It is with great pride we present to you Velvetpark's annual Top 25 Queer Women of 2012. As with past years our criteria is to honor female-identified or non-gender-binary persons who have made a significant contribution to lesbian/dyke/trans/queer visibility in the areas of arts, culture and activism, or who made a critical impact on our social equality for the year 2012.
Again we reiterate there have been so many unsung s/heroes who contribute significantly to our communities year after year; we have kept to our criteria of not duplicating anyone who has been honored in the past, as well as anyone who has already attained celebrity (mainstream) status.
So without further ado, here are the Top 25 Queer Women of 2012.
“The Undocumented”—Tania Unzueta, Immigrant Rights Activist
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was a critical piece of legislation passed by the Obama administration this year, and Tania Alheli Unzueta, co-founder of the Immigrant Youth Justice League, was a prominent queer undocumented figure advocating its passage. In the summer of 2012 Unzueta worked as the media coordinator with the No Paper No Fear Ride for Justice supported by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network and other organizations, working with riders as they prepped for interviews and acts of civil disobedience across the southern U.S. demanding: a stop to the collaboration between police and Immigration and Customs Enforcement; a stop to deportations; the Obama Administration defend the rights of undocumented immigrants. Unzueta was instrumental in the planning and implementation of these actions, making sure to highlight the variety of voices and stories of the undocumented communities the Undocubus came in contact with as well as those of the people on the bus. Unzueta is now back in Chicago and is the lead coordinator for Organized Communities Against Deportations, an anti-deportations initiative of the Immigrant Youth Justice League. She is also the writer of "How I stopped believing in CIR and learned to love ‘piecemeal’ legislation."
“Gender Technologist”— Del LaGrace Volcano, Visual Artist, Cultural Producer
Del LaGrace has been deconstructing and reconstructing gender identity through his/her photography for over 35 years. Del began his/her career studying at the Art Institute of San Francisco, since then s/he has spent the last 30 years living abroad where his/her works have received major attention at institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art, Glasgow, Scotland; Centre for Contemporary Art in Bourges, France; the Ludwig Museum, Koln, Germany; and the Victoria and Albert Museum in the UK. This fall Del’s works were given a welcomed homecoming at the Leslie Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art with a major mid-career retrospective. While it's a tremendous milestone to see queer artists such as Dawn Kasper and K8 Hardy in major American museum shows, we have only to look at the works of Del LaGrace Volcano for helping to break that ground. The exhibition was nothing short of a thrilling glimpse into the explosive creativity of this mid-career genius, which we can be sure still has many things to come.
“The Sisterhood”—Janet Mock, Writer, Editor, Activist
Ever since People Magazine's online editor Janet Mock wrote a touching coming-out trans story published at The Huffington Post last December, she has emerged as a preeminent leader within the trans community and a vocal advocate of the trans women of color community in particular. As the founder of #GirlsLikeUs, a Twitter advocacy campaign to give voice to transwomen across the world against transphobia, Mock frequently contributes to a number of online and print media, as well as guest lectures at universities across the United States. Slated to appear in the documentary The LGBTQQA List by famed photographer and director Timothy Greenfield-Sanders in June 2013, Mock was “named The Grio’s 100 most influential people, Sundance Channel‘s Top 10 LGBT voices, and GBM News’ 15 Most Powerful LGBT Figures in 2012.” With a particular focus on queer youth, Mock’s focus is on re-visioning our queer future. Through her reiterative call to question traditional notions of “womanhood,” the Honolulu-born Mock is, in our eyes, an ideal feminist and a leader in the effort to create new sisterhoods.
“Solidarity”—Jasbir Puar, Scholar, Activist
Among the many virtues defining the work of scholar, activist and writer Jasbir K. Puar, patience is not one of them: and this is what makes her presence in the world so significant. Her first book, Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times, was published in 2005 and is not only still being bought and talked about in queer and feminist circles, but also still revealing concepts and critical praxes that seem to have been planted there for use in the world-to-come. The term “pinkwashing” has received a lot of attention this year and owes a lot to Puar’s theoretical groundwork: both in TA as well as in a series of contested Op-Eds written for The Guardian that argue that the presence of gay rights in Israel distracts from and subsequently becomes complicit in the media campaign in the west that ignores or permits the arbitrary and paranoid violence sanctioned by that state. In every instance Puar’s work is valuable because of its stubborn and uncanny ability to resist the critical and political temptations of sentimentality and injury that, unfortunately, mark a lot of queer theory and practice in the United States today. Uniquely capable of presenting the complexities of our contemporary political moments as well as stubborn in her confrontations with given and overdetermined logics, Jasbir Puar shows time and time again that she’s got something much better than patience: she’s got nerve.
“The Good One”—Tig Notaro, Comedian