1849-1896 We’wha – He was a Zuni Native American from New Mexico. He was a famous Lhamana, a traditional Zuni gender role, now described as mixed-gender or Two Spirit. Lhamana were men who lived in part as women, wearing a mixture of women’s and men’s clothing and doing a great deal of women’s work, as well as serving as mediators. We’wha is known historically mainly for the fact that she was a man but chose to live out his life as a woman. He/she was well respected in the tribe.
Mpho Andrea Tutu (1963) – Born in London, England. She is the youngest daughter of Desmond Tutu. Her father ordained her a priest of the Episcopal Church in 2004. Mpho and her father wrote the book Made for Goodness (2010) based on the belief that all people are basically good and that by spreading the message of peace and goodwill that changes can be made. She was married to Joseph Burris and had two children with him. The couple divorced. In late 2015, she married her long-time Dutch girlfriend, Dr. Marceline van Furth in a small private ceremony in the Netherlands, but the couple went public in January 2016 when they had a wedding celebration in Cape Town, South Africa. Her marriage meant that she lost her license to practice as a priest. Same-sex marriage was legalized in South Africa in 2006, but the church does not recognize those marriages. Cape Town bishop Raphael Hess said he was “vexed” by the need for Tutu-van Furth to renounce her clerical duties, but he hoped it would be short-lived. Speaking to South Africa’s City Press from her honeymoon in Bali, Mpho noted the “irony” of being censored for her similarities to her spouse rather than her differences, as South Africans once were under apartheid. Mpho stated, “My wife and I meet across almost every dimension of difference. Some of our differences are obvious; she is tall and white, I am black and vertically challenged. Ironically, coming from a past where difference was the instrument of division, it is our sameness that is now the cause of distress. My wife and I are both women.”
Irshad Manji (1968) – NY Univ. director of “Moral Courage Project.” Born in Kampala, Uganda, the family moved to Canada when she was 4. She grew up attending both a secular and an Islamic religious school. She was expelled from her religious school for asking too many questions. Her book, The Trouble with Islam Today has been published in more than 30 languages. She was named by “The Jakarta Post” as one of three women making a positive change in Islam today. She was also awarded Oprah Winfrey’s first annual Chutzpah Award for “audacity, nerve, boldness and conviction”. She is openly lesbian.
Patience Agbabi (1965) – Born in London to Nigerian parents and from an early age was fostered by a white English family. She had a lot of contact with her Nigerian parents. This was a common practice at the time. Agbabi feels lucky to have had two sets of parents. Her upbringing allowed her to move easily between two cultures. She is a poet and a performer. Her poetry has been featured on television and radio. In 2000, she was one of ten poets commissioned by BBC Radio 4 to write a poem for National Poetry Day. Agbabi is a former Poet Laureate of Canterbury. In 2017 she was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. She describes herself as “bi-cultural” and bisexual. Issues of racial and sexual identity are important in her poetry.
Pauline Park (1960) – Born in Korea and adopted by European American parents. She is an activist for transgender rights. In 1997, Park co-founded Queens Pride House, a center for the LGBT communities of Queens, and Iban/Queer Koreans of New York. In 1998, Park co-founded the NY Assoc. for Gender Rights Advocacy, the first statewide transgender advocacy organization in New York. She negotiated inclusion of gender identity and expression in the Dignity for All Students Ace, a safe schools bill enacted by the New York State Legislature in 2010. Park was adopted by European American parents and raised in the United States. In an interview, she said, “I think I knew when I was four of so, before I even knew the word. It’s a funny story. When I went to kindergarten, the first day all the girls were wearing stretch pants with stirrups, remember those? I thought they were so cute and I wanted some. I remember when I came home and asked for some my mother was shocked. That was when I began to understand that certain things were for girls and certain things were for boys. And I began to recognize that as a child I couldn’t be who I was until I was an adult.”
Gregory Woods (1953) – Born in Egypt. He is a British poet that grew up in Ghana. Since 1990 he has taught at Nottingham Trent University, where in 1998 he was appointed Professor of Gay and Lesbian Studies, the first such appointment in the United Kingdom. On retirement, he was appointed Emeritus Professor of Gay and Lesbian Studies. His main areas of interest are twentieth-century gay and lesbian literature; post-war gay and lesbian films, cultural studies and the AIDS epidemic. In addition to his poetry collections, he is the author of a number of books. According to poet Sinéad Morrissey, “Probably, the finest gay poet in the United Kingdom.”