Emmy-winning Will & Grace star Leslie Jordan and the four-time Tony-winning playwright and librettist Terrence McNally are among the seven 2023 inductees to the National LGBTQ Wall of Honor.
The International Imperial Court System and the National LGBTQ Task Force said Monday that the LGBTQ legends will be honored during a ceremony on June 22 at 6:30 p.m. at the historic Stonewall Inn. This year’s event will coincide with the National LGBTQ Task Force’s 50th year celebration.
The Wall of Honor posthumously celebrates LGBTQ activists, artists and other community members, acknowledging their crucial roles in the ongoing fight for LGBTQ liberation. This year’s honors come amid a record wave of anti-trans and anti-LGBTQ legislation across the U.S. and a rapid rise in book bans featuring LGBTQ characters, historical figures and narratives.
“At a time when the majority of states in this country are fighting legislation that is trying to erase us, deny trans folks necessary healthcare and roll back the rights we have fought for, it is more important than ever to recognize those who have contributed so greatly to the fight for LGBTQ liberation,” Cathy Renna, director of communications for the National LGBTQ Task Force, told The Hollywood Reporter. “The Wall of Honor is meant to do just that, honor activists, icons and trailblazers in the queer community. Our hope is that anyone who sees it and doesn’t recognize a name on the Wall will pull out their phone and learn about whose shoulders they stand upon.”
Other inductees include Achebe Betty Powell, known for her work as a “founding mother” of Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice and an activist with the National LGBTQ Task Force, who became one of the first Black women to have a leadership role in the ’70s lesbian and gay liberation movement, and J. Frederic “Fritz” Lohman, the pioneering art patron who preserved the works of LGBTQ artists with his partner Charles Leslie through the first gay art space in New York and the Leslie-Lohman Gay Art Foundation.
“As we reflect on 50 years of hard-won progress, we hold tight to the fact that we not only fight for rights, we fight for people. The honorees this year not only showcase the beautiful diversity of our movement, but also embody this commitment to community and to each other,” said Kierra Johnson, executive director of the Task Force.
Speaking specifically to Powell’s induction, Johnson continued: “We were devastated at the passing of Achebe, but with this induction, we honor her memory and legacy as the first Black lesbian to serve on the Board of our organization. This is a moment to celebrate these leaders who wore their queerness on their sleeves, inspiring millions and teaching us that a key aspect of liberation is striving to create a world where everyone feels empowered to live as their authentic selves.”
The remaining honorees include Darcelle XV (Walter Cole), the legendary drag icon whose North Portland tavern Darcelle XV Showplace became home to the longest-running drag show on the West Coast and produced the La Femme Magnifique International Pageant; Heklina (Stefan Grygelko), a drag queen, actor and entrepreneur in San Francisco and founder of the longest drag event series in the city who frequently collaborated with Peaches Christ; and Gloria Allen, an American transgender activist who created a charm school for transgender youth in Chicago’s Center on Halsted, inspiring Philip Dawkins’ play Charm, and becoming the subject of the documentary film Mama Gloria.
“I founded the National LGBTQ Wall of Honor because I believe that a community, indeed a civil rights movement, that doesn’t know where it came from and whose shoulders it stands on doesn’t really know where it’s going,” Nicole Murray Ramirez, San Diego city commissioner and Queen Mother of the Americas of the International Imperial Court System, said in a statement. “I am especially proud that two iconic drag queens are being honored this year: Darcelle XV of Portland and Heklina of San Francisco.”
All seven LGBTQ icons will join Harvey Milk, James Baldwin, Keith Haring, Jose Sarria, Audre Lorde, Marsha P. Johnson and Matthew Shepard as LGBTQ people honored by the living memorial in the bar that was the site of the historic uprising in 1969 that launched the modern LGBTQ rights movement.