21 LGBTQ+ activists we looked up to this year

LGBTQ+ activists

Here are some of the many LGBTQ+ activists we looked up to in 2023, people who put in the work to serve and elevate the queer community.

These people have put themselves out there – often in the face of public scrutiny – to campaign for the rights and dignity of LGBTQ+ people around the world. For their hard work, dedication and unwavering commitment, we thank them.

So, in no particular order:

Dylan Mulvaney

Dylan Mulvaney faced a backlash when her face appeared on a can of Bud Light. (Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)

Trans social media influencer Dylan Mulvaney, who found fame with her 365 Days of Girlhood series on social media, has quickly become a household name as someone who uses her platform and signature positivity to fight for trans rights.

Despite being at the centre of right-wing backlash this year, when Bud Light gave her one can of beer with her face on it, Mulvaney has refused to bow down and was recently named on Forbes magazine’s 30 Under 30 Social Media list.

Yasmin Benoit

Yasmin Benoit opened up conversations about asexuality. (Jason Mendez/Getty Images)

Asexual activist and trailblazer Yasmin Benoit broke new ground this year, opening up conversations about ace experiences and representation in society. Her “Ace in the UK” report – created in collaboration with Stonewall – revealed, for the first time, the lived experiences of people who are asexual.

Jude Guaitamacchi

Jude Guaitamacchi is aiming to make love the loudest voice.(Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty Images)

Jude Guaitamacchi is a trans, non-binary keynote speaker and activist, as well as the co-founder of the powerful #TransPeopleAreLoved global solidarity campaign, which aims to “make love the loudest voice”.

Rukshana Kapali

Rukshana Kapali is working to achieve rights for LGBTQ+ people in Nepal. (PRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP via Getty Images)

Rukshana Kapali is a transgender human rights activist from Nepal. A third-year law student, she is actively involved in advancing LGBTQ+ rights for people in her South Asia home land. In November, she was named on the BBC’s annual 100 Women list for her work in LGBTQ+ advocacy, alongside other “influential and inspiring women” from around the world.

Jayne Ozanne

Jayne Ozanne resigned from the General Synod over its “callous disregard” for LGBTQ+ people. (ISABEL INFANTES/AFP via Getty Images)

Gay evangelical Christian, former government advisor, conversion therapy survivor and director of the Ozanne Foundation, Jayne has worked passionately throughout 2023 for LGBTQ+ rights. She continues to fight for a full conversion therapy ban and to make the Church of England become a more welcoming and inclusive place for queer folk.

In November, Ozanne resigned from the General Synod over its “callous disregard” for LGBTQ+ people. 

Billy Porter

Actor Billy Porter has never been frightened to speak truth to power. (Santiago Felipe/Getty Images for ABA)

Actor and activist Billy Porter has never been one to shy away from voicing support for his community and using his platform to – in his own words – “speak truth to power”.

Eva Echo

Eva Echo smiles at the camera while wearing a yellow and green patterned top with a screen in the background that reads 'The Wait For Trans Healthcare' in the colours of the trans Pride flag
Eva Echo took NHS England to court over long waiting times for trans patients. (Instagram/evaech0)

Activist and public speaker Eva Echo never ceases to amaze us at PinkNews with her dedication to trans rights and the wider LGBTQ+ community.

Director of innovation at Birmingham Pride, director at Trans in the City, a member of the Crown Prosecution Service’s local scrutiny and involvement panel for hate crime, and one of the people who took NHS England to the High Court over the lengthy waiting times for trans patients, her work seems never-ending.

Verity Smith

Verity Smith World Rugby trans ban
Verity Smith is campaigning for trans inclusion in sport. (Screenshot from Sky News report)

Rugby player and LGBTQ+ rights activist Verity Smith is a steadfast force in campaigning for trans inclusion and access to sport, particularly for transgender youth.

Phyll Opoku – Gyimah (Lady Phyll)

Lady Phyll is demanding more action from the government. (Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images for UK Black Pride)

Co-founder of UK Black Pride and former executive director of LGBTQ+ human rights organisation Kaleidoscope Trust, Lady Phyll is a tour-de-force in queer activism, especially for the Black members and people of colour in our community. She has repeatedly called on the government to work harder for LGBTQ+ people around the world and to not flag on commitments to the community.

Tarek Zeidan

Tarek Zeidan has faced terrifying opposition to LGBTQ+ rights in Lebanon. (ANWAR AMRO/AFP via Getty Images)

Tarek Zeidan is the executive director of Helem, the first LGBTQ+ rights organisation in the Arab World, and is based in Beirut. Amid increasing anti-LGBTQ+ sentiments in the country, including a violent attack on a gay bar and on LGBTQ+ marches, Zeidan has continued to work to create a safe space for Lebanon’s queer community.

Charlie Craggs

Charlie Craggs has set up self-defence classes for trans men and women, after being attacked herself. (Lia Toby/Getty Images)

Author, actor and activist, there is no limit to what queer powerhouse Charlie Craggs can do. This year, she launched free self-defence classes for trans people, after she was attacked on the London Underground in 2022. Charlie’s Self Defence Angels aims to equip transgender people with the skills they need to protect themselves if they end up in a dangerous situation.

Aida H Dee

Drag artist Aida H Dee during a Drag Queen Story Hour UK event.
Aida H Dee brings positive queer stories to youngsters. (George Tyler Photography)

Despite a relentless backlash from anti-LGBTQ+ bigots, who have protested against her drag queen shows, Aida H Dee has never halted in her mission to bring positive queer stories to youngsters and families.

Schuyler Bailar

Swimmer Schuyler Bailar had his first book published this year. (Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)

Trans activist and swimmer Schuyler Bailar is a passionate advocate and educator on LGBTQ+ rights, particularly on trans inclusion in sport. His first book was published this year. He/She/They is a non-fiction work which examines how we talk about gender, and why it matters.

Dee Whitnell

Dee Whitnell is the founder of a trans support campaign. (Dee Whitnell/Supplied)

An accredited relationships sex and health educator, content creator and soon-to-be author, Dee Whitnell is also the founder of the solidarity campaign #TransKidsDeserveToGrowUp, which has been used millions of times on social media.

They use their platform to shine the light on myths, share vital information and promote important trans-related causes. Their hard work has seen them nominated in the LGBTQ+ influencer of the year category at the Gaydio Pride Awards.

Matt Bernstein

Matt Bernstein makes speech at PinkNews awards 2022. (PinkNews)
Matt Bernstein has moved into making podcasts. (PinkNews)

You might know make-up artist Matt Bernstein for his informative Instagram graphics and hot Twitter takes, but this year he expanded to a new platform: podcasting.

A Bit Fruity with Matt Bernstein sees him take a deep dive into LGBTQ+ issues and culture wars, touching on topics such as gender reveals, LGBTQ+ conservatives and detransitioning.

Raga Olga D’silva

Raga Olga D’silva set up a platform for queer women and non-binary people. (Supplied)

Internationally renowned speaker, author, LGBTQ+ activist and lesbian icon Raga Olga D’silva is a go-to expert for many when it comes to discussing topics such as queerphobia and diversity and unconscious bias in the workplace – as well as what it is like to be gay in India. This year, she co-founded OUTspoken Speakers Bureau, a platform exclusively for LGBTQ+ women and non-binary folk.

Zander Murray

Zander Murray has been campaigning against homophobia in football. (Supplied)

Since coming out as gay in 2022, professional Scottish footballer Zander Murray has become a fierce campaigner against homophobia in the sport, as well as using his platform to promote equality for the wider LGBTQ+ community.

Marty Davies

Trans Creative Marty Davies
Marty Davies founded Trans+ History Week. (QueerAF)

Marty Davies is the joint-chief executive of Outvertising, an award-winning creative strategist, campaigner, writer and advertising industry expert. This year, she founded Trans+ History Week, which will be marked officially for the first time in May.

Hannah and Jake Graf

Jake and Hannah Graf
Jake and Hannah Graf work together for transgender rights. (Antony Jones/Getty)

The definition of couple goals, advocates Hannah and Jake Graf tirelessly campaign for trans rights, while sharing updates about their family – showing trans joy is not just a possibility, but a reality. In June, the couple published their first book and memoir, Becoming Us.

Jake Daniels

Blackpool forward Jake Daniels has been calling out anti-LGBTQ+ attitudes in sport. (YouTube/Sky Sports)

Out English striker Jake Daniels was the first professional British footballer to come out since Justin Fashanu and has since spoken candidly about his experience and the state of the game for gay players. He has used his platform to call out anti-LGBTQ+ attitudes in sport and promote equality and acceptance.

Nadia Whittome

MP Nadia Whittome voted against the government blocking of Scotland’s gender law reforms. (Tristan Fewings/Getty Images)

Labour MP for Nottingham East Nadia Whittome has never shied away from using her political platform to campaign for LGBTQ+ equality. In January, she was one of just 11 Labour MPs who defied Keir Starmer to vote against using a Section 35 order to block Scotland’s gender law reforms and has been vocal about the need to ban conversion therapy and tackle transphobia within Labour.