Famous Firsts by LGBT Americans

Updated June 14, 2021 | Catherine McNiff

Some early accomplishments by LGBT Americans

LGBT Firsts: Government1

  • Local elected lesbian official: Kathy Kozachenko, 1974, Ann Arbor City Council, Mich.
  • Local elected gay official: Harvey Milk, 1977, San Francisco Board of Supervisors.
  • Lesbian state elected official: Elaine Noble, 1974, Massachusetts legislature.
  • Gay state elected official: Allan Spear, 1976, Minnesota Senate.
  • Gay mayor of state capital: David Cicilline, Providence, R.I., 2002–2010.
  • Gay mayor of large (population over 500,000) city: Sam Adams, 2008, Portland, Ore.
  • Lesbian mayor of major (population over 1 million) city: Annise Parker, 2009, Houston, Tex.
  • Transgender elected mayor: Stu Rasmussen, 2008, Silverton Ore.
  • Gay U.S. Representative: Gerry Studds became a Congressman from Massachusetts in 1973 and was reelected eleven more times. His 1984 reelection made him the first openly gay U.S. Representative elected to office.
  • Lesbian U.S. Representative: Tammy Baldwin became both the first female member of the House and the first gay non-incumbent elected to Congress in 1998.

LGBT Firsts: Law

  • Lesbian federal judge: Deborah A. Batts, 1994.
  • Gay federal judge: J. Paul Oetken, 2011.
  • Gay state supreme court judge: Rives Kistler, 2003, Oregon Supreme Court.
  • Lesbian state supreme court judge: Virginia Linder, 2007, Oregon Supreme Court.
  • Gay judge: Stephen Lachs, 1979, Los Angeles superior court.
  • Lesbian judge: Mary Morgan, 1981, San Francisco municipal court.
  • Transgender judge: Victoria Kolakowski, 2010, Alameda County (Calif.) superior court.

LGBT Firsts: Diplomacy

  • Gay U.S. Ambassador: James C. Hormel, 1999, to Luxembourg.

LGBT Firsts: Scholarship

  • Lesbian Rhodes Scholar: Rachel Maddow, 2001.

LGBT Firsts: Pulitzer Prize Winners

  • Gay Pulitzer Prize winner, fiction: Michael Cunningham, 1999, The Hours.
  • Gay Pulitzer Prize winner, drama: Tennessee Williams, 1948, A Streetcar Named Desire.
  • Gay Pulitzer Prize winner, music: Aaron Copland, 1945, Appalachian Spring.
  • Lesbian Pulitzer Prize winner, novel: Willa Cather, 1923, One of Ours.
  • Lesbian Pulitzer Prize winner, poetry: Amy Lowell, 1926, What's O'Clock (posthumous)

LGBT Firsts: Music

LGBT Firsts: Television and Journalism

  • Lesbian network television show host: Ellen DeGeneres, 2003, The Ellen DeGeneres Show. DeGeneres came out in 1997 while portraying a lesbian character on the sitcom Ellen (another first).
  • Lesbian news anchor: Rachel Maddow, 2008, Rachel Maddow Show.
  • Gay sports reporter/editor: Roger Brigham, 1982, The Anchorage Daily News.

LGBT Firsts: Sports

  • Lesbian pro golfer: Muffin Spencer-Devlin, came out 1996.
  • Trans pro golfer: Lana Lawless sued the LPGA in 2010 and won the right to play on the tour.
  • Gay Major League Lacrosse player: goalie Andrew Goldstein was openly gay when drafted by the Boston Cannons in 2005.
  • Lesbian WNBA player: Sheryl Swoopes, the forward came out in 2005.
  • Gay professional bodybuilder: Bob Paris, came out in 1989, was Mr. America and Mr. Universe in 1983.
  • Lesbian mountain bike champion: Missy Giove, first world title, 1994.
  • Gay tennis champion: Bill Tilden, 1920. He won three Wimbledon titles, seven U.S. championships, and led U.S. teams to seven Davis Cup victories.
  • Lesbian tennis champion: Martina Navratilova, 1981. Navratilova won nine Wimbledon singles titles (seven after she came out), three Australian Opens, two French Opens, and four U.S. Opens. She was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2000.
  • Transgender U.S. Open tennis player: Renee Richards, played in the men's competition five times 1953–60; and in the women's five years in a row 1977–1981. Best finishes were a third round singles loss in 1979 and a loss in the doubles finals in 1977.
  • Gay Olympic medalist: Ronnie Robertson, 1956, won the silver in figure skating.
  • Lesbian Olympic gold medalist: Gigi Fernandez, 1992, won gold in Barcelona in the doubles event, and struck gold again in 1996 in Atlanta.

1. The list is limited to officials who were "out" at the time of their election to office.

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