In 2018, he released a seven song Visual EP titled Get Lost. The album follows the rise and fall of a same-sex relationship, portrayed in the video by Palmer and YouTuber Max Emerson. He is also the co-host of YouTube channel Two Gay Matts where the hosts discuss pop culture, music, theater, and more.
Angelica Ross is an actress, model, and founder of company TransTech Social Enterprises, a co-learning and co-working community for LGBTQ+ talent. Their goal is to “provide education, support, and jobs for trans people facing high levels of discrimination,” particularly within the tech industry. Ross made her acting debut in the web series Her Story and has since received recognition for her roles in the TV series Pose and American Horror Story.
Hannah Quinlan and Rosie Hastings
Hannah Quinlan and Rosie Hastings are a lesbian couple that showcase the complex hierarchical issues that reside within queer social spaces through their videoography and drawings. In 2014, they began filming gay bars—a project that led them to quickly realize there was an epidemic of gay bars closing their doors across the UK. In response, they begin a nine month mission of forcing their way into male-dominated queer spaces to document their UK Gay Bar Directory (UKGBD), filming the spaces while they were empty in an attempt to show that they were disappearing. The goal of UKGBD was to educate the public about the widespread closure of queer spaces and to discourage assimilation into a heterosexual, patriarchal world.
Jakk Fynn is an up-and-coming transmasculine pop singer who wants to change how society views gender and sexual identity through his work. For instance, in the music video for his song “Fire,” released in the fall of 2019, viewers can visualize how he is trying to dismantle gender norms. The video depicts people wearing all-white jumpsuits who are getting their gender assigned to them via somebody painting either a circle, which represents being a man, or triangle, which represents being a woman, on the back of the suits. Toward the end of the video, everyone is seen tearing off the jumpsuits in order to abandon the gender label that was given to them by society.
June is Pride Month, but for these individual creators—and many more—celebrating their community doesn’t stop once the month ends. These impressive LGBTQ+ creators have all used their work to showcase their personal experiences while navigating a hetero- and cis-normative world, and there are many others who do so as well. By learning more about them, we can all better understand and uplift the LGBTQ+ community throughout Pride Month and beyond.