Heroic Gays

Celebrate Your Independence With These Five Gay American Heroes

In between stuffing your face with hot dogs, thotting around the beach, and checking out hot guys draped in the flag, let’s not forget that this is a day to celebrate America, dammit!

We know most of the great heroes that are being talked about today are of the old-school, gray-haired variety, so we thought we’d give you a look at five great gay American heroes that have helped make our country what it is today.


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Cpl. Andrew Wilfahrt came out to his parents at 16, joined the Army at 29, and was killed in action in Afghanistan in early 2011. He was 31 years old. He is believed to be the first gay soldier killed after President Obama signed the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” into law. After his death, his parents Jeff and Lori became staunch gay rights activists, protesting antigay marriage laws in their native Minnesota as well as speaking out for the rights of LGBT people in various news sources. Since marriage equality was passed in Minnesota in 2013, it looks like they got their wish, and one could only hope that the loss of this gay American hero helped to advance the rights of the citizens of his home state.



There are many reasons why Bayard Rustin was kind of the original gay badass. We’ve written about him fairly extensively, but you’d still be surprised how many people don’t know about this man and his accomplishments. Not only was he one of the chief organizers of the iconic 1963 March On Washington, but he did this all while living his life as an openly gay black man in the early 1960’s. So, yeah, he did that. If you’ve somehow never heard of Rustin, the amazing documentary Brother Outsider is a great place to start. It’s available on Netflix streaming, so if you need something to watch after you’ve poured yourself in from all the festivities, give it a watch. You know, because we told you so.




Who is Mark Takano? Well, he’s the first openly gay person of color elected to U.S. Congress and the first openly gay person from California in Congress, that’s who. We had the pleasure of meeting Congressman Takano while sitting on a panel in Washington, D.C., and we were surprised that we hadn’t heard the name a bit more often. Takano focused his energy on fighting educational inequality before being elected to Congress, and now represents the 41st District of California. He’s also a member of the Veterans Affairs Committee. Could he be our first gay President? Who can say? We’ll definitely be watching to see how his career progresses.




The hijackers of United Airlines Flight 93 on September 11th, 2001 might have succeeded at ending even more lives if it weren’t for the heroics of openly gay PR exec Mark Bingham and other passengers who stormed the cockpit in order to divert it from its intended target, Washington, D.C. All aboard the plane were killed when the hijackers crashed it in rural Pennsylvania. Bingham was an avid rugby player in San Francisco, and was a cofounder of Gotham Knights, a gay-inclusive rugby league. The Bingham Cup, a gay rugby union tournament created in his memory, will have its 2014 tournament in Australia this August.




Of course, you’ve heard the name before. You most likely saw the movie. But no list of gay American heroes would be complete without mentioning one of the biggest, who went by the name of Harvey Milk. Yes, he was the first openly gay person elected to public office in California. Yes, he was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal Of Freedom. Of course he did all of these things, but why Harvey Milk is still spoken about today and why he is truly a gay American hero is because his vision for the future of gays reached far beyond his time, and that vision is still being realized today. From the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, which provides training to LGBT candidates who seek to run for political office to the Harvey Milk High School, a NYC school designed specifically for LGBT students, his legacy continues to create change for gays decades after his death.

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  • jezuzchrist

    Mark Takano is a hero? Ok

  • justSomeGuyFromNJ

    @jezuzchrist: And what about Barney Frank, Tammy Baldwin and….oh, forget it. LOL

  • Alan down in Florida

    How does one go thotting around the beach? Is that anything like bubbling?

  • Dinodogstar

    I think we need to definitely include the U.S. Marine Corps, Eric Alva, the first soldier injured in the Iraq conflict. He is out, and has been, pre-DADT history, and remains still politically active; he not only suffered from an explosion that destroyed his leg, but he suffered under the right-wing’s hateful open disgust for him, thru their harassment, booing, and dismissal of his threatening, but simple statement of existence.
    But the facts of his life cannot be denied, and it seemed to have very much forced the issue that LGBT people can serve, do serve proudly, by his simple example, his very existence, and obvious valor;
    The irony is that he served willingly for the USA, with respect and patriotism to ensure freedom in a Middle East country, but in retuning to the United States of America, his human rights he works so hard for overseas, are denied on our own soil. He remains an icon, a true hero, despite the active right-wing effort to disrespect, devalue, and challenge his human rights that he went to protect.

  • Curtispsf

    If you ever get the chance to see Andrew Lippa’s oratorio “I Am Harvey Milk” buy a ticket. The work was premiered last year by the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus and is being sung in 2 weeks at the Disney Center in LA with SFGMC and GMCLA combined with other GALA voices – 500. It really presents Harvey’s life in a historical context. Harvey Milk is one of MY heroes.

  • enlightenone

    @Dinodogstar: Every word you said, absolutely. A TRUE GAY AMERICAN HERO!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • davidish

    We had a memorial basketball game for Mark Bingham at my high school (his alma mater) and I swear they never said anything about him being gay or anything about his boyfriend. I only found out he was gay a couple years ago when I was trolling for notable lgbts!

  • James Hart

    Great list!

  • Kernos

    With the Snowden revelations, climate change, theocrats, oligarchs and the stupidity of 5 supreme courties, I find little to celebrate on ‘Independence’ day.

  • Ben Dover

    @Dinodogstar: (Sigh.) I’m sorry to be a LEFT-winger raining on your little patriotic parade there, but please let’s all keep our sanity about the Iraq War. Unfortunately, nobody helped “ensure freedom in a Middle East country.”

    The entire Iraq War was a stupid, useless, insane waste of time and obscene amounts of money, killed over 4,000 Americans for absolutely no reason, and accomplished absolutely nothing.

    Oh, and it was all based on a lie.

    Well-meaning comments like yours are part of the problem.

  • Evji108

    I fail to see how fighting and dying in a useless war that supports the private American War Industry, automatically makes someone a Hero. He may have been a great guy, but that does not qualify him to be elevated to Hero-dom. If anything it was an incredible waste of a life.

  • Dinodogstar

    @Ben Dover: I agree that it was stupid, unnecessary, ill-advised, and well, a faked rationale, a vengeful attempt to screw with ‘them Middle Easterner-types who caused 9-11..” I do respect the soldiers who work for our country, though. They are often without other possibilities in their lives to pursue..Yes I hated and protested the Iraq invasion, which ran completely contrary to the U.N.’s decision..I am all about celebrating the heroic efforts of a gay man who did what he was expected, really with little option otherwise, and went with the good intentions spoon-fed us about what this attack would accomplish. Hate the game, not the players. ” start googling Culture Club’s song “War” here…

  • lykeitiz

    @Dinodogstar: Sad that some people would twist your post into a debate about the Iraq War. Nowhere in your praise for Eric Alva did you endorse that political mess. Don’t worry, your words weren’t lost on everyone. Eric Alva is indeed a hero! What makes him brave are his own intentions, not things out of his control. As you said, so many of our veterans (and citizens) bought into that disaster as if it had some integrity attached to it. “Hate the game, not the players” ….. indeed!
    I also loved your reference to “War Song” by Culture Club. When that song came out, I felt like I was the only one taking the lyrics & video seriously, while others labeled it the “end” of Culture Club.
    Great posts!

  • Dinodogstar

    gotta remember, as sad as it is, we are often pawns, willing or ignorant, of the system and ‘the man’, if I can use a throwback term that is still relevant today.

  • Ben Dover

    @lykeitiz: I wasn’t misinterpreting Dinodogstar’s direct quote: “ensure freedom in a Middle East country.” (!!!!!)

  • Dinodogstar

    OR….how about Col. Margarette Cammeremyer..(spelling?)
    (maybe this list could use some estrogen in the room..
    Way back in the day, 1989 (!), she was the highest ranking military person to openly challenge DADT
    She is a Vietnam Vet, (no I am not a fan esp of that war)
    Bronze Star recipient, and was a ” V. A. Nurse of the Year” and is now a doctor.
    She went before the senate to testify, back when the DADT policy was being settled in 1993, she wrote a book called “Serving in Silence”, and had a TV movie about her, with Glenn Close playing her…!!!
    Not too shabby there either.
    She is amoung a fine list of LGBT heros: Katherine Lee Bates- who wrote the song “America the Beautiful”, Sally Ride, famous trailblazing astronaut, the famous war nurse, Florence Nightingale. Leonard Matlovich, earned a bronze star and a purple heart in Vietnam, and was an outspoken early advocate for gay rights, former congresswoman of Texas, and the first African-American to hold such a high position, Barbara Jordan, how about First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt(!), Jane Addams, who won a Nobel Prize for Peace, and essentially founded the basis of social work, Alexander Hamilton, former Pres. James Buchanan, (maybe Lincoln swung both ways?!?), Frances Alice Kellor, lesbian, political activist and trans, Julius Caesar (had affair well-documented with a King Nicodemus),politician Roberta Achtenberg,,and many many more now out..including Senator Tammy Baldwin, and Christine Quinn, … I am personally fascinated by the historical accounts of many women who dressed as men, and fought in the civil war! you can google lists of thousands of heros, war -time, or peace-time activists and politicians, Kings, Queens, and thousands more in that genre of “heros’ to remember…

  • lykeitiz

    @Ben Dover: That sentence began with: “The irony is that he served willingly for the USA….” He clearly was talking about Alva’s perspective, not the U.S.’s.

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