A St. Louis-area teacher first conceived the idea of what would become LGBT History Month in 1994. The National Education Association was an early supporter. Today, seven school districts nationwide, including Broward and Palm Beach Schools, observe LGBT History Month.
Since 2006, Equality Forum has shared a list of LGBT history-makers (updated yearly) with the public for the purposes of education. Here’s a portion of the list for 2014. Over the next few weeks, Hotspots will profile nine people with the hope that we can educate you on their background and life achievements.
Margaret Cho – A well-known comedienne and LGBT rights activist, Cho became the first Asian-American to star in her own television sitcom when All-American Girl premiered on ABC in 1994.
Tallulah Bankhead – A noted actress of stage and screen, she became famous for her work in the plays The Little Foxes and The Skin of Our Teeth, and garnered accolades for her films Devil and the Deep and Lifeboat.
Lord Byron – One of England’s most widely read poets, he was a pioneer in the Romantic movement, writing such well-known poems as Don Juan, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, and She Walks in Beauty.
Orlando Cruz – Before turning pro, Cruz represented his native Puerto Rico at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney. During his pro career, he was an undefeated featherweight for nine years running.
Lee Daniels – A celebrated film producer and director, he produced the film Monster’s Ball (2001), and directed the critically acclaimed Precious (2009). He also directed the smash hit The Butler (2013).
Freddie Mercury – One of the most recognizable voices in rock music, Mercury (born Farrokh Bulsara) joined the group Queen in 1970. He provided vocals on eleven U.S. Top 40 hits before his death in 1991.
Billie Holiday – “Lady Day” is still considered to be one of the greatest jazz singers of all time. She amassed dozens of hits between 1933 and 1958. Her life, full of hurt and regret, reached an untimely end in 1959.
Armistead Maupin – Maupin is best-known for his nine-volume Tales of the City series, profiling the lives of eccentric people living in New York City. These titles were released between 1978 and 2014.
Frank Ocean – First participating as a ghostwriter providing songs to other artists, he released his own music for the first time in 2011. In 2012, he wrote an open letter disclosing his attraction to the same sex. You can read more about Frank Ocean in this issue as we feature him as the first LGBT History Month profile.
To learn more, visit lgbthistorymonth.com.
LGBT History Month Profile: Frank Ocean
What was originally supposed to be a six-week arrangement turned out to be permanent, as he made contacts in the music industry and started working as a ghostwriter, writing songs for artists such as John Legend, Brandy, and Beyoncé. While he said that it was a good living, he acknowledged that it wasn’t why he made the sacrifice to leave New Orleans, and eventually he started writing music for himself.
He was signed to Def Jam Records as a recording artist, and he released his first collection of music, called Nostalgia, Ultra, in 2011. Media outlets such as NPR and Rolling Stone magazine praised Ocean, calling his music “smart and subtle” and “avant-garde.” By that time, he was collaborating on other projects with big R&B names such as Jay-Z and Kanye West, the product of which was two singles on the album Watch the Throne (2011).
In 2012, Ocean released his first full-length studio album, Channel Orange. He won the HMV Poll of Polls and earned six Grammy Award nominations, winning the award for Best Urban Contemporary Album. During the run-up to the album’s release, he wrote an open letter which acknowledged that many of the songs on the Channel Orange album deal with an unrequited love Ocean had as a teenager — another man. He was lauded for coming out and media used this moment as proof that R&B was “diversifying.” In 2013 he would win the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Music Artist.
In early 2013, Ocean started work on a second studio album, featuring collaborations with Tyler, The Creator, Pharrell Williams, and Danger Mouse. All three had worked with Ocean in the past and were excited to collaborate with him again now that he had reached mainstream success and stardom. He embarked on his first tour, of Europe and Canada, in the summer of 2013. By the summer of 2014, recording on his second album had finished and the new song “Hero” was released as a free download. In 2014, Ocean was nominated for a Grammy Award as a songwriter for his work in helping to write Kanye West’s song “New Slaves.”