12/31/2013 08:04 am ET | Updated Feb 02, 2016

20 Of The Most Compelling Queer People Of 2013

As we mark the end of 2013, it is important to reflect back on some of the most prominent contributions by members of the queer community this year that have helped galvanize the massive social and political victories of the past twelve months.

From visibility to institutional reform, queer people are involved in a mainstream shift that is gradually changing the way the public understands and relates to our community. In celebration of all of these moments over the past year and the victories we hope will happen throughout the course of 2014, join us in recognizing 20 of the most compelling members of the queer community and their contributions over the past year.

  • 1 Edie Windsor
    Though she was snubbed by both The Advocate and "Time" magazine for person of the year, Edie Windsor is certainly one of the most important and compelling people we had the pleasure of watching during the past year of political and social battles for LGBT rights. The landmark case United States v. Windsor involved Windsor suing the federal government after the Internal Revenue Service denied her refund request for the $363,000 in federal estate taxes she paid after her spouse, Thea Spyer, died in 2009. The Supreme Court ultimately ruled a key portion of the Defense of Marriage act to be unconstitutional.
  • 2 Chelsea Manning
    Following her trial for leaking classified government documents, Chelsea Manning sent shockwaves through the nation when she announced her transgender identity and asked for the public's support. One of the first high-profile public figures to come out as transgender, Manning became heavily influential in moving the conversation about transgender identity into the mainstream.
  • 3 Jason Collins
    2013 was a grounding breaking year for athletes that identify as LGBT, including the coming out of Jason Collins. Not only did Collin's coming out in Sports Illustrated inspire other LGBT athletes to live as their authentic selves, but it made him the first openly gay professional male athlete in any major sport.
  • 4 Jinkx Monsoon
    Slaven Vlasic via Getty Images
    When Jinkx Monsoon became the winner of the fifth season of "RuPaul's Drag Race," he beat out season four winner Sharon Needles' boyfriend Alaska Thunderfuck (though the pair recently split). Following his win, Jinkx broke down the barriers of the drag world by pursuing his dreams of working in Broadway and theater as a drag queen. He truly evidenced that the "Drag Race" crown can change your life -- if you let it -- by catering to your own specific interests and career path and, inspiringly, by being no one else but exactly yourself.
  • 5 Coy Mathis
    Six-year-old Coy Mathis sparked a national conversation about the rights of transgender minors within the public school system when educators barred her from using the girl's bathroom. The legal actions brought by her parents against Coy's school district generated both disgusting comments from members of the Colorado community and national attention from media outlets that don't historically deal with issues affecting the LGBT community. For both her bravery and her initiation of a much-needed dialogue about transgender minors, Mathis earned a spot on our list of most compelling people.
  • 6 Sasha Fleischman
    Courtesy of Karl Fleischman
    A horrifying story caught national attention in early November when Sasha Fleischman, a teen that identifies as agender, fell asleep on a bus and had their skirt set on fire by a fellow passenger. The incident left them with severe injuries, resulting in the teen's friends and family members launching a fundraising page to help alleviate medical bills. Fleischman's father also wrote a blog for HuffPost Gay Voices. Perhaps the most inspiring part of this story comes from the reaction of some of Fleischman's peers, who committed to wearing skirts to school in a statement of solidarity for the burned teen.
  • 7 Mary Lambert
    One of the breakout LGBT stars of 2013, Mary Lambert first rose to prominence by singing the chorus for Macklemore and Ryan Lewis' same-sex marriage anthem "Same Love." T he popularity of the hit led Lambert to develop the chorus into a heartwarming full-fledged track called "She Keeps Me Warm." Thanks to her gorgeous voice and infectious personality, Lambert's career is continuing to blossom.
  • 8 Laverne Cox
    Larry Busacca via Getty Images
    Not only was "Orange Is The New Black" a groundbreaking show in and of itself, but it launched transgender actress and activist Laverne Cox into superstardom -- and gave her a platform to bring visibility to issues affecting transgender women of color. Cox become a voice for the voiceless within mainstream representation. Among a landslide of other honors throughout the course of the year, the transgender pioneer received the "Reader's Choice Award" at this year's OUT 100.
  • 9 Tom Daley
    Clive Rose via Getty Images
    In early December British Olympic diving champion Tom Daley told the world that he was in a relationship with a man, possibly Oscar-winning screenwriter and activist Dustin Lance Black. Two aspects of this coming out earn Daley the label of compelling: the fact that he didn't place an identifier of "gay" or "bisexual" on himself in the process, and the fact that he revealed his relationship to the world through a YouTube video, opening up the doors of a discussion as to how technology intersects with the coming out process in the digital age.
  • 10 Cassidy Lynn Campbell
    When 16-year-old Cassidy Lynn Campbell made history by winning the title of Homecoming Queen at her local California high school, she became one of many LGBT teenagers who took similar titles at their respective educational institutions. Though Campbell went on to become the subject of Internet bullying and attacks following her win, she also showed her resilience and strength by making the decision to pose for Adam Bouska's NOH8 Campaign.
  • 11 Ian McKellan
    Jonathan Short/Invision/AP
    It's hard not to love Ian McKellan and the star made us appreciate him even more as an LGBT individual in Hollywood repeatedly throughout the course of 2013. From sharing his personal struggle surrounding his decision to come out to publicly chastising Russia for it's anti-gay "propaganda" legislation, McKellan is one outspoken community member who has continued to warm our hearts with his character while still remaining vocal about the political and social struggles faced by LGBT individuals.
  • 12 Britney Griner
    Christian Petersen via Getty Images
    In the midst of a historic year for LGBT athletes, WNBA draft pick Britney Griner openly discussed her lesbian identity with Maggie Gray of Sports Illustrated. She became the third openly LGBT WNBA draft pick alongside Skylar Diggins and Elena Delle Donne, providing essential visibility for lesbian identity within the sports world. "It wasn't too difficult," Griner told the magazine. "I wouldn't say I was hiding or anything like that. I've always been open about who I am and my sexuality."
  • 13 Carmen Carrera
    Rising to fame as a contestant on the third season of "RuPaul's Drag Race," Carmen Carrera broke new ground when she came out of the closet as transgender and embarked on a modeling career, eventually signing with Elite.

    In November, a Change.org petition went viral that called on Victoria's Secret to sign Carrera as the company's first openly transgender model. Though Victoria's Secret did not publicly acknowledge the petition, Carrera went on to use the petition as a platform to discuss transphobia and the challenges she has faced as a transgender woman in the entertainment industry.
  • 14 Marcel Neergaard
    One of GLAAD's Spirit Day ambassadors, 11-year-old Marcel Neergaard bravely took a stand against anti-gay bullying this year by becoming a blogger for HuffPost Gay Voices and speaking out against Tennessee's infamous "Don't Say Gay" bill. The young activist also spearheaded a petition in response to this bill and the educational "Reformer of The Year" award received by its creator John Ragan, which was rescinded from the anti-gay politician thanks to Neergaard's work.
  • 15 Wentworth Miller
    Though Wentworth Miller initially denied being gay when asked about it in 2007, the "Prison Break" star came out of the closet in an extremely admirable and compelling way in August of this year. In wake of the climate of fear and violence for LGBT individuals living in Russia, Miller rejected an invitation to attend the St. Petersburg International Film Festival in an amazing public letter in which he came out of the closet.

    "Thank you for your kind invitation. As someone who has enjoyed visiting Russia in the past and can also claim a degree of Russian ancestry, it would make me happy to say yes," the 41-year-old wrote in a letter to the festival's director, which was posted on GLAAD's website. "However, as a gay man, I must decline."
  • 16 Robbie Rogers
    Professional U.S. soccer player Robbie Rogers contributed to this historic year for LGBT athletes when he came out as gay on his personal website in February of this year. "Secrets can cause so much internal damage," the soccer star wrote. "People love to preach about honesty, how honesty is so plain and simple. Try explaining to your loved ones after 25 years you are gay. Try convincing yourself that your creator has the most wonderful purpose for you even though you were taught differently." Rogers went on to be named one of Out magazine's OUT 100 honorees.
  • 17 Alysia Yeoh
    DC Comics
    DC Comic fans were introduced to Alysia in "Batgirl" #19 in early April when the character revealed that she is transgender during a conversation with Barbara Gordon (Batgirl). The move made Alysia not only the first DC Comics transgender character but the first transgender character in mainstream comics.
  • 18 Harvey Fierstein
    Charles Sykes/Invision/AP
    Not only did playwright and actor Harvey Fierstein publicly take a stand against Russia's anti-gay crackdown this year, but his hit broadway musical “Kinky Boots” broke new ground for the types of experiences and stories that get told through mainstream musical theater and won Fierstein a Tony nomination for Best Book.

    "Kinky Boots," a show whose main character line-up includes a drag queen, went on to ruffle quite a few conservative feathers at this year's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, inspiring performers and Fiersetin to respond to the controversy in an amazing way. “You have to start a dialogue,” Fierstein told Page Six. “And you can’t have a dialogue unless someone says something first. It takes actual work to open up [people’s] minds.”
  • 19 Masha Best
    Masha Best
    In wake of the pervasive climate of fear and violence plaguing LGBT Russians, top Russian lawyer Masha Best bravely came out as both transgender and bisexual in protest of the country's institutionalized homophobia and transphobia. Best later went on to announce her campaign for the Russian presidency in 2018. Here, Best poses nude in honor of the 2013 Transgender Day of Remembrance.
  • 20 Steve Grand
    Steve Grand broke new ground this year with his hit "All-American Boy," a queer-themed country hit that generated a larger discussion about why some straight men are romantically or sexually attracted to other men. Dubbed the "first openly gay male country star," Grand is also compelling because of his ties to the Catholic church and his ex-gay therapy past. He went on to receive a Reader's Choice nomination in this year's OUT 100.

CORRECTION; The original version of this article incorrectly identified Carmen Carrera as having been a contestant on the fourth season of "RuPaul's Drag Race." She was actually featured on the third season. In addition, Coy Mathis' name was incorrectly listed as "Cory."

Subscribe to the Queer Voices email.
Get all of the queer news that matters to you.