Velvetpark's Official Top 25 Most Significant Queer Women of 2009

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Velvetpark's Official Top 25 Most Significant Queer Women of 2009

Velvetpark's editors knocked our heads together and came up with the Top 25 Queer Women of 2009. We chose these women based on having advanced LGBT visibility, culture and/or policy. Our numbering does not constitute any sort of ranking system; we love and honor them all equally and here's why:

1) The Tigerbeat Teen Heartthrob - Ceara Sturgis, Gay Activist


We hear a lot about the power of the younger generation in the fight for queer equality, and this year there emerged one face, one voice from the crowd who stood up for herself, and by proxy, the rest of us. When boi-ishly handsome, 17-year-old Ceara Sturgis wore a tux in her senior photo, school officials tried to ban the picture from appearing in the yearbook, citing a rule about "cross-dressing" that turned out to be completely made-up. Rather than acquiesce to being excluded just for being herself, the openly gay high school senior spoke out about what was happening, garnering national media attention and becoming a spokesperson for gay rights practically overnight. One of the especially lovely things about this story was the support Ceara has from her mom, who has stood by her side, advocating for her daughter's rights. If Ceara is any indication of the future of the LGBT movement, we have a bright future ahead.

2 ) The Art Star - Mikalene Thomas, International Artist

In 2008, Mikalene Thomas took the art world by storm, appearing in all of the major art festivals from Basel to Miami, and blossoming into a full-fledged art star in 2009 with her first solo show at Lemann Maupin Gallery. Creating works of photogrpahy, mixed media and painting, Mikalene has been exploring stereotypes of black femininity and sexuality as well as how women fit into the history of art. An out lesbian, Mikalene has turned the art world on its ear, placing previously marginalized imagery into the canon of Western art.

3 ) The Brains of the Operation - Rachel Maddow, Political Analyst/TV Show Host

Rachel Maddow really found her voice and solidified her standing this year as one liberal media personality not to be messed with. She stood, sat actually, stool-to-stool with Tom Ridge, Susan Rice, Tim Phillips, Rick Berman, Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, Richard Cohen, and so many more, never backing down, always pushing through on calling their shenanigans. The balance of brilliance, courage, humanity, and authenticity that is Rachel Maddow is something to celebrate. It's just that much more special because she has The Gay.

4 ) The Wordsmith - Sarah Schulman, Novelist/Playwright/Historian/Activist

Sarah Schulman's resume reads like a history of the last 30 years of queer activism. She has been at the forefront of our LGBT rights struggle as a critical member of organizations like ACT UP, the Lesbian Avengers, and the arts and culture MIX festival. On top of that she's done all of it while producing nine novels, four nonfiction books and a play. This year she published the groundbreaking Ties That Bind, a book that explores the abuse of familial homophobia. Schulman has no fear in tackling those subjects we are most afraid to look at.

Comments [24]

karrr's picture

smart woman

"The question is, can the state exclude gay people from marriage, from all its tradition and prestige, and instead have a parallel institution and say it's equal? Of course not. Because symbolically it tells our society something it's been telling us for a long time: Your relationships are not the same."


wooahhh... so well said!

Queeried's picture

I know I'm repeating what

I know I'm repeating what everyone is saying but it has to be said. This is a great list! It's so easy to just come up with a list full of name of people that we will all recognise but haven't actually done much, but to produce something like this takes a lot of thought and effort. Brilliant brillant article.

Chancesare's picture

lesbian aspect called Heroes and Zeros

Good choices here for sure - well thought out and some are obvious.

I enjoyed this one although it was political but interesting from a lesbian view.  I think the writer is an activist.  Its at 

It is so good to see lesbians emerge.  The more visible more the chancesare we will get somewhere.

Chances are good.

Tex's picture


I didn't make ANY editor's Top 25 List?!?!?! We need more dates and more time - I need to rectify this!



Twitter Time @kdhales

Meiohmy's picture

Excellent list

Thanks team for coming up with a thoughtful, substanstial list of women.  Well done!


SMBrown's picture

Ditto!  But Grace, you're too

Ditto!  But Grace, you're too modest--you'd be on my list (not sayin' what number though!) Wink

Julia Watson's picture

I wanted to put Moon on too,

I wanted to put Moon on too, but I figured that might be a little cheesy on our own site. Ha.

Not2Taem's picture

"I wanted to put Moon on too"

I'm going to be good.

I'm going to be good.

I'm going to be good.


Grace Moon's picture


long as i'm number one in your eyes thats all that counts. Wink

tweet tweet @gracemoon

skate's picture

Thanks for the list.  I did

Thanks for the list.  I did not know who many of the people were, so now I will look them up.

About 12 or 13 years ago a friend an I put together a list of horrible gay people - just for shits and giggles, and to acknowledge the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Andrew Cuhnanan, etc.  An interesting exercise.

MacLass_19's picture

Very impressive group of women....

What an exciting year 2009 was. Even with the, emotionally charged political setbacks that we've suffered, we have been visible - and we will be even more visible in 2010.

In watching the women who have stood strong, on our behalf, I find myself indebted to the women who are not normally in front of the camera. Not the actresses, and comedians. Not the writers, and news personnel. Not even Rachel Maddow... But, the women who's main direction in their lives is to unselfishly fight for all of us - the hero's who give without the glamour, and personal gain - the women who's passion it is, to care more about the rights of a complete stranger, than receiving glory for their political and/or legal actions.

And with that, thank you for including Therese Stewart. She has been an advocate for our human rights for years...I had the pleasure of meeting her several years ago, and was impressed beyond measure. Her dedication to the lesbian and gay community, is her passion. Therese Stewart's words have been on the evening news, in blogs, in news papers, all over the internet, but more importantly - in the courtroom. She has, and will continue to fight for all people who's human rights have been denied solely on the basis of sexual and/or gender orientation...

She's beyond awesome.


Jenny Aisenberg's picture


Thanks for this awesome list, Grace! It's a reminder of what I love most about Vp: it makes me feel like I'm still at Smith!!! Smile

"We're all born naked. The rest is drag."
--RuPaul (appropriating Judith Butler for the masses...)

Not2Taem's picture


I love your quote.  Smile

geek4grammar's picture

Thanx :)

Glad you like that-- I am on a mission to bring the linguistically inaccessible queer theory to all the peeps! Smile

We're all born naked. The rest is drag.
--RuPaul (appropriating Judith Butler for the masses...)

Grace Moon's picture

i wish

the whole world were more like smith!

tweet tweet @gracemoon

Elizabeth Koke's picture


Moons, there is a women artists conference at Smith coming up in Feb. Wanna go?

<3 Elizabeth

Grace Moon's picture



tweet tweet @gracemoon

Not2Taem's picture

or Bryn Mawr


minniesota's picture


Gracias for putting together this list, which is a fabulous way to give us hope and inspiration as 2009 ends and 2010 begins. I will help spread the word about it with a Tweet.

Still searching for the right brainy quote.

Joanne Robertson's picture



Rusty's picture

Nicely done

Thanks for putting this together. Not one quibble from me. Nicely done.

"When you look for the bad in mankind expecting to find it, you surely will." ~ Pollyanna

Tiff's picture


Well, almost. Houston's not a state. Smile Tongue

ZaraThustra's picture


this is the best, most well-put-together, list I've ever come across .... seriously (or, I'm actually being serious in this post). Awesome job. 

Not2Taem's picture

Well done, peeps!

I think I'll just bookmark this to look back on when things get challenging.