What better way to celebrate pride month at Fledglink than sharing some of the most inspiring LGBT success stories from across different career paths? From tech to politics to screen, here are some successful LGBT icons with achievements to be inspired by.
In 2019, Business Insider named Angelica Ross one of the most powerful LGBTQ+ people in tech, and rightfully so: She’s created her own LGBT success story as the founder and CEO of TransTech Social Enterprises, which helps transgender and non-binary people find employment in the tech industry. Ross is a self-taught computer coder, and alongside her entrepreneurial career, she has proved herself to be multi-talented in her roles as an actress. Her acting debut was in the YouTube series Her Story, which tells the tale of two transgender women living in Los Angeles, and Ross has since moved on to star in FX’s Pose and American Horror Story. Even after struggling with acceptance from her family from as young as seventeen, when she initially came out as gay, she has found success in becoming a businesswoman, actress, and activist. In recent years she has won multiple awards for her work in tech, especially within the LGBT community, and was also named one of the Pride50 "trailblazing individuals who actively ensure society remains moving towards equality, acceptance and dignity for all queer people" by Queerty in 2019.
At only 21 years old, Chella Man has gained success over the past few years as an artist, actor, and YouTuber, and has become a recognisable face and LGBT icon since featuring in magazines including Time Out. Man is known for speaking about his experiences as a transmasculine, deaf, Jewish-Chinese American, and has created a growing platform in which he can be both vocal about his experiences and share his work as an artist. In 2018 he presented his TedX Talk, Becoming Him, and has more recently joined the cast of DC’s Titans in which he plays a mute character who uses sign language to communicate. He has helped to open the conversation about representation for LGBT people, disabled people, and racial minorities, and in his words, "There is an extreme lack of representation for young, Deaf, queer, Jewish, Asian, transgender artists...So, I decided to be my own representation." (from an interview with Teen Vogue).
Svante Pääbo is his own STEM LGBT success story as a Swedish evolutionary geneticist, and one of the founders of paleogenetics - the study of the genetic material of ancient organisms in order to help understand the past. He was born into a family of scientists, his mother being a chemist, and his father being Nobel Prize-winning biochemist Sune Bergström. His 2014 book Neanderthal Man: In Search of Lost Genomes combines his scientific findings with memoir and details of his personal life, including his bisexuality. In 2007, Time Magazine named him one of the most influential people of the year, and he has been recognised for his extensive work on the Neanderthal genome.
Waheed Alli, Baron Alli
Waheed Alli is a media entrepreneur and one of the only openly gay Muslim politicians in the world. He co-created the television series Survivor and is currently CEO at Silvergate Media, Chairman at Koovs PLC, and director at Olga Productions, after previously holding executive positions at Endemol Shine Group, ITV Studios, Planet 24, and Chorion. Alli is a member of the Labour Party and the House of Lords, and in 1998 he was made a life peer of Norbury in the London Borough of Croydon, at the age of 34, becoming the youngest and the first openly gay peer in Parliament. In Alli’s words, "I have never been confused about my sexuality. I have been confused about the way I am treated as a result of it. The only confusion lies in the prejudice shown... and much of it enshrined in the law." The BBC has described him as “the antithesis of the stereotypical 'establishment' peer – young, Asian and from the world of media and entertainment". Alli has also played an important part in advocating for equal LGBT rights in the UK, including repealing Section 28 and making the age of consent the same for homosexual and heterosexual relationships.
Christine and the Queens
Héloïse Adelaïde Letissier, more often known as Christine and the Queens, is a French singer-songwriter and producer. At the beginning of her pop career, she sang with drag queens as her backing vocals, inspiring the name “Christine and the Queens”, and has since dedicated much of her music to drag and transgender individuals, and also describes herself as pansexual and genderqueer, creating her reputation as an LGBT icon within pop music. Her music has been described as “electropop” and “artpop”, and as Letissier takes inspiration from both French and English-speaking music, her songs often use both languages in their lyrics. The Guardian, The Independent, Mojo, and NME named her debut album Chaleur Humaine one of the best albums of the year, while her second album and singles have received similar praise. Her LGBT success story not only proves her talent as a musician but provides a welcome environment for LGBT individuals within her fanbase. When speaking about her sexual and gender identity, she revealed that she doesn't see gender as “an obstacle” or “a definition”.
Stryker is an openly gay American architect, philanthropist, and social and environmental activist. He is the founder of the Arcus Foundation, a charity focusing on LGBT rights, social justice, and conservation. The foundation promotes the conservation of and disagrees with the private ownership of gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos, orangutans, and gibbons. It also advocates for the rights and equality of LGBT people in the USA including building cultural acceptance for LGBT people within religious communities and providing financial support for the transgender community. Stryker is also a licensed architect with a Master of Architecture degree from the University of California and is on the board of trustees of The Museum of Modern Art in New York City and The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.
In 2013, Ben Barres became the first openly transgender scientist in the National Academy of Sciences. He was a neurobiologist at Stanford University and researched the interaction between neurons and glial cells in the nervous system, which included exploring their function and development. He obtained a Bachelor of Science in Biology at MIT in 1976, a medical degree from Dartmouth Medical School in 1979, a residency in neurology at Weill Cornell Medicine, and a PhD in Neurobiology from Harvard in 1990. Barres transitioned to male in 1997 and has written about his experiences transitioning and the differences he noticed in how he was treated when living as a female scientist and as a male scientist. He is now acknowledged as an LGBT icon within the sciences after creating his own LGBT success story as he continued to play an important role within neurobiology as a transman.
Raffi Freedman-Gurspan is a transgender woman, a transgender rights activist, and the first openly transgender person to work as a White House Staffer. She is recognised for her advocacy of trans rights and is outspoken on matters of gender, human rights, and the LGBT community. She was born into a family indigenous to Honduras (Lenca) and adopted by a Jewish family in Massachusetts, and considers herself an indigenous Central American, Jewish, and Latina. After working as the Somerville, Massachusetts LGBT liaison, Sciortino’s legislative director, and policy advisor at the National Center for Transgender Equality, she was hired by President Barack Obama as Outreach and Recruitment Director in the Presidential Personnel Office and soon promoted to LGBT liaison in 2016. In 2017, she also served as a member of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council. Gurspan was the first transgender legislative staffer to work in the Massachusetts House of Representatives.
A film producer and entrepreneur, Megan Ellison is known for her Oscar-nominated work on such films as Zero Dark Thirty, Her, American Hustle, and Phantom Thread. She is also the founder of American film company Annapurna Pictures - named after the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal which she hiked in 2006. Her work as an executive producer on the Coen Brothers’ True Grit in 2010 launched her career as a producer. In 2014 she was honoured as one of Time Magazine’s most influential people in the world, a testament to her career as an LGBT success story, and she is dedicated to executing her own and her coworkers’ artistic visions with the films she produces. Ellison openly identifies as a lesbian, is the first female producer to win two different Academy Award nominations for Best Picture in the same year, and has also won the Cannes Music Festival Woman in Motion award.
Want to be your own success story?
If you’ve been inspired by any of these LGBT success stories and want to write your own, the Fledglink app is an almost-infinite resource for finding job opportunities and navigating important career steps. No matter where you are in your career path, Fledglink can help you narrow down your goals and provide help to reach them, so you too can find success.