1. William Campbell & John Hilton
Though they never married, William Campbell and John Hilton were together for 54 years—spanning seven decades. Despite facing years of oppression, their love for one another was so strong that they were never afraid to be who they are.
Here’s their story:
2. Ellen Degeneres
Ellen is perhaps THE pioneer in gay TV. Already the star of her own show, Ellen was sometimes called the “female Seinfeld.” In February 1997, Ellen came out on The Oprah Winfrey Show and subsequently did in an episode of her show. She was one of the first people to own her sexuality in such a public way, and she has never shied away from it since.
3. Zach Wahls
Zach Wahls took to the stand two years ago to talk about his two moms being exactly who they are is what helped raise him and his sister so well: “I think every child deserves a family as loving and committed as mine. Because the sense of family comes from the commitment we make to each other to work through the hard times so we can enjoy the good ones. It comes from the love that binds us; that’s what makes a family. My family is just as real as yours.”
4. Lena Dunham
Dunham has been in the spotlight ever since releasing her first feature film, Tiny Furniture in 2010. She has always been vocal about her views and she hasn’t let fame change her views about herself or women, broadly.
On the subject, she had this say: “On Girls I like being a mouthpiece for the issues I think young females face today. It’s always shocking when people question whether it’s a feminist show. How could a show about women exploring women not be? Feminism isn’t a dirty word. It’s not like we’re a deranged group who think women should take over the planet, raise our young on our own and eliminate men from the picture. Feminism is about women having all the rights that men have.”
With more than half a million Twitter followers and over 300,000 YouTube subscribers, “Lohanthony” (a portmanteau of Lindsay Lohan and his name, Anthony, of course) is one of the most prolific teens to make his name on the Internet who also happens to be gay. His content is all about doing whatever makes you happy and he frequently makes videos in an effort to inspire other LGBT teens to be above the hate they might hear all around them.
6. Eric Ducharme
Ducharme appeared on TLC’s My Crazy Obsession earlier this year because he’s dedicated his life to becoming a mermaid. He’s more than qualified to do it; as a certified SCUBA diver, he can stay underwater for up to four minutes on his own and goes swimming in full mermaid gear multiple times a week. Despite people not understanding how he identifies, Ducharme has never let it get in his way of being happy.
7. Kid President
Robby Novak, aka “Kid President,” can already add comedian, motivational speaker, and TED speaker to his resume—and he’s only ten. He started off as a promoter for a benefit dinner for Freed-Hardeman University, but his outstandingly optimistic outlook on life has grown into something much larger than that. His “Pep Talk” video has over 20 million views on YouTube and his ability to speak so earnestly is something that usually takes people years to learn.
8. Malala Yousafzai
When she was just 11, Yousafzai started writing an anonymous blog for the BBC about her life under Taliban rule in Pakistan. Since then, she has become a prominent education and women’s rights advocate in a region where there are even few adults trying to do so—and she continues to fight for what she believes is right, despite an attempt on her life in 2012. She is also the youngest nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize in history.
9. Jennifer Livingston
When a viewer criticized local news anchor Jennifer Livingston’s physical appearance, instead of attacking the person who attacked her, she defended herself and her weight. “You don’t know me. You are not a friend of mine. You are not a part of my family. And you have admitted that you don’t watch this show. So you know nothing about me but what you see on the outside. And I am much more than a number on the scale.”
Not only that, she turned it into an anti-bullying message for the broader culture. She refused to just be “a number on a scale” and her response video is truly inspiring.
10. Fred Rogers
Mr. Rogers was originally an educator and Presbyterian minister who went into television because he had a fundamental problem with how it addressed children. How did he seek to change it? In Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, Mr. Rogers would directly talk WITH children, rather than TO them—even if just through their screens—with messages like, “One of the greatest gifts you can give anybody is the gift of your honest self” and sang songs to comfort children’s common fears, like being sucked down a bathtub drain, and even took a trip to the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh to allay fears of the hospital.