Among the various events and anniversaries on the LGBT awareness calendar, Lesbian Visibility Day takes place on April 26.
In truth, the origins of the day appear mysterious, rumbling through the internet over the past few years as it has been taken up on various campuses and by groups around the world.
As subcultures, movements and identities cross over in the LGBTQ+ sphere, fears have been expressed of a perceived erasure of lesbian spaces and the need to preserve and celebrate lesbian culture, distinct as it is from other gay, bi, trans and queer areas.
While of course an individual’s own definition of their sexuality is as varied as the rainbow, in the spirit of celebrating lesbian visibility today, we list 11 remarkable high-profile women below.
1. Ellen Page
Page revealed that she was gay in 2014, in an emotional speech to The Human Rights Campaign, and the actress has been an international advocate for LGBT rights ever since. Last year, she said staying in the closet hurt her career more than coming out as gay did, before making an impassioned plea for LGBT community to “live freely, love freely and not be afraid.” Plus she confronted a homophobic preacher on the streets of Washington DC during Trump’s inauguration ceremony.
Raven burst onto our screens when she was just a toddler in the sixth season of The Cosby Show and went on to notch up a load of movie and TV roles over the next 25 years. She seemingly came out in 2012 when she applauded the legalisation of same-sex marriage saying “I can finally get married!”.
She later issued an official statement saying that her sexual orientation belonged to her and her the person she is dating – not the public, but then in a segment on The View in March 2016 on the classy ways which women can reject men, she simply said “I’m a lesbian, so good luck… and no, I won’t do that!”.
3. Penny Wong
Penny Wong was the first member of the Australian Labor Party to come out while still sitting in parliament. She continues to be a leading voice in the ongoing fight for marriage equality in Australia as the first lesbian Leader of the Opposition in the Senate.
4. Vicky Beeching
Christian rock star Vicky Beeching came out as gay in 2014. She continues to discuss the struggles she experienced with her sexuality, as well as the challenges faced by religious members of the LGBT community, and campaigns for more LGBT rights in the Church.
5. Ruby Rose
Australian-born Rose was one of the very first celebrities to come out as genderfluid. The model-turned-actress-turned role model broke through into the mainstream after her appearance as Stella on Orange Is The New Black.
6. Wanda Sykes
In 2008, Wanda Sykes married her female partner Alex Niedbalski and came out publicly as a lesbian during a same-sex marriage rally regarding Californa’s Proposition 8 a month later.
“It just came out,” she says a few years on of her unexpected public declaration. “I had just gotten married. So instead of speaking as a supporter, I was speaking as one of the victims. It just happened. I didn’t even think about it.”
7. Angela Eagle
The UK’s Labour Party MP Angela Eagle made history in 2015 when she became the first openly gay woman to go head-to-head at the dispatch box during Prime Minister’s Questions. She is only the second openly lesbian MP, following in the footsteps of Maureen Colquhoun.
She was a government minister from 2009 to 2010 and tried – and failed – to become the first female Labour party leader in 2016, withdrawing just eight days after launching her challenge to Jeremy Corbyn.
8. Kate McKinnon
What a 2016 for Saturday Night Live’s outstanding performer. The comedian, who in 2012 became the show’s first openly gay cast member, stole the show in Ghostbusters before she stole our hearts on the post-election episode of SNL, singing the late Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah in her guise as Hillary Clinton. She has also attracted plaudits for her spot-on portrayals of the homophobic Jeff Sessions and Kellyanne Conway. Oh, and she won (then lost) an Emmy.
9. Jill Soloway
Soloway – the creative genius behind Transparent – came out in 2015. In September, she compared Donald Trump to Hitler after picking up her Emmy for Outstanding Director of A Comedy Series for Transparent. She also told viewers: “Topple the patriarchy!” as she left the stage.
10. Hannah Hart
The lesbian YouTuber has repeatedly spoken out about her journey to accepting her sexuality through her channel MyHarto, which now has 2.5 million subscribers. This work promoting equality and acceptance for the LGBT community resulted in her being honoured in September with LGBTQ media monitoring organisation GLAAD’s Davidson/Valentini Award. Her relationship with fellow YouTuber Ingrid Nilsen – who has 4 million subscribers – also hit the headlines, as the pair spread a message of LGBT celebration.
The 30-year-old Californian has even found time to write a book about her life, called Buffering: Unshared Tales of a Life Fully Loaded, which covers her slowly coming to terms with being gay.
11. Ellen DeGeneres
The popular TV host and LGBT advocate has talked about the fear she felt before coming out. “I didn’t think I was going to come out, period…I didn’t think I’d be coming out on a show, ever.”