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It is with great pleasure thatVelvetpark announces our seventh annual Top 25 Queer Women of 2015. Each year we ask members of our community to nominate queer identified women and/or non-gender-binary persons who have contributed something noteworthy in the categories of the arts, academia, and activism. As with past years we endeavor not to repeat any honorees from previous years—even while those individuals continue to contribute significantly within their fields year after year. Our list is multi-national, intergenerational and we seek to honor both emerging individuals and those who have had long illustrious track records. Lastly, this list is not in hierarchical order.
Without further adieu, the Top 25 Queer Women of 2015:
1. “No Holds Barred” – Daunasia Yancey, activist / organizer
Daunasia Yancey’s activism began at age thirteen, when she fought to establish a gay-straight alliance at her school. Now twenty-two, Yancey has stepped up as one of the chief organizers for Black Lives Matter Boston, often leading the charge there against anti-black racism and police brutality. Yancey first drew national attention back in August, in a viral video in which she and fellow activist Julius Jones confronted Hillary Clinton about the candidate’s record on the so-called war on drugs and the devastation it has wrought on black communities. (Clinton dodged the question, instead offering her opinion of the BLM movement.) Since then, Yancey has appeared on Comedy Central’s "The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore" and continues to organize rallies and marches in Boston, where she’s working to make life safer and better for queers and people of color alike.
2. “The Godmother of Women’s Music”– June Millington, rock star / mentor
June Millington picked up her first guitar as a young teen shortly before immigrating to the States with her family from the Philippines. And the rest as they say, is rock history. A co-founding member of the ‘70s band Fanny, the first all-female rock n’ roll band to ever release an album on a major label, in 1986, Millington went on to found the Institute for the Musical Arts (IMA) with her longtime partner, Ann F. Hackler. Housed on a 25-acre farm in Goshen, MA the institute features a recording and performance space, and offers regular workshops and a summer program geared at fostering musical training and opportunity for girls. Millington’s autobiography, "Land of a Thousand Bridges", which includes a cultural history of women in rock n’ roll from its earliest days, was successfully funded on Kickstarter in 2014, and was released in June of this year.
3. “Breaking the Silence” – Jennicet Gutierrez, activist
In June of this year, Jennicet Gutierrez, an undocumented trans woman and activist, made national headlines when she interrupted President Obama in the middle of a speech. This act of protest came during a White House reception celebrating National Gay Pride Month and touched off a fierce debate within the queer community about the nature of activism and the politics of respectability. It also did what Gutierrez had hoped—drawing attention to the plight of undocumented trans women in U.S. detention centers, who at the time were being forcibly housed according to their birth gender, making them easy targets for mistreatment, abuse, rape, and torture. One week after Gutierrez’s White House protest, immigration officials announced a policy change that allows trans women to be housed according to their gender identities. Though she has downplayed her role in this change, Gutierrez says her experience was politically galvanizing. “I was afraid of getting arrested and deported,” she says, “but now that I confronted the president I’ve broken through a chain of fear and shame.”
4. "Desire on Fire" – Desiree Akhavan, filmmaker / screenwriter / actor
Filmmaker Desiree Akhavan's parents immigrated to the U.S. after the Iranian Revolution in 1979, initially landing in New Jersey before eventually settling into New York. The Horace Mann School, Smith College, New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, and Queen Mary, University of London provided her education and foundation in filmmaking. From her first short film ("Two Drink Minimum") to her web series ("The Slope") to her debut film ("Appropriate Behavior"), Akhavan has garnered accolades and acclaim for her insightful storytelling. Her work even caught the eye of Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner who cast her on season four of Girls.
5. "Master Podcaster"– Jenna Weiss-Berman, media producer / journalist