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Diversity and Inclusion
Celebrating LGBTQ+ Mentors in History
Pride month is upon us once again, and Guider is celebrating some of our favourite LGBTQ+ mentors in history. From famous singers to activists and groups of mentors who teamed up together, you’re about to discover some of the most inspirational people ever.
So, sit back, relax and get ready to be amazed at the impact these five mentors have had on society, progressing the rights of LGBTQ+ people around the world.
The importance of celebrating LGBTQ+ figures
Celebrating LGBTQ+ figures is vital for many reasons. Recognising and honouring their contributions fosters inclusivity, promotes equality, and creates a more accepting society.
Let’s take a look at the top reasons why celebrating LGBTQ+ figures is important:
Representation: Celebrating LGBTQ+ figures provides representation for individuals within the community who have historically been marginalised or overlooked. When we can see role models around us, it helps us feel seen, heard and valued.
Challenging stereotypes: LGBTQ+ figures have contributed to fields such as the arts, science, politics, activism, and entertainment. By highlighting their achievements, we challenge stereotypes and misconceptions that still persist.
Inspiring future generations: Recognising and celebrating LGBTQ+ figures sends a powerful message to younger generations. It shows them that their sexual orientation or gender identity does not limit their potential for success and that they can aspire to impact the world positively.
Education and awareness: Celebrating LGBTQ+ figures help educate the broader society about the community’s challenges and the ongoing struggles that need attention and support. Remember, Pride is a protest.
Fostering social change: Recognising LGBTQ+ figures contributes to the broader movement for social change and equal rights. By highlighting their achievements and stories, we encourage a shift in societal attitudes towards greater acceptance and respect for LGBTQ+ individuals.
5 LGBTQ+ mentors to celebrate
1. Elton John
World famous musician, equally talented singer and global superstar… you’d think Elton John had his hands full already, but he also mentors young singers, helping them find their feet.
We all know that Elton John is an out and proud man, who made it easier for young people to embrace their sexuality, but he goes even further with outreach, ensuring emerging talents can contact him.
Elton spoke to Lorraine Kelly in an exclusive interview, stating that if he sees an impressive new talent, he reaches out to them and offers his support with their careers.
These small gestures ensure new artists benefit from his wisdom and share their music with the world. He’s a prominent LGBTQ+ mentor in the music industry and shows us all the importance of supporting those following in our footsteps.
Win-win for everyone? We sure think so.
2. Audre Lorde
Audre Lorde certainly had the odds stacked against her, being born at a time when being both a lesbian and African American were discriminated against. Despite the adversity facing her, Lorde fought for her rights, becoming a famous activist – and later – mentor.
The spoken word artist was a passionate activist, fighting for civil rights, LGBTQ rights and rights for women too.
While spending time in Berlin, Lorde became a mentor to May Ayim and other minority artists, academics and activists who had previously struggled to find their voice.
She even approached heterosexual, white women, attempting to build bridges and relationships for all females to thrive.
While she tragically died of breast cancer in 1992, her legacy lives on, and she remains an inspiration to African American and homosexual women worldwide.
While Switchboard is a helpline and not a person, it has mentored LGBTQ+ people for decades, and famous activists such as Lisa Power volunteered there. In March 1974, the helpline answered its first call and became a 24/7 service just a year later.
Of course, Switchboard was instrumental during the Aids epidemic, offering support to people ostracised by society.
Today, the helpline still supports people struggling to come to terms with their sexuality, giving them actionable tips and friendly advice.
Switchboard might not be a single person, but its mentorship gives people a chance to accept themselves and enjoy a happier life.
4. Leanne Pittsford
If you’re in the tech industry, you’ve probably heard of Leanne Pittsford. The American entrepreneur grew up in a conservative household and found it hard to accept her sexuality until the end of college, but the experiences would inspire her future career.
Having worked for Equality California, Pittsford started her own agency, Start Somewhere, and co-founded the Lesbian Mentoring Programme.
However, she wasn’t done there because, in 2012, Leanne created Lesbians Who Tech – her most famous organisation. The organisation gives gay women in the industry the opportunity to network with other professionals and support each other.
By 2016, there were over 15,000 members of the organisation and scholarships available through the programme.
There’s no doubt that Pittsford has achieved a lot in her lifetime, but her willingness to help others sets her apart. She was also listed as one of Business Insider’s most influential people in tech.
5. Ryan Murphy
Ryan Murphy needs no introduction, with a host of TV shows under his belt, and actors like Sarah Paulson and Zachary Quinto regularly collaborate with him. The writer and producer is best known for American Horror Story, American Crime Story, Glee and Pose.
Both Glee and Pose were instrumental in representing LGBTQ+ characters, but he also has a mentoring programme that aims to help female and minority directors get valuable experience and support from more experienced professionals.
The Half Director Mentorship Programme ensures that all directors working on Ryan Murphy productions mentor minority and female directors through all stages of the production process.
Not only does the initiative foster a supportive environment, but it also gives aspiring directors hands-on experience. It will continue to encourage more females to enter an industry once dominated by men.
As you can see, these mentors broke boundaries, were fearless in reaching out to others and made positive contributions to society as a whole.
There’s so much we can learn from them, so why not start today and build a mentoring programme for your organisation?
Most importantly, have a fantastic pride month and don’t forget to pay it forward – support your LGBTQ+ colleagues, friends and partners in any way you can.
Find out more about mentoring with Guider: