Laverne Cox

Laverne Cox

Laverne Cox is an American actress, a documentary filmmaker, and a tireless activist and advocate for the LGBTQI and TGNC communities. A career performer, Cox rose to prominence for her role as Sophia Bursett in Netflix’s award-winning series “Orange Is the New Black.” She became the first openly transgender individual to be nominated for a Primetime Emmy in any category.

Cox has been vocal about her struggle working in performing arts, first as a gender-nonconforming individual, and then as a trans woman. She faced a lot of shame, and she mostly auditioned for and was cast for trans roles. Often discouraged by discrimination, Cox has been continually inspired by Candis Cayne’s character on “Dirty Sexy Money” and kept pursuing her dream against all the odds (see https://lavernecox.com/about/).

Cox continues to make historic strides in her career and inspire through her activism. She is an empowering advocate, a leading voice in the anti-violence movement. She supports gender-nonconforming individuals in moving beyond binary expectations to live more authentically as individuals. Cox was one of Glamour magazine’s 2014 Women of the Year, one of The Grio’s 100 Most Influential African Americans, and one of the Top 50 Trans Icons by The Huffington Post. She received the Courage Award from the Anti-Violence Project and the Reader’s Choice Award from Out magazine, among other accolades.

Photo Credit: Yahoo! Lifestyle

Sharmus Outlaw

d. July 2016

Sharmus Outlaw

Sharmus Outlaw was a dedicated activist and advocate for health care access for the trans community. She was a policy advocate for Best Practices Policy Alliance, U.S. representative for the Red Umbrella Fund, founder of Different Avenues in Washington, D.C., and had 25 years’ outreach experience in D.C., North Carolina, and Maryland. Sadly, she passed away in July 2016. The Sharmus Outlaw Advocacy and Rights (SOAR) Institute in NYC and the Outlaw Project in Arizona are both named in her honor.

Photo credit: sharmusoutlaw.com

Giselle-Marie

Giselle-Marie

Giselle-Marie is a stripper, activist, and creator of the NYC Stripper Strike, a national movement launched in 2017 to inspire and aid strippers to advocate for the changes they want to see in the clubs: fair treatment and the abolishment of racism in strip clubs everywhere.

Photo credit: soarinstitute.org Women’s March Gallery

Dancers of the Lusty Lady

Dancers of the Lusty Lady

The Lusty Lady was a peep show establishment in Seattle, WA, and San Francisco, CA. The San Francisco branch was bought by the strippers who worked there, and they formed a worker cooperative. It was already unique for being a unionized business. Dancers received an hourly wage and tips on top of that wage.

Photo credit: lustyladysf.com

The women involved in the Prostitute Strike in Lyon, France, 1975

Prostitute Strike in Lyon, France (1975)

In a historic move, full service workers in Lyon, France, occupied five Catholic churches for eight days and garnered international support and recognition. They were protesting laws that criminalized their clients, police fines, and destruction and gentrification of the red light districts in France.

Photo credit: Alain Norgues/Sygma via Getty Images

Carol Leigh

Carol Leigh

AKA Scarlot Harlot, Carol Leigh is a filmmaker, artist, author, and sex worker rights activist — she coined the term “sex worker” in 1978 at a Women Against Violence in Pornography and Media conference. In Leigh’s essay “Inventing Sex Work” (published later), she writes: “I invented sex work. Not the activity, of course. The term. This invention was motivated by my desire to reconcile my feminist goals with the reality of my life and the lives of the women I knew. I wanted to create an atmosphere of tolerance within and outside the women's movement for women working in the sex industry.” Leigh also chairs Sex Worker Film and Arts Festival and is the director at Bay Area Sex Worker Advocacy Network (BAYSWAN). She is known throughout the activist community as a continually loving, inspirational, and supportive mentor.

Photo credit: Video Data Bank 1993 video interview

Margo St. James

September 12, 1937 – January 11, 2021

Margo St. James

Margo St. James was the founder of Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics (COYOTE) and St. James Infirmary Clinic serving sex workers in San Francisco. St. James was instrumental in building the activist scene in California, serving and protecting sex workers and LGBTQAI+ folx, and opening crucial litigation in Rhode Island (COYOTE v. Roberts), arguing that the state had too much authority over people’s personal sexual lives and choices. She was also famous for her successful and creative fundraising, such as the annual Hooker’s Ball.

Photo credit: Jim Marshall 1995 and windycitytimes.com

Dame Catherine Healy

Dame Catherine Healy in New Zealand

Dame Catherine Healy

Dame Catherine Healy was a founding member of the New Zealand Prostitutes’ Collective (NZPC), awarded New Zealand Suffrage Centennial Medal in 1993, and appointed Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit by Queen Elizabeth II for her work to better the lives of sex workers. Her campaign with NZPC helped write and pass the Prostitute Reform Act to allow brothels to operate as legitimate businesses. She is also an author and field researcher and has been invited to speak at the House of Commons and Oxford University, among other institutions, to discuss the rights of sex workers.

Photo credit: Catherine Healy and bbc.com

Elizabeth Edwards

Former State Rep. Elizabeth Edwards of NH

Elizabeth Edwards

Represented the Democratic party in the 11th District of Hillsborough, New Hampshire, from December 3, 2014, to December 5, 2018. Edwards’ platform included criminal justice reform, marriage equality, education reform, and maintaining New Hampshire’s tax advantages. The bills she introduced to the House include (but are not limited to): permitting qualifying patients and designated caregivers to cultivate cannabis for therapeutic use (HB1476), removing criminal laws related to prostitution (HB1614), establishing a committee to study the decriminalization of sex work (HB287), and reducing the criminal penalty for certain controlled drugs (HB1792). We applaud and value her commitment to representing the needs of her constituents in her political career.

Photo credit: elizabethedwardsnh.com

Marsha P. Johnson

August 24, 1945 – July 6, 1992

“How many years has it taken people to realize that we are all brothers and sisters and humans in the same human race?”  — Marsha P. Johnson

Marsha P. Johnson is most recognized for her involvement in the Stonewall Inn riots in 1969. She co-founded Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) with Sylvia Rivera and was an AIDS activist with ACT UP. She was also a performer, model, and a prominent figure in the community.

Photo courtesy of Tribeca Film Festival and Variety.com