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Pauli Murray is the most important queer American activist you probably haven’t heard about


Pauli Murray seated in her study. Photo: Schlesinger Library, Harvard Radcliffe Institute (LGBTQ Nation is using she/her pronouns in keeping with Murray’s own writings, but Murray was a transmasculine and gender nonconforming lesbian.)

Some say Pauli Murray is the most important American activist you’ve never heard of. An iconoclastic socialist-leaning, gender-fluid feminist and Black Civil Rights activist, Murray broke barriers in every aspect of her life. And the barriers Murray broke, the paths Murray created single-handedly and single-mindedly, quite literally changed history .

Related: Astronaut Sally Ride will be the first out LGBTQ person on United States currency

Pauli Murray is, in many respects, the one-name answer to why we need LGBTQ History Month. Murray’s quest to find herself as someone who variously identified as a woman, a man, and as neither, ran parallel to Murray’s quest for racial and gender parity in American society and the law.

When Murray died at 74 in 1985 she was an ordained Episcopal priest. But she was also an attorney, a much-published poet, essayist and memoirist, and a legal scholar who had fundamentally altered civil rights law. Murray had created new feminist theory and lived a lesbian life for decades.

Murray’s was a life […]

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