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Lesbian Visibility Day: Nine lesbian women you need to know about

These stars and activists are out, proud and thriving.

2021-04-26

Words: Will Stroude

Monday 26 April marks Lesbian Visibility Day, a day to celebrate lesbians around the world and show solidarity with all queer women and non-binary people who form part of the LGBTQ community.

Part of Lesbian Visibility Week, which runs until this Sunday 2 May, the event has been held annually since 2008.

As research from DIVA & Stonewall, supported by P&G, reveals that more than a third (35%) of LGBTQ women and non-binary people have hidden or disguised their LGBTQI identities at work out of fear of discrimination, either once or multiple times, we're shining a light on some of the lesbian stars and activists who are out and proud professionally - and changing the world around them at the same time...

Kate McKinnon - Actress and comedian

Since joining Saturday Night Live on a permanent basis in 2013, Kate McKinnon, 37, has fast established herself as one of TV and film's most successful lesbian personalities, with two Primetime Emmy Award wins from a total of eight nominations.

McKinnon, who is currently in a relationship with photographer Jackie Abbott, recently opened up about her sexuality while presenting an award to Ellen DeGeneres at the 2020 Golden Globe Awards, telling the trailblazing lesbian comedian and talk show host: "You've changed my life. You've changed so many people's lives."

Kehlani - Singer

Californian singer Kehlani has won legions of fans - and acclaim - with her two albums, 2017's SweetSexySavage and last year's It Was Good Until It Wasn't.

After previously identifying as queer and pansexual, the 26-year-old confirmed she now identities as a lesbian early this year in a live Q&A on Instagram.

She later told The Advocate that she had experienced "a lot of privilege [as a] cisgender-presenting, straight-presenting" person in the heteronormative music industry.

"I think a lot of artists who we talk about and say, ‘Oh, they had to come out or they had to do this,’ a lot of them can’t hide it. A lot of it is very [much] in how they present. It’s tougher for them," the 'Gangsta' singer explained.

"It’s tougher for trans artists. It’s tougher for Black gay men. It’s tougher for Black masculine gay women."

Rosie Jones - Comedian

Rosie Jones - recipient of the Comedy Award at the 2020 Virgin Atlantic Attitude Awards, powered by Jaguar - hopes to provide the visibility that was so lacking for her as a disabled, gay child.

A familiar face on TV panel shows such as 8 Out of 10 Cats and The Last Leg, the stand-up star says the lack of representation in the media – of disabled performers and “all minorities” – is no laughing matter.

"Growing up, I never saw someone disabled on telly. Although I had a happy childhood, in terms of the media, I never felt valid. I wanted to change that. I wanted somebody to tell my story," Rosie, who was born with cerebral palsy, told Attitude last year.

"As I got older, I thought, no one can tell my story apart from me.”

Punkie Johnson - Actress and comedian

Punkie Johnson is the first black ‘out’ lesbian cast member of US sketch series Saturday Night Live – her predecessor Danitra Vance was the first queer black person to perform on the show, between 1985 and 86, but her sexual orientation was not made public until after her death in 1994.

Punkie was announced as a new addition for the 46th season of SNL, and she joins Bowen Yang, Julio Torres and Kate McKinnon in its growing contingent of LGBTQ performers.

The standup comic, who lives in Los Angeles, mines comedy gold from her 18-year relationship with her wife, and society’s fixation on gender roles.

Gigi Chao - Businesswoman and LGBTQ activist

When her father, billionaire property tycoon Cecil Chao, offered a fortune for a potential husband to 'turn her straight', Gigi Chao made a stand for her sexuality and made headlines around the world.

She’s since become a spokesperson for LGBTQ equality - especially in her native Hong Kong, where she leads a marriage equality campaign - and made a truce with her father that’s seen her become executive vice-chairman of his hugely successful property company.

Erin Kellyman - actress

Still just 22, British actress Erin Kellyman has been making fast strides in Hollywood ever since appearing in Caitlin Moran's Channel 4 comedy Raised By Wolves as a teenager.

After a high-profile role in 2018's Solo: A Star Wars Story, Kellyman joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe this year with a role in Disney+ series The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, where she played fiersome teenage antagonist Karli Morgenthau.

Karine Jean-Pierre - Deputy White House press secretary

A long-time political strategist and pundit, Karine Jean-Pierre worked on presidential campaigns for Barack Obama before she was appointed senior advisor to the Joe Biden 2020 presidential campaign, where she served as chief of staff for soon-to-be vice president-elect Kamala
Harris.

Jean-Pierre’s appointment as deputy White House press secretary ensures that a proud lesbian woman of Haitian heritage will serve at the heart of the Biden administration.

It’s sure to provide plenty of material for a sequel to her 2019 memoir, Moving Forward: A Story of Hope, Hard Work, and the Promise of America.

Mhairi Black - SNP MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire South

The youngest MP to be elected to the Commons in almost 200 years may no longer hold the title of ‘Baby of the House’, but half a decade and two successful re-elections later, Mhairi Black remains a formidable political star.

Still just 26, the Paisley-born MP was appointed Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland in 2020 and remains committed to dragging the “old boys’ club” of Westminster firmly into the 21st century.

Black’s unapologetically no-nonsense attitude was on full display when she was quizzed about her coming-out experience shortly after her original election in 2015, responding: "I’ve never been in."

Lady Phyll - Co-founder of UK Black Pride & executive director of Kaleidoscope Trust

As co-founder and director of UK Black Pride, Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, aka Lady Phyll, oversees the largest celebration for LGBTQ people of African, Asian, Caribbean, Latin American and Middle descent in Europe.

Promoting strength through unity, the movement champions black LGBTQ and QTIPOC culture via education, the arts and advocacy.

Self-proclaimed “Black African lesbian warrior woman mother”, Phyll is also executive director of Kaleidoscope Trust, the UK’s leading charity working to advance LGBTQ human rights globally. Phyll the love!

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