February is LGBT History Month - an opportunity to reflect and celebrate LGBTQ+ culture, achievements and progress over time, and explore what the lessons of history can teach us for the future.

For the past few years York Pride has featured LGBTQ+ people throughout the month who have made history in the UK…

HM Nicola Adams OBE

Nicola Adams OBE

Nicola Adams OBE became the first woman to hold Commonwealth, European and Olympic boxing titles.

Born in Leeds, Adams was the first openly-LGBTQ+ person ever to win an Olympic boxing gold medal, at the London Olympics in 2012 - the same year that she topped The Independent’s list of influential LGBTQ+ people in Britain.

HM Aelred of Rievaulx

Aelred of Rievaulx

Aelred of Rievaulx was a talented author, theologian and diplomat, who rose to become abbot of Rievaulx Abbey in North Yorkshire in 1147.

Aelred was a compassionate and inspirational father to his monks; so much so that one of them, Walter Daniel, wrote about Aelred’s life, which is why we know a lot about him today. He was also a talented preacher and in 1163 delivered a sermon at Westminster Abbey.

Most historians and theologians now accept that Aelred was gay, drawing upon his work, private letters and Walter Daniel’s writings. One example of this was the grief Aelred wrote about in his book ‘The Mirror of Charity’ following the sudden death of a monk he was close to. He confided “I grieve for my most beloved, for the one-in-heart with me who has been snatched from me.”

However, it’s thought he strictly adhered to his vow of chastity and discouraged sexual activity outside the bounds of marriage.

HM Alcuin


Alcuin, who was born in York around 735, was a renowned scholar, teacher and abbot who was called “the most learned man anywhere to be found.”

After becoming headteacher of what is now St Peter’s School, he was recruited by the great Emperor Charlemagne to become his advisor and chancellor.

A great writer and poet, some of his poems and letters to close friends are known to be passionate, and even homoerotic. Alcuin was a monk sworn to celibacy, so while these writings certainly suggest that he was gay, they don’t necessarily mean that he was sexually active with other men.

Today, one of the Colleges at the University of York is named after Alcuin.

HM April Ashley MBE

April Ashley MBE

April Ashley MBE was one of the earliest British people known to have had gender reassignment surgery in 1960.

After the Gender Recognition Act was passed in 2005, she was legally recognised as female and issued with a new birth certificate.

HM Mark Ashton

Mark Ashton

Mark Ashton was a gay rights activist who co-founded the Lesbians & Gays Support the Miners movement.

The group collected donations at the 1984 Lesbian & Gay Pride March in London for the miners on strike - a story immortalised in the 2014 film Pride. They would meet at the Gay's The Word bookshop in London, where a blue plaque has been unveiled in his honour.

Sadly, Mark died in 1987 of an AIDS-related illness, aged just 26.

HM WH Auden

WH Auden

WH Auden, considered one of the finest and most acclaimed poets of the 20th century, was born at 54 Bootham here in York in 1907. He went on to study at Oxford University with fellow author Christopher Isherwood, and later moved to Berlin with him.

In 1935, Auden married the lesbian German writer and actress Erika Mann in order to provide her with a British passport and enable her to leave Nazi Germany.

In 1939 Auden and Isherwood moved to New York, where Auden met his lifelong love, Chester Kallman, and they began a relationship which lasted until Auden’s death in 1973.

HM Alan Bennett

Alan Bennett

Alan Bennett is a British author, playwright and screenwriter, who over the course of his career has received two BAFTA Awards, four Laurence Olivier Awards, two Tony Awards and an Academy Award nomination.

Born in Leeds, he gained a scholarship to Oxford University, where he gained a first class degree in History. It was there that he wrote and performed in the satirical comedy revue ‘Beyond the Fringe’, which enjoyed enormous success at the 1960 Edinburgh Festival and brought him instant fame. Since then he has gone on to write numerous successful books, plays, films and television serials.

LGBTQ+ topics appear in several of his works, including his own sexuality in his memoir ‘Untold Stories’, which he always thought would be published posthumously as he had been given an unfavourable cancer diagnosis. Following his recovery however, he wrote the play ‘The Habit of Art’ which is based around the relationship between poet WH Auden and composer Benjamin Britten – both of who we also feature in this list.

HM anne bonny mary read

Anne Bonny and Mary Read

Anne Bonny and Mary Read were an infamous pirate duo in the 18th century, breaking gender boundaries and trailblazing in an incredibly male-dominated society.

Born in the 17th Century, both were illegitimate children and both were disguised as boys in an effort to escape poverty.

They both ran away to sea, eventually becoming pirates. When Mary arrived on Anne’s ship dressed in male clothing and calling themselves ‘Mark’, Anne remarked “Mark is a handsome young fellow”.

Anne and Mary became a power couple of the sea. They sailed the Caribbean together, moving between living as men and living as women, leaving a trail of looted treasure and outfoxing law enforcement. When they were eventually captured, witnesses at their subsequent trial reported that they were the bravest and fiercest members of the crew.

HM benjamin britten

Benjamin Britten

Benjamin Britten was one of the finest composers of English operas and most prominent figures of 20th century British classical music.

After graduating from the Royal College of Music, he was hired by the BBC’s Film Unit to write the music for a series of documentaries. There he worked alongside the poet WH Auden, who became his artistic mentor, and encouraged him to widen his intellectual and political horizons, and also to come to terms with his homosexuality.

In 1937 he met the tenor Peter Pears, with whom he would spend the rest of his life and who was the muse for many of his songs. Together, the two founded the Aldeburgh Festival in Suffolk which continues to this day.

Such was Britten’s success and popularity, he was offered a burial in Westminster Abbey, but he turned this down so that he could be buried alongside his partner.

HM edward carpenter

Edward Carpenter

Edward Carpenter (1844-1929) was a hugely influential socialist and early pioneer of LGBTQ+ rights in the UK.

In 1893, he co-founded the forerunner of today’s Labour Party. Carpenter’s beliefs in many areas, including sexual freedom, class equality, air pollution and vegetarianism were often ahead of their time. His ground-breaking book ‘The Intermediate Sex’ set out the case for the naturalness and acceptance of same-sex love.

He lived openly with his partner George Merrill at a time when male homosexual acts were still illegal. Their home near Sheffield became a refuge and place of pilgrimage for those challenging the customs of society, including the artist William Morris, poet Siegfried Sassoon and writer E M Forster. Carpenter and Merrill remained together until their deaths and are buried in the same grave.

HM joe carstairs

Joe Carstairs

Joe Carstairs was a champion motorboat racer in the 1920s who earned the reputation of the “fastest woman on water”.

The wealthy heiress could not claim her inheritance unless she got married – which she did, then immediately deserted her husband after taking her vows.

Openly lesbian, she shocked London’s society with her tattoos, cigars and Savile Row suits – and her affairs with the likes of Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich and Oscar Wilde’s niece…

HM sabah choudrey

Sabah Choudrey

Sabah Choudrey is an award-winning LGBTQ+ activist, community organiser, speaker and writer who co-founded Trans Pride Brighton - the very first trans march and celebration in the UK in 2012.

A proud transgender Muslim, they are a trustee of the Inclusive Mosque Initiative, which is dedicated to creating inclusive, safer places of worship for marginalised Muslims, supported by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust.

As well as speaking at events across UK and Europe and delivering training courses on inclusivity, Sabah has recently published their first book, ‘Supporting Trans People of Colour’.

Sabah was a co-founder of Colours Youth Network, which supports LGBTQ+ BPOC young people across the UK. After a number of years as a youth worker, they are currently training to become a psychotherapist.

 photo: Holly Revell

HM maureen colquhoun

Maureen Colquhoun

Maureen Colquhoun became the first openly gay woman to serve in Parliament, coming out in 1975 after being elected as a Labour MP for Northampton North.

A leading voice for women’s rights, Colquhoun sadly died on 2nd February 2021 aged 92.

HM roberta cowell

Roberta Cowell

Roberta Cowell was a WWII Spitfire pilot, record-breaking race car driver and the first legally recognised transgender woman in the UK.

Following the end of the war, Cowell suffered a long period of deep depression. At first this was thought to be the result of spending a year in a prisoner of war camp, but she sought specialist advice and it was realised she was experiencing gender dysphoria.

In 1950 she met Michael Dillon, a British physician who was the first person in the world to fully transition from female to male. He was able to secretly perform a castration procedure - this was illegal at the time but enabled Cowell to state that she was intersex and so was able to alter the sex on her birth certificate to female.

In 1951 she underwent gender affirming surgery - the first time this had been carried out in Britain.

Her racing days over, she grew short of money to fund her lifestyle and went on to sell her story to a magazine, before withdrawing from public life completely.

HM laverne cox

Laverne Cox

Laverne Cox made history as the first openly transgender woman to appear on the cover of British Vogue, chosen by guest editor of the September 2019 issue, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex.

Cox was also the first openly transgender person to be nominated for an acting Emmy award in 2014 for her work on Orange Is The New Black.

HM tom daley

Tom Daley OBE

Tom Daley OBE is the first British diver to win four Olympic medals. He’s a one-time Olympic champion, 3-time World Champion, 5-time European champion and 4-time Commonwealth champion.

He was catapulted to fame at the 2008 Olympics, being the youngest competitor in Team GB, and the youngest to compete in a final.

In 2013, after winning a bronze medal at London 2012, Tom posted a YouTube video announcing his relationship with Director Dustin Lance Black, showing immense bravery coming out at a time when prominent LGBTQ+ athletes were few and far between.

The video’s significance was huge – it quickly gained millions of views and helped to normalise same-sex relationships within the mainstream media and public eye. Also, by making his announcement Tom became a sporting role model for many LGBTQ+ individuals across the UK and around the world.

He’s gone on to show that he is unafraid to use this platform to raise awareness for important issues and to petition for change. He publicly advocates for LGBTQ+ rights, including highlighting the anti-LGBTQ+ laws and homophobia within the British Commonwealth ahead of the 2022 Commonwealth Games. He is also a patron and supporter of Switchboard, the UK’s LGBTQ+ helpline.

HM jake daniels

Jake Daniels

Jake Daniels is a professional footballer playing for Blackpool FC.

In 2022 he became the UK's only male professional footballer to be publicly out, and the first since Justin Fashanu in 1990.

Aged just 17 at the time, he showed great bravery to come out at the very start of his career - a decision that showed to budding LGBTQ+ footballers that there is a place for them in sports.

He commented “Since I’ve come out to my family, my club and my teammates, that period of overthinking everything – and the stress it created – has gone. It was impacting my mental health. Now I am just confident and happy to be myself finally.”

Despite the 32 years between Justin Fashanu and Jake Daniels’ announcements, homophobia and discrimination still plague sports like football. Representation, particularly from young, professional players like Jake, is essential for tackling the stigma and proving to budding LGBTQ+ players that times are changing.

HM russell t davies

Russell T Davies

Russell T Davies was born on 27th April 1963.

A writer known for exploring sexuality in his various works since Revelations in 1994 featured a lesbian vicar; he went on to create Queer as Folk, Cucumber, Banana and 2021’s smash It's A Sin.

HM maureen duffy

Maureen Duffy

Maureen Duffy came out publicly in her work during the early 1960s, making her the first gay woman in British public life today to be open about her sexuality.

The poet, playwright and novelist is well known for her activism in supporting gay rights and received an Icon Award for Outstanding Lifetime Achievement from Attitude Magazine in 2014.

HM king edward II

King Edward II

King Edward II was crowned in 1307, but became unpopular with the earls and barons when he immediately granted numerous titles and lavish gifts, including Knaresborough Castle, to his long-time closest companion, Piers Gaveston. Some contemporaries nicknamed Gaveston a “second king.”

In 1312, with the threat of excommunication and civil war, the King and Gaveston resided at York Castle on their journey north. However, the pair were separated and Gaveston was captured, put on false trial and brutally murdered.

Edward II, who was left grief-stricken, eventually abdicated the throne in 1327.

HM fanny and stella

Fanny and Stella

Frederick Park and Ernest Boulton, also known as Fanny and Stella, were a Victorian theatrical drag act long before its recent popularity. The pair carried their alter egos offstage too, often frequenting London’s West End in their gowns.

In 1870, after a period of police surveillance, a detective followed them to the Strand Theatre, where they entered a private box along with two more men. They were arrested on the charge of ‘conspiring and inciting persons to commit an unnatural offence'.

They were subjected to an intrusive physical examination from a police surgeon and appeared at Bow Street Magistrates' Court the morning after, still in full drag from the previous evening.

The Court felt the examinations to be unreliable and the prosecution was unable to find any evidence that they had committed homosexual offenses, or to prove that dressing as women was any sort of crime. Much to the delight of the public, who flocked to the trial, Fanny and Stella were found not guilty by the Jury.

HM justin fashanu

Justin Fashanu

Justin Fashanu was a trailblazer in English football, becoming the first £1million black player.

In 1990 he became the world’s first ever top-tier professional footballer to come out as gay. Over thirty years later he’s still the only one. He suffered abuse from fans, was disowned by his brother, and in 1998, after years of being hounded by the homophobic tabloid press, he tragically died by suicide.

In 2020 he was inducted into the National Football Museum’s Hall of Fame. His niece has founded the Justin Fashanu Foundation, which focuses on tackling prejudice and homophobia in football.

HM jackie forster

Jackie Forster

Jackie Forster was an actress and award-winning TV news reporter.

In 1969 she came out as a lesbian in spectacular style by publicly announcing it to the world during a rally at Speaker's Corner in London.

She followed this brave step by appearing on a host of television programmes, speaking openly about her identity and helping viewers find the strength to accept themselves.

She went on to become an activist for LGBTQ+ rights, joining the Campaign for Homosexual Equality (CHE) and becoming a co-founder of the Gay Liberation Front in 1970, which become a major voice for the LGBTQ+ community.

In 1972, she helped found Sappho, a lesbian social society whose long-running magazine and regular meet-ups provided much-needed spaces where lesbians could be themselves and meet others.

Right up until she died, Forster was part of the Lesbian Archive & Information Centre management committee, maintaining this priceless historical resource.

HM gallus of cataractonium

The Gallus of Cataractonium

The Gallus of Cataractonium, who lived in Yorkshire in the 4th Century, is one of the earliest known examples of gender diversity.

In 2002, Archaeologists discovered their grave in the site of the Roman town of Cataractonium, now known as Catterick, just up the road from York. Whilst the skeleton was male, they had been buried with jet jewellery (which was only worn by women as it was associated with childbirth) and women’s clothing and accessories that suggested a priestess’s status.

A Gallus was someone assigned male at birth, but who became a priestess of the goddess Cybele by self-castrating, cross-dressing and taking a woman’s role to demonstrate their commitment to Cybele, mother of the gods.

HM Sir John Gielgud

Sir John Gielgud

Sir John Gielgud was one of the nation’s most famous actors - one of the few to have won an Oscar, Emmy, Grammy and Tony Award in a career that spanned seven decades.

In 1953, just weeks after being knighted, he was arrested for cottaging by a young man who turned out to be an undercover police officer, causing a national scandal. However, his fears that his career would be over were unfounded when he received a standing ovation at his next stage performance.

The attention that his case received and the apparent public sympathy for him has led many to suggest that the case helped to bring the country nearer to legalising homosexuality. It was a measure of how far attitudes had changed when in 1975 Gielgud played his first gay role, in Harold Pinter’s play ‘No Man’s Land’.

HM Hadrian


Hadrian was Roman Emperor from 117 to 138AD. He visited York (known as Eboracum in those days) in 122AD on his way to initiate the construction of Hadrian’s Wall.

On a tour of his Empire he met Antinous, a beautiful young man of humble birth. The two became lovers and were inseparable, attending state dinners and royal ceremonies and travelling the Empire together.

It was on a tour to Egypt that tragedy struck, when Antinous drowned in the River Nile in mysterious circumstances. Hadrian was devastated and mourned Antinous’ death intensely and publicly, rather than in private as was custom. He declared Antinous a God, had statues of him built throughout his Empire and founded a new city named Antinopolis near the site of his death.

Coster, Howard; Radclyffe Hall; National Portrait Gallery, London;

Radclyffe Hall

Radclyffe Hall was a British author best known for their 1928 book ‘The Well of Loneliness’ - the first novel in the English language to be recognised as having a lesbian theme.

Its portrayal of female same-sex relationships and gender non-conformity in this largely autobiographical love story caused an outcry. Whilst it was not sexually explicit, its publisher was tried under English obscenity laws. Although many people defended the book, including Virginia Woolf and TS Eliot, it was found to be obscene and was banned, with the judge demanding that all copies be seized and destroyed.

The book eventually found wider publication in France, where copies were sometimes smuggled into England, and by the time Radclyffe died in 1943, the notorious novel had sold more than a million copies and had been translated into 11 languages.

The Well of Loneliness finally became available in the United Kingdom again in 1949 and went on to become a bestseller with huge historical and cultural significance.

HM keegan hirst

Keegan Hirst

Keegan Hirst was the first UK Rugby League player to come out as gay.

Far from damaging his sporting career, the Yorkshireman received huge support from teammates and fans, and went on to rise up and play in the top-tier Super League.

Not afraid to speak out openly about LGBTQ+ rights, he even publicly criticised the RFL when they agreed to the signing of the openly-homophobic player Israel Folau.

Hirst, who retired from the sport in 2020, has gone on to become a successful speaker, men’s coach and personal trainer.

HM david hockney

David Hockney

David Hockney is one of Britain’s most celebrated and established artists.

Born in Bradford, he popularised British pop art in the 1960s, but is also talented in oil paints, lithography, photocollage and stage set design.

At the start of his career, homosexuality was illegal in England, so he painted self-portraits, effectively creating gay art but flying under the radar. His work went on to often explore LGBTQ+ themes, with "We Two Boys Together Clinging" becoming one of his most famous works.

He is still active in his 80s, fully embracing digital art.

HM allan horsfall

Allan Horsfall

Allan Horsfall was one of the founding fathers of the modern LGBT rights movement in the UK.

His campaigning with the Homosexual Law Reform Society (which included bravely giving out his home address as a contact point for the organisation) directly led to the decriminalisation of male homosexual activity in 1967.

Following this victory, he helped establish the Campaign for Homosexual Equality (CHE), which became the UK’s largest ever lesbian, gay & bi rights organisation during the 70s & 80s. As well as lobbying parliament and local authorities, CHE helped to change the way public institutions treated the LGBT community by speaking to teachers, doctors, journalists and the police.

Horsfall continued to campaign for LGBT law reform until his death in 2012; including the repealing of Section 28, the end of the military ban for gay people in 2000, the decriminalisation of gay group sex in 2003, the introduction of civil partnerships and the ability for LGBT couples to adopt.

HM frankie Howerd

Frankie Howerd

Frankie Howerd, who was born in York, was one of Britain’s most loved comedians for half a century.

He grew up wanting to be an actor, but after failing his RADA audition he realised that his future might lie in comedy. He performed in concert parties to entertain the troops during the Second World War.

After the end of the War, he began to appear in BBC radio comedies and was an instant success. This popularity continued onto stage and screen, with Frankie appearing on eight Royal Variety Performances.

Sadly, he never felt comfortable enough to be open about his sexuality while he was alive - a decision which is considered to have affected his mental health. His partner of 37 years remained a secret.

A blue plaque marks Frankie’s childhood home on Hartoft Street, near the River Ouse.

HM george ives

George Ives

Writer and poet George Ives (1867-1950) was influential as one of Britain’s very first homosexual law reform campaigners.

After graduating from Cambridge, Ives became good friends with fellow writer Oscar Wilde and poet and journalist Lord Alfred Douglas. Ives reportedly had a short affair with Douglas, despite Wilde and Douglas being known for their own romance.

In 1897, Ives created and founded the very first known LGBT group, the Order of Chaeronea. It was named after the battle where the Sacred Band of Thebes, an army of male lovers, met their death in 338BC. This secret society ran under a system of codes, passwords and ceremonies and eventually members were enlisted from all the over the globe - helping to promote gay rights worldwide.

In 1914 he began the British Society for the Study of Sex Psychology. The society addressed multiple areas and progressive ideas such as a more rational attitude towards sexual conduct, birth control, abortion and prostitution. This forward-thinking approach was one of the first instances of LGBTQ+ rights campaigning in Britain.

HM king james I

King James I

King James I of England first met George Villiers whilst hunting at Apethorpe Palace in Northamptonshire and soon became entranced, making Villiers an Earl and then Duke of Buckingham in quick succession.

Their relationship became no secret to courtiers of the day, with the pair being openly affectionate to each other. The King even told his Privy Council, “𝘠𝘰𝘶 𝘮𝘢𝘺 𝘣𝘦 𝘴𝘶𝘳𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘐 𝘭𝘰𝘷𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘌𝘢𝘳𝘭 𝘰𝘧 𝘉𝘶𝘤𝘬𝘪𝘯𝘨𝘩𝘢𝘮 𝘮𝘰𝘳𝘦𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘯 𝘢𝘯𝘺𝘰𝘯𝘦 𝘦𝘭𝘴𝘦. 𝘐 𝘸𝘪𝘴𝘩 𝘵𝘰 𝘴𝘱𝘦𝘢𝘬 𝘪𝘯 𝘮𝘺 𝘰𝘸𝘯 𝘣𝘦𝘩𝘢𝘭𝘧 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘵𝘰 𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘵𝘰 𝘩𝘢𝘷𝘦 𝘪𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘰𝘶𝘨𝘩𝘵 𝘵𝘰 𝘣𝘦 𝘢 𝘥𝘦𝘧𝘦𝘤𝘵, 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘑𝘦𝘴𝘶𝘴 𝘊𝘩𝘳𝘪𝘴𝘵 𝘥𝘪𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘴𝘢𝘮𝘦, 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦𝘧𝘰𝘳𝘦 𝘐 𝘤𝘢𝘯𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘣𝘦 𝘣𝘭𝘢𝘮𝘦𝘥. 𝘊𝘩𝘳𝘪𝘴𝘵 𝘩𝘢𝘥 𝘑𝘰𝘩𝘯, 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘐 𝘩𝘢𝘷𝘦 𝘎𝘦𝘰𝘳𝘨𝘦”

The restoration of Apethorpe in 2008 revealed a secret passage linking the King’s and George’s bedchambers.

HM derek jarman

Derek Jarman

Derek Jarman was a radical film-maker, director, painter and author.

He was also a hugely influential, high-profile figure at a time when there were few famous out gay men. He used his platform as a prolific campaigner for LGBTQ+ rights and took part in some of the most well-known protests including the march on Parliament in 1992.

In 1986, he was diagnosed as HIV-positive and spoke openly about his condition in public, raising much-needed awareness and tirelessly confronting the homophobia of the tabloid press.

He died in 1994, the day before the House of Commons voted to reduce the age of same-sex consent to 18 - it wasn’t until 2000 that an equal age of consent was finally achieved.

HM ladies of llangollen

The Ladies of Llangollen

The Ladies of Llangollen, or Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby, escaped their wealthy families in Ireland to live together and prevent being forced into unwanted marriages.

They settled in Llangollen in North Wales and devoted their time to studying literature and languages - many of their books being inscribed with both sets of initials. Their house became a haven for writers such as Wordsworth, Byron and Shelley, as well as Anne Lister, who also visited the couple.

The pair, who would frequently wear top hats and had a succession of dogs named Sappho, lived together for the rest of their lives - over 50 years.

HM lady phyll

Lady Phyll

Lady Phyll was a co-founder of the UK Black Pride which has taken place since 2005, this is now Europe's largest celebration for African, Asian, Middle Eastern, Latin American and Caribbean heritage LGBT+ people, attracting thousands annually.

HM paris lees

Paris Lees

Paris Lees is an inspirational British journalist, presenter, author and LGBTQ+ campaigner who has made history several times by becoming the first trans woman to present shows on BBC Radio 1 and Channel 4, the first openly trans woman to appear on BBC Question Time and the first trans columnist at Vogue magazine.

Paris was born in Nottinghamshire in 1988 and identified as a gay male growing up. In her late teens, she was sent to prison for eight months, during which time she had the chance to re-evaluate herself and how she wanted her life to be once she got out.

She returned to college to obtain her A-levels and went on to gain a degree in English Language and Literature. It was also around this time that she started her gender transition.

After graduating she went on to become a highly successful journalist, with articles published in many titles, including the Independent, the Guardian, the Daily Telegraph and Vice.

She also co-founded ‘All About Trans’, an initiative to improve media representation for trans people, which has led to the BBC’s first sitcom to feature a trans character in a lead role, Boy Meets Girl, and Eastenders’ first trans character.

Using her journalism skills and the platforms she has built, she continues to advocate for the rights of LGBTQ+ people and seek greater equality for trans people.

HM anne lister

Anne Lister

Anne Lister was honoured with York’s first LGBT history plaque at Holy Trinity Church in 2018.

Sometimes referred to as “the first modern lesbian”, Lister was born in 1791 in Halifax and wrote more than 5 million words in her diaries throughout her life which chronicled everything from her industrial activities to intimate details of her romantic and sexual relationships.

In 2021, it was announced the University of York would be naming a new college after Lister.

HM john maynard keynes

John Maynard Keynes

John Maynard Keynes was one of the most influential economists of the 20th century. His ideas fundamentally changed the theory and practice of macro-economics, and they still guide the economic policies of governments around the world today.

Being a lover of statistics and lists, he also catalogued all his many sexual encounters between the ages of 17 and 33. The majority of these were with men, and included artists, soldiers, a Grand Duke and the lad who operated the lift at Vauxhall tube station.

However, he amazed his friends by falling in love and marrying a Russian ballerina in 1925, choosing one of his ex-lovers as his best man.

Keynes was a firm supporter of women's rights and campaigned against job discrimination against women and unequal pay. He was also an outspoken campaigner for reform of the laws against homosexuality.

A patron of art, literature, opera and ballet, Keynes was instrumental in establishing the Arts Council of Great Britain and was its founding chairman until his death in 1946.

HM claude mckay

Claude McKay

Claude McKay was an author, poet and activist who became Britain’s first black newspaper reporter in 1919.

A committed socialist, he travelled extensively around the world.

While many of his novels and poems were award-winning best-sellers, one book by McKay, who was bisexual, was nearly lost to history. ‘Romance in Marseille’, which he wrote in 1933, depicts topics of homosexuality and prostitution, which were felt too controversial at the time. The book was finally published in 2020…

HM sir ian mckellan

Sir Ian McKellan

Sir Ian McKellen came out as gay to the general public on BBC Radio 3 on 27 January 1988 in response to the Government’s proposed Section 28.

He said he was influenced by the advice and support of his friends including noted gay author Armistead Maupin.

He was a co-founder of Stonewall, an LGBT rights lobby group, and remains active in the fight for LGBT rights.

HM sarah moore

Sarah Moore

Sarah Moore from North Yorkshire made history when she became the first openly-LGBTQ+ racing driver ever to stand on the podium during a Grand Prix weekend.

This landmark took place in the opening race of the 2021 W Series season in Austria.

She’s also a Driver Ambassador for Racing Pride HQ, who work to promote inclusivity within motorsport.

HM angela morley

Angela Morley

Angela Morley, who was born in Leeds, was a composer, conductor and multi-instrumentalist who worked with many great names including Shirley Bassey, Julie Andrews and Dusty Springfield.

Winner of three Emmy Awards, she wrote the incidental music for Watership Down, Dallas and Dynasty. She often conducted the BBC Radio Orchestra and arranged UK entries for the Eurovision Song Contest.

She was also the first openly-trans person to be nominated for an Academy Award.

HM jan morris

Jan Morris CBE

Jan Morris CBE was an award-winning journalist and travel writer who accompanied the British Mount Everest expedition, breaking the story of the first successful ascent to the top of the world’s highest mountain on the morning of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation.

She went on to report on the Suez Crisis in 1956 and made history when she provided the first “irrefutable proof” that France and Israel had colluded to invade Egyptian territory.

Throughout her life, she would travel the world, writing about her experiences in every place she visited. She also achieved great acclaim as a writer, winning the Heinemann Award for Literature in 1961 and being shortlisted for the Booker Prize for Fiction in 1985.

In 1964, Morris began her gender transition to female. Jan documented this in ‘Conundrum’, an international bestseller in 1974 and one of the first books to discuss personal gender affirmation. She was able to use her fame, influence and writing skills to bravely tell the story so many could not, risking her career to give an open and honest insight into the world of trans people.

She continued to be a successful writer until her death, on Transgender Day of Remembrance, 20 November 2020.

HM wilfred owen

Wilfred Owen

Wilfred Owen is regarded by many as the greatest poet of the First World War, known for his works about the horrors of warfare such as ‘Dulce et Decorum est’ and ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’.

Owen met fellow gay poet Siegfried Sassoon whilst at a rehabilitation hospital and the two formed a close relationship.

In September 1918, Owen returned to the front during the final stages of the war and was awarded the Military Cross for his bravery. Tragically, he was killed one week before the end of the war. He was aged just 25.

After Owen’s death, his brother Harold removed passages of his diaries and letters to obscure references to his sexuality.

Aware that his work could do nothing to help his own generation, Owen succeeded in warning the next - his poetic legacy having a major impact on attitudes to war.

HM david lee pearson

Sir David Lee Pearson CBE

Sir David Lee Pearson CBE is a multiple gold medal-winning Equestrian and Paralympian, considered one of the most successful athletes in British history.

Born with arthrogryposis multiplex congenita, a condition which inhibits limb movements, he was unable to stand on his feet until he was 6 years old. Being unable to pedal a bike, his parents bought him a donkey to get around their smallholding, and his love of horse riding grew from there.

He currently holds an amazing 14 gold medals from Paralympic dressage events together with a whole host of other European and World medals. He was chosen as Great Britain’s flagbearer for the Opening Ceremony at Rio 2016.

He became the first openly gay member of the British Paralympic team and has since become a vocal advocate of LGBTQ+ rights and visibility.

HM lisa power

Lisa Power MBE

Lisa Power MBE is a LGBTQ+ rights campaigner and activist.

After coming out as a lesbian in the 1970s, she volunteered on London’s LGBT+ Switchboard and co-founded the Pink Paper publication.

She became Secretary General of the International Lesbian & Gay Association (ILGA), and in representing them she became the first openly LGBTQ+ person to speak on gay rights at the United Nations.

A year to the day after Section 28 (the first anti-gay piece of legislation in the UK in a century) was introduced, she co-founded Stonewall alongside others such as Sir Ian McKellan and Lord Cashman. It has now grown to become the largest LGBTQ+ rights organisation in Europe.

She became the Policy Director of the Terrence Higgins Trust and is currently Chair of the HIV Justice Network.

HM shanaze reade

Shanaze Reade

Shanaze Reade is a three-time World Championship-winning BMX Racer and Track Cyclist.

Named as the Young Sportswoman of the Year 2007, she represented Great Britain at the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games. In 2016, Reade, who is openly lesbian, entered the Guinness Book of World Records by becoming the fastest person to cycle round a “Wall of Death” with an incredible speed of 26.8mph.

Reade is now a popular diversity and inclusion speaker and was named an Ambassador for the 2023 Cycling World Championships in Scotland.

HM mark rees

Mark Rees

Mark Rees underwent gender transition in 1971 and sought to pursue his calling by being ordained in the Church of England, but was refused because he was still legally a woman.

Determined to be legally recognised as a man in UK law, in 1986 he took his case to the European Court of Human Rights. Sadly, this case was lost, but the Court noted the seriousness of the issues facing trans people - this was one of the catalysts that later led to the implementation of the Gender Recognition Act in the UK.

His campaigning work led to the formation of Press For Change, an organisation seeking rights and equality for all trans people in the UK.

In 1994 Mark was elected by the people of his village to the Tunbridge Wells Borough Council, becoming one of the first openly trans candidates to be elected.

HM king richard I

King Richard I

King Richard I is one of England’s most famous kings, despite spending only six months of his ten year reign in the country. He was known as ‘Richard the Lionheart’ because of his bravery in combat.

During his crusades, King Richard I developed a close relationship with King Philip II of France. Roger of Howden, who accompanied Richard, noted: “𝘛𝘩𝘦𝘺 𝘢𝘵𝘦 𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘳𝘺 𝘥𝘢𝘺 𝘢𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘴𝘢𝘮𝘦 𝘵𝘢𝘣𝘭𝘦 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘧𝘳𝘰𝘮 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘴𝘢𝘮𝘦 𝘥𝘪𝘴𝘩, 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘢𝘵 𝘯𝘪𝘨𝘩𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘪𝘳 𝘣𝘦𝘥𝘴 𝘥𝘪𝘥 𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘴𝘦𝘱𝘢𝘳𝘢𝘵𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘮. 𝘈𝘯𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘬𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘰𝘧 𝘍𝘳𝘢𝘯𝘤𝘦 𝘭𝘰𝘷𝘦𝘥 𝘩𝘪𝘮 𝘢𝘴 𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘰𝘸𝘯 𝘴𝘰𝘶𝘭; 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘺 𝘭𝘰𝘷𝘦𝘥 𝘦𝘢𝘤𝘩 𝘰𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘴𝘰 𝘮𝘶𝘤𝘩 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘬𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘰𝘧 𝘌𝘯𝘨𝘭𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘸𝘢𝘴 𝘢𝘣𝘴𝘰𝘭𝘶𝘵𝘦𝘭𝘺 𝘢𝘴𝘵𝘰𝘯𝘪𝘴𝘩𝘦𝘥 𝘢𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘱𝘢𝘴𝘴𝘪𝘰𝘯𝘢𝘵𝘦 𝘭𝘰𝘷𝘦 𝘣𝘦𝘵𝘸𝘦𝘦𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘮 𝘢𝘯𝘥𝘮𝘢𝘳𝘷𝘦𝘭𝘭𝘦𝘥 𝘢𝘵 𝘪𝘵.”

The two split and subsequently became sworn enemies. Richard later got married while in Cyprus, although he saw very little of his wife. The two returned separately, with Richard in the company of a young knight called Raife de Clermont who he had rescued from captivity by the Saracens, and with who it is strongly rumoured that he was having an affair.

HM helen and kate richardson walsh

Helen and Kate Richardson-Walsh

Helen and Kate Richardson-Walsh were part of the British women’s field hockey team at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.

The team won gold, making them the first same-sex married couple to win Olympic medals.

They were also the first same-sex married couple to be honoured on the same New Year’s Honours in 2017.

HM vita sackville west

Vita Sackville-West

Vita Sackville-West was a successful, prize-winning novelist and poet.

Although married, she and her husband both had same-sex relationships outside their marriage.

Most notable was Vita’s affair with fellow famous writer Virginia Woolf - it is widely held that she was the inspiration for the androgynous protagonist in Woolf's renowned book 'Orlando'.

HM michael schofield

Michael Schofield

Michael Schofield, son of the founder of Leeds’ largest department store, revolutionised the world of psychological and sociological research for LGBTQ+ people.

After studying Psychology at Cambridge University, he spent the Second World War as a fighter pilot in the RAF. During this time he was openly in a relationship with another pilot. Contrary to usual attitudes at the time, this seems to have been accepted by his squadron, and when the pilot was tragically killed in action, Schofield’s commanding officer informed him first, before the man’s family.

After the war, he began his research into homosexuality, and society’s views towards it. In 1952 he published the first ever non-medical book to be written about the subject. As homosexuality was still a criminal offence at the time, publishing under his own name was too risky, so he chose the pen name of Gordon Westwood.

His research was among the first to change society’s views on homosexuality. It explained that it was not an illness, a disease, an unhealthy habit or a lifestyle choice. It couldn’t be caught or passed on and had no impact on the lives of others whatsoever. For many years, Schofield’s research was used in the debate around law reform leading up to the decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1967.

He went on to be involved in wider social issues too and became an active campaigner in other areas including contraception, single parent families, abortion, drugs and prison reform.

Schofield founded a charitable foundation named the Lyndhurst Settlement with a large part of his inheritance. Over 35 years this would go on to donate more than £3million.

Schofield’s partner of 61 years was with him when he passed away, aged 94, on 27 March 2014 - two days before same-sex marriages finally became legal.

HM pete shelley

Pete Shelley

Pete Shelley was a singer, songwriter and co-founder of Buzzcocks, one of the UK’s most influential punk rock groups.

In 1978, Shelley, who was bi, wrote the band’s biggest hit ‘Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn't've)’, which was inspired by his seven-year relationship with a man.

He later said he “wrote lyrics that were ambisexual, that do not exclude anyone…the only people they exclude are people that don’t know anything about love.”

HM labi siffre

Labi Siffre

Labi Siffre is a British singer-songwriter, poet and activist. He’s best known for his most successful single “(Something Inside) So Strong” in response to Apartheid and inspired by his experiences as a gay man.

What’s not as well-known is that many of his other works have been covered by many artists from Madness to Kelis and sampled by Eminem, Kanye West and Jay-Z.

HM princess catherine duleep singh

Princess Catherine Duleep Singh

Princess Catherine Duleep Singh was the daughter of the last Maharaja of the Sikh Empire in India, who was deposed by the British Crown and exiled to England.

Catherine grew up in England, where the family became close to Queen Victoria. Following the loss of both parents, the Queen allowed Catherine and her sisters to stay at Hampton Court Palace.

The loss of their mother and father meant Catherine was forced to be fiercely independent from a young age and it is thought that this is what galvanised her into fighting for women’s rights. She became a strong supporter of the Suffragist movement which aimed to secure women’s right to vote and raised awareness of the cause and organised bazaars as well as making substantial financial contributions herself.

Over the years, Catherine had gained a close relationship with her German governess, Lina Schäfer, and they did everything together. Many dubbed Lina and Catherine as ‘lovers’ and over the years historical research would suggest that they were in a relationship with each other. They moved to Germany just prior to the rise of the Nazi Party.

Being a lesbian of Indian heritage, life in Germany became difficult for Catherine, but despite this they remained and were able to help numerous Jewish families to escape Nazi Germany in order to seek asylum in the UK. Following Lina’s death in 1938, Catherine returned to England, but continued to quietly help more people escape the Holocaust and offer the refugees somewhere to live.

HM chris smith

Chris Smith

Chris Smith, former MP for Islington South and Finsbury for The Labour Party, was the first openly gay British MP. He came out in 1984.

In 2005, he became the first MP to acknowledge that he is HIV positive.

HM dusty springfield

Dusty Springfield

Dusty Springfield was one of the most successful British female singers in history, and one of the first British solo stars to truly break America.

Born Mary Isobel Bernadette O’Brien, she got the nickname Dusty as a child for playing football with the boys in the street outside the family home in London.

She shot to fame in the swinging sixties with her distinctive voice, blonde bouffant, heavy eyeliner and colourful evening gowns.

She bravely came out as bisexual in 1970 in an interview with the London Evening Standard, although by most sources she was a lesbian. Not afraid of controversy or speaking out when needed to, she was deported from South Africa for challenging apartheid and refusing to perform before racially-segregated audiences.

Her career saw a resurgence in the 1980s with a collaboration with the Pet Shop Boys, which saw her become a camp icon.

Dusty died of cancer in 1999, on the day she was scheduled to receive her OBE, and two weeks before her induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

by G. Scott, after  James Green, stipple engraving, published 1804

Mary Anne Talbot

Mary Anne Talbot was an early British gender-nonconforming hero. Calling themselves John Taylor, they dressed in masculine attire and became a sailor during the French Revolutionary Wars, bravely taking part in battles and receiving several injuries in the process.

Eventually, they were captured by the French and spent 18 months in a Dunkirk dungeon. They managed to return to London in 1796 and signed on as a clerk aboard an American merchant ship in order to travel to the United States, but returned once again to England in order to avoid the attentions of the skipper's niece who wanted to marry them, unaware of Talbot's gender.

In 1797 Talbot was seized by a naval press-gang and it was revealed that their biological sex was female. They were sent by the magistrate to a lodging in London with “a strict injunction to break the masculine habit to which they were so much used”.

This was only partially successful, as Talbot continued to dress as a sailor and drink with former messmates “…the brave fellows at the Coach and Horses…”

HM gareth thomas

Gareth Thomas

Gareth Thomas came out as gay in December 2009, making him the first openly gay professional rugby union player.

In September 2019, he announced he was HIV positive, vowing to break the stigma around the virus.

HM sandi toksvig

Sandi Toksvig OBE

Sandi Toksvig OBE is a Danish-British broadcaster, comedian, writer and LGBTQ+ activist.

Born in Denmark, she moved to England and studied Law at Cambridge University, where she also discovered her talent for comedy - writing and performing in the first all-woman show at the Footlights.

In 1994 she made the decision to come out, as she felt there were no out lesbians in British public life. She had three young children and did not want them to grow up ashamed of having two mothers. She was warned she might never work again, and the family faced death threats and had to go into hiding for a short time.

Sandi, who is also an honorary graduate of York St John University, continues her activism to this day - just last month she met with the Archbishop of Canterbury and stated that the Church of England’s position on same-sex marriage is “untenable”.

HM patrick trevor roper

Patrick Trevor-Roper

Patrick Trevor-Roper was an acclaimed eye surgeon, and a respected writer and teacher of ophthalmology. He also set up eye hospitals in Africa.

In 1955, he courageously volunteered to appear before the Wolfenden Committee, which was set up by the British government to hear evidence as to whether homosexual activity should remain a crime.

He testified that the majority of gay men had regular lifestyles and posed no threat, and argued that homosexuality was not an illness. He told the Committee about the devastating effects of homophobia and blackmail, which isolated many young gay men, induced depression, and often pushed them to suicide.

His testimony directly helped persuade the Wolfenden Report to recommend that homosexuality should be decriminalised, which was finally achieved after a long political struggle in 1967.

During the AIDS epidemic of the early 1980s he was a founding member of the Terrance Higgins Trust, which remains the UK's leading HIV and AIDS charity.

HM alan turing

Alan Turing

Alan Turing was a genius mathematician and computer scientist whose role in cracking the Enigma code is widely accepted to have helped bring the Second World War to an end.

After the war, he developed the Automatic Computing Engine, which many people see as the forerunner to the modern computer.

However, he was also persecuted for his sexuality and suffered at the hands of the countrymen he had helped to save. In 1952 he was arrested for homosexuality – which was then illegal in Britain – and was found guilty of ‘gross indecency’. He avoided a prison sentence by accepting chemical castration. He took his own life in 1954.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown publicly apologised in 2009, and in 2012, Queen Elizabeth II granted a posthumous pardon.

In 2019 he was voted the greatest and most influential figure of the 20th Century and from 2021 he features on the Bank of England’s £50 note. The new note entered circulation on 23 June, Turing’s birthday.

We hope that these accolades go some way towards recognising a great man who was never thanked for all he did for us.

HM stephen whittle

Stephen Whittle OBE

Stephen Whittle OBE is a Professor of Equalities Law and trailblazing transgender rights campaigner.

After transitioning in 1975, he lost several jobs because he was transgender at a time when there were no rights or protections. This inspired him to obtain legal training so he could challenge the discrimination he and other trans people experienced. He obtained a Masters and then a PhD.

In 1992 he co-founded ‘Press for Change’, the UK’s trans rights lobby group. Their successful campaigns have resulted in several major law successes at the European Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights, including the Gender Recognition Act 2004, and full protection under the Equality Act 2010.

He has advised on trans rights and law to the UK government and several other governments around the world, as well as the European Union, European Commission and the Council of Europe. He has authored many academic papers, articles and books.

Despite being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis nearly 20 years ago, he continues to teach at Manchester Metropolitan University and is involved with many protests and activist campaigns around equality and inclusion.

HM oscar wilde

Oscar Wilde

Novelist, playwright and poet, Oscar Wilde became just as famous (or infamous) in Victorian society for his flamboyant dress, cutting wit and eccentric lifestyle as much as he did for his great literary works, such as 'The Picture of Dorian Gray'.

Wilde, who’s lecture tours brought him to York in the 1880s, was found guilty of gross indecency in 1895, after the details of his affair with a British aristocrat were made public. He was sentenced to two years’ hard labour.

This affected his health greatly, and following his release, he died, impoverished and in exile, of meningitis aged just 46.

He was pardoned under the Policing & Crime Act 2017, also known as ‘Turing’s Law’.

HM sophie wilson

Sophie Wilson

Born in Leeds, Sophie Wilson is a Computer Scientist. In the early 80s she developed the BBC Basic programming language and was instrumental in the design of the BBC Micro - one of the very first computers in homes and schools.

Sophie, who’s also trans, went on to co-design the processor used in virtually every smartphone and tablet in the world!

HM virginia woolf

Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf was a British novelist, regarded as one of the most important literary figures of the 20th Century.

She was a founding member of the Bloomsbury Set - a group of writers and intellectuals whose works influenced modern attitudes towards feminism and sexuality.

In 1922, Woolf met and began a relationship with fellow author Vita Sackville-West, with Vita becoming the inspiration for one of Woolf’s best-known works, Orlando.

Their love letters have since been published, and Woolf continues to be a global literary and cultural icon.