11 Influential People From The LGBTQ+ Community In The UK To Follow Now
11 Influential People From The LGBTQ+ Community In The UK To Follow Now
In the UK, February marks LGBT History Month. It's a time when we celebrate the hard-won rights and freedoms that the queer community now enjoys, including a fully equal age of consent, the legal right to change gender, and an equal right to marry.
However, it's also reminds us of the work that's still to be done. The UK still hasn't banned conversion therapy, a widely discredited pseudoscience predicated on the nonsensical idea that being LGBTQ+ is a mental disorder that can be "cured". Homophobic and transphobic hate crimes actually rose during the pandemic. And because they're unfairly caught up in the so-called "culture wars" stoked by the right-wing media, daily life for many trans people can be exhausting.
With this in mind, here are some vital queer voices you'll want to follow for LGBT History Month and beyond. They are campaigners, performers, pop stars, pioneers, and writers. But each of them is completely inspiring and helping to enrich the queer experience for everyone.
Through their whip-smart live shows, journalism and screenwriting work, Amrou Al-Kadhi makes LGBTQ+ representation in the UK more intersectional. Their award-winning 2020 memoir, Life as a Unicorn: A Journey from Shame to Pride, and Everything In Between, traces their transformation from a self-described "god-fearing Muslim boy" to a stage-slaying queer drag queen. Having written episodes of Hollyoaks and BBC America's The Watch, Al-Kadhi now has several TV and film projects of their own in the pipeline. It's safe to say they're only just getting started.
Follow Amrou Al-Kadhi on Instagram @glamrou
With his chart-topping pop project Years & Years, Olly Alexander has brought a fierce but friendly queer energy to the UK music scene. On New Year's Eve, he hosted a joyous live show on BBC One that was also subtly subversive. When he draped himself suggestively over male backing dancers during a performance of "Sanctify", it surely caused a few homophobes to spit out their cocoa. Alexander has also made a splash as an actor, starring in Russell T Davies's moving miniseries about the HIV/AIDS epidemic, It's A Sin.
Follow Olly Alexander on Instagram @ollyyears
Quite simply, Adam All is the godfather of London's drag king scene. With Soho cabaret night BOiBOX, which he runs with wife Apple Derrieres, he has given a vital platform to queer AFAB (Assigned Female at Birth) performers who might otherwise have been overlooked. As drag's popularity has exploded over the last decade, All's super-inclusive approach and hilarious shows skewering toxic masculinity have been a real tonic. He has paved the way for the UK's brilliant kings to stay booked and busy like their drag queen sisters.
Follow Adam All on Instagram @adamall_drag
With a perspective as unique as their stage name, Bimini Bon-Boulash is a breakout star of RuPaul's Drag Race UK. Their affectionate send-up of Katie Price in the show's Snatch Game challenge went viral – and their candid conversation about being non-binary with fellow contestant Ginny Lemon was incredibly inspiring, too. Since completing their Drag Race stint, Bimini's profile has continued to grow as they bring radical queer energy to mainstream spaces. They even appeared in last year's Sainsbury's Christmas ad.
Follow Bimini Bon-Boulash on Instagram @biminibabes
Activist and model consistently evolves the conversation around race, gender and queerness both at home and globally. In 2020, three years after she was unfairly sacked by L'Oreal Paris for posting about "the racial violence of white people", Bergdorf received a belated apology from the brand and joined its UK diversity and inclusion advisory board. Rightly hailed as a "trailblazer" by Gay Times magazine, she recently became the first trans person to appear on the cover of Cosmopolitan UK.
Follow Munroe Bergdorf on Instagram @munroebergdorf
By creating Nail Transphobia, a pop-up nail salon that travelled the country promoting awareness over manicures, Charlie Craggs definitely did activism her way: with loads of warmth and glamour. She has since continued to improve trans visibility in the UK by writing an acclaimed book, To My Trans Sisters, and presenting the sensitive and enlightening documentary Transitioning Teens, which is available on BBC iPlayer. She's a force for good with a knack for calling out right-wing media.
Follow Charlie Craggs on Instagram @charliecraggs
Since he moved to the UK from Canada in his early twenties, Ryan Lanji has made his own lane as a curator, cultural producer, and TV personality. When he saw that his South Asian heritage was underrepresented in the LGBTQ+ scene, he launched Hungama, a queer Bollywood night that became one of London's coolest, most inclusive parties. In 2020, Lanji entered Netflix's floral design show The Big Flower Fight, and went on to win it. It's impossible to second guess what his next project might involve, but it's bound to be interesting.
Follow Ryan Lanji on Instagram @ryanlanji
Phyll Opoku-Gyimah (Dr Lady Phyll)
Led by co-founder and executive director Phyll Opoku-Gyimah – also known as Lady Phyll – UK Black Pride is a vital grassroots movement that keeps on growing. Seventeen years after it began as a day trip to Southend-on-Sea for members of the online community Black Lesbians in the UK (BLUK), it has blossomed into Europe's largest pride celebration for LGBTQ+ people of African, Asian, Caribbean, Latin American and Middle Eastern descent. Along the way, Lady Phyll has built a reputation as a deeply principled and inspiring activist.
Follow Phyll Opoku-Gyimah on Instagram @MsLadyPhyll
"So what if we don't look the same? We been going through the same thing, yeah," sings Rina Sawayama on her song, "Chosen Family". It's a heartfelt pop gem celebrating the way queer people can come together to form our own support networks. Influenced by everything from nu-metal to early Britney Spears, Sawayama's forward-thinking music marks her out as a future superstar and exciting new LGBTQ+ icon. "Beg for You", a super-catchy collaboration with Charli XCX, has just become her first UK Top 40 single.
Follow Rina Sawayama on Instagram @rinasonline
The title of last year's Netflix documentary, Hating Peter Tatchell, is both tongue-in-cheek and unexpectedly touching. Born in Australia but based in London since 1971, this tireless and courageous human rights campaigner was often painted as a pariah by the right-wing media. However, he's now embraced as a kind of reluctant national treasure, especially since he bravely attempted a citizen's arrest on Robert Mugabe in 1999 and 2001. Tatchell's methods have sometimes been controversial, but his visionary activism with groups such as OutRage! and his own Peter Tatchell Foundation have been integral to securing improved rights and freedoms for the UK's LGBTQ+ community. He turned 70 in January, but absolutely no one expects him to slow down.
Follow Peter Tatchell on Instagram @petertatchell
Author, model and presenter Jamie Windust has an instantly recognisable look and a flair for communication. As a contributing editor for Gay Times magazine, they have written about important topical issues such as conversion therapy and how queerness can inform our approach to the climate crisis. They have also helped to spearhead the campaign for non-binary people to be recognised on passports and other official documents. In a world that can still look and feel stiflingly heteronormative, Windust is a bright beacon of queer hope.
Follow Jamie Windust on Instagram @jamie_windust