Velvetpark's Official Top 25 Significant Queer Women of 2013

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Velvetpark's Official Top 25 Significant Queer Women of 2013

It's with great honor that we present to you Velvetpark’s Top 25 Queer Women of 2013. As with previous years, this is not a hierarchical list. These 25 represent a collection of women whom we view on equal footing, each contributing to LGBTIQ visibility in the fields of the arts, activism, academia, and/or social equality. They are female-identified or non-gender binary persons who have created a critical work or whose body of work warranted attention this year.

This is the fifth installment of our most-circulated post of the year and, so far, we have not repeated any individual as we endeavor to continually support and celebrate our growing community. So, while many of our former honorees such as Edie Windsor (2012), Pauline Park (2011), Sarah Schulman (2009), Heather Cassils (2010), and so many other — continue to do great work year after year, each year our list remains fresh.

Before we begin, honorable mention goes to Georgia Brooks, an key member of the Lesbian Herstory Archives and Ria Pell, celebrity chef and co-founder of MondoHomo, who died this year. Their passing is a reminder to us how important one individual's contribution to a whole community can be. Without further ado... our list:

1) "Invincible" - Diana Nyad, extreme sports woman / Olympian / sports commentator

After four failed attempts, swimmer Diana Nyad took to the water once again on August 31 to swim the 110-mile distance between Havana, Cuba, and Key West, Florida — without a shark cage. Some 53 hours later, on the afternoon of September 2, she hauled herself up on the sand while the whole world cheered her victory. In and of itself, the act is a wondrous professional victory for an athlete. But, for Nyad, it was also a great personal triumph, as one of her leading motivations was her anger over the sexual abuse she suffered as a kid. Nyad made headlines again in October when she went toe-to-toe with Oprah Winfrey on atheism, with Nyad explaining, “I can stand at the beach’s edge with the most devout Christian, Jew, Buddhist, go on down the line, and weep with the beauty of this universe and be moved by all of humanity. All the billions of people who have lived before us, who have loved and hurt and suffered. So to me, my definition of God is humanity and is the love of humanity.”

2) "Poetic Justice" – Cheryl Clarke, writer / activist / educator

Poet and scholar Cheryl Clarke, got her start in the wake of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination. Since the late 1960s, Clarke has published four collections of poetry, along with two other studies and countless more writings, and she has been on the Rutgers University staff since 1970. This year, Clarke’s lifetime of contributions to the LGBTQ community was honored by The Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies with the prestigious Kessler Award. Past recipients include Urvashi Vaid, Sarah Schulman, Susan Stryker, Adrienne Rich, and Judith Butler, among others. With pieces like “Lesbianism: An Act of Resistance” and “Queer Black Trouble: In Life, Literature, and the Age of Obama,” it’s easy to see that Clarke’s work has, indeed, made an impact.

3) "Magical Realist" – Lorna Williams, Artist

Born in New Orleans, the 26-year-old Lorna Williams received her BFA in Maryland Institute of Art in 2010. Noting that “there’s a freedom in art,” her art expresses the raw message of New Orleans culture and music. Her work has been featured in more than six exhibitions and has been reviewed by The New York Times, Art in America, FLATT, Boston Magazine, Concierge Magazine, and The Boston Globe. Other honors include being selected as the Presidential Scholars Program Semifinalist, ARTS Recognition Finalist, National Foundation for the Advancement in the Arts Finalist, and the Annual Black History Art Contest Winner. Lorna’s current work, "appositions: still / birth / shit," is being featured in Dodge gallery. She now lives and works in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

4) "Feminist Inclusion" – Julia Serrano, writer / performer / speaker

Although transgender author and spoken-word performer Julia Serrano is most widely known for 2007’s Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity, her contributions to the cause go much further and deeper. This fall, she published Excluded: Making Feminist and Queer Movements More Inclusive and continued to push back against the myriad misconceptions surrounding femininity and gender. Taking her work off the page and into life, Serrano has also curated the spoken word event, "Girl Talk: A Trans and Cis Woman Dialogue," since 2009.

5) “The Avant-garde” – Catherine Lord, artist / art historian