Biopics are one of the highest forms of immortality in the entertainment world; if you get a biopic, you are someone important. With that said, we need more biopics of LGBTQ heroes in the world! Not only have they shaped society, but they have provided us with books, music, and other forms of entertainment that inspire us. Here are just 10 of the heroes we think deserve their own biopics.
1. Bayard Rustin
Bayard Rustin was a civil rights activist who was on the front lines with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and was alongside King and Ralph Abernathy as one of the co-founders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Several of Rustin’s accomplishments include organizing the Freedom Rides and the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. He lived as an openly gay man and fought for the rights of Black Americans as well as the LGBTQ community. In 2003, the documentary Brother Outsider was released, becoming a Sundance Film Festival Official Selection and the recipient of several awards, including the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Documentary.
2. Sister Rosetta Tharpe
Sister Rosetta Tharpe is considered the godmother of rock and roll, creating her unique sound by blending secular themes with a musical combination of jazz, blues and gospel. She toured around the country throughout the 1940s (including an act she created with her partner Marie Knight) and was never shy about her relationships with both men and women. Unfortunately, her stardom was lessened when rock and roll became known as a white man’s genre. But she continued to tour in Europe in the late ’50s up until 1970.
Sylvester was iconic in the disco world for his gender-nonconforming fashion and style. His sound brought the church to disco, leading to some of his legendary hits such as “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)” and “Dance (Disco Heat).” His popular hits earned him the nickname “Queen of Disco.” He was also an activist, fighting against the spread of HIV/AIDS. Unfortunately, Sylvester died from the virus in 1988. However, he still fought from beyond the grave by leaving all future royalties from his body of work to HIV/AIDS charities Project Open Hand and the AIDS Emergency Fund.
4. Miss Major
As one of the three veterans of the Stonewall Uprising, Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, otherwise known simply as Miss Major, has been an advocate and activist for over 40 years. Her activism led her to become part of the Trans Gender Variant and Intersex Justice Project, which she eventually ran as executive director. She retired from her post in 2015, but still works in the community today.
5. Marsha P. Johnson
Johnson was alongside Miss Major and Sylvia Rivera as one of the key names from the Stonewall Uprising in 1969. Johnson is credited, in fact, with spearheading what transpired at the Stonewall Inn and is seen by many as the pioneer of the gay liberation movement. She continued her life of activism with Rivera by co-starting the Street Transgender Action Revolutionaries, who helped young homeless transgender people in New York City. Her life was cut short in 1992 when her body was found in the Hudson River. Her death was ruled a suicide, however, those close to her thought differently and in 2017, crime victim advocate Victoria Cruz re-opened Johnson’s case.
6. Jackie Shane
Soul music pioneer Jackie Shane died this February, and while it would have been great for her to receive her flowers while she lived, perhaps her death can spur the creation of a biopic to honor her memory. A transgender performer, Shane was from Nashville, but she was best known for her R&B career in Toronto, Canada. Shane was able to make a name for herself in Toronto by playing in local nightclubs and appearing on Toronto-based music show Night Train, entertaining mixed-race audiences. In 2017, archival record label Numero Group released a box set of her work called Any Other Way, which became nominated by the Grammys for Best Historical Album.
7. John Amaechi
John Amaechi made history in 2007 for being the first NBA player to come out as gay. While Jason Collins, another gay NBA star, came out while he was a part of the league, Amaechi made his announcement after his retirement. But his career was already legendary since he rose to NBA stardom despite starting to play basketball at 17 years old. He now spends his time as a mentor and high-performance coach.
8. Kylar Broadus
Kylar Broadus became the first transgender person to testify before the U.S. Senate when he went before the congressional body in support of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in 2012. His advocacy for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act comes from his own experience in the workplace when he was forced out of his finance job due to his transition. He is the founder of the Trans People of Color Coalition and currently works with the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
9. Audre Lorde
Audre Lorde was a poet and author as well as an advocate and theorist regarding the intertwined realities of class, gender, race and being part of the LGBTQ community. As a self-identified “forty-nine-year-old Black lesbian feminist socialist mother of two” in her 1984 book Sister Outsider, she wrote extensively on the intersectionality of womanhood including feminism, particularly Black feminism and womanism.
10. James Baldwin
Writer, activist and playwright James Baldwin consistently wrote on the state of the Black American, launching into discussions about how race, class and sexual differences affected the Black American individual. Baldwin’s life has been dissected in the 2016 documentary I Am Not Your Negro and his book If Beale Street Could Talk was nominated for several Academy Awards, with Regina King winning for Best Supporting Actress.