We know Pride month is over, but we wanted to pay tribute to four trailblazing LGBTQ+ politicians who took their communities, and the world, by storm.
Trail Blazing LGBTQ+ Politicians
Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir – Iceland
Jóhanna was born in Reykjavic in 1942 and attended the Commercial College of Iceland before graduating in 1960. She worked for Iceland airlines first as a flight attendant and later as an office manager until 1978.
Sigurðardóttir was first elected into the Althing(the Icelandic Parliament) in 1978 and served as deputy speaker of the house the following year. She served as Minister of Social affairs in four different cabinets from 1987-1994. Her 1994 declaration Minn tími mun koma! (“My time will come!”) has since become an iconic phrase in the Icelandic language.
At the height of the Icelandic Financial Crisis, Sigurðardóttir began her term as Prime Minister on February 1, 2009. This title was a big deal for several reasons. Notably, that Jóhanna was not only the first woman to be Prime Minister of Iceland, but also the first openly gay head of government.
She was named in Forbes’s ‘100 most powerful women’ list and retired in 2013 after it was announced she would not seek re-election as Prime Minister. She married her long-time partner, Jonina Leosdottir, in 2010 when same-sex marriage was legalized in Iceland. This made them one of the first gay couples to wed in the country.
Leo Varadkar – Ireland
Leo was born in Dublin in 1979 and studied medicine at Trinity College Dublin. There, he joined the Young Fine Gael(the youth branch of the political party Fine Gael) in his second year. Varadkar’s first elected position was as part of the Fingal County Council from 2003 until 2007.
In 2007, he was elected to the Dáil Éireann(the Irish Legislature) and held several positions. These include Minister for Transport, Tourism, and Sport, Minister for Health, and Minister for Social Protection.
In 2017, Varadkar assumed leadership of the Fine Gael political party and became the first openly gay as well as the youngest Taoiseach(Prime Minister) in Ireland. He held this role until 2020. Currently, he is the Tanaiste(Deputy Prime Minister) as well as the Minister for Enterprise, Trade, and Employment.
Varadkar is the first Irish head of Government of Indian origin. His father is from Mumbai and Varadkar completed an internship as part of his schooling at a hospital in the city. He was included in Queerty’s list of pride50, celebrating LGBTQ+ leaders and newsmakers from around the world. He lives in Dublin with his partner Matthew Barrett, who is a doctor.
Elio Di Rupo – Belgium
Elio was born in Morlanwelz, Wallonia, Belgium. His parents were Italian and Elio was the only child out of seven to be born outside of Italy. He studied at the University of Mons-Hainaut in Belgium obtaining a master’s and later a Ph.D. in Chemistry.
He completed part of his doctorate at the University of Leeds in the UK and lectured there for a year from 1977-1978. His political career started as a secretary at the cabinet of the Minister in 1980–81.
His first political mandate came in 1982, when he was Councillor of Mons (until 1985, and again from 1988 until 2000). In 2000, he became the mayor of Mons, which is the capital of the Belgian province of Hainaut. In 2010 he was elected as Prime Minister of Belgium.
He is the first openly gay man to lead a sovereign state, and the first openly gay person to win the position through an election. He held this role until 2014 when his role switched to the leader of the opposition. Since 2019 Di Rupo has held the office of Minister-President of Wallonia. He was awarded the Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Leopold II in 2014.
Svend Robinson – Canada
Svend was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1952. His family moved to Canada in the 1960s and Robinson obtained a law degree from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada as well as post-graduate work in international law at the London School of Economics.
He practiced law until his election to the House of Commons in 1979 representing the Vancouver suburb of Burnaby. Robinson was the first Canadian MP to come out as gay, in the spring of 1988.
After leaving politics in 2004 Robinson was employed by the British Columbia Government and Service Employees’ Union as an arbitrator and advocate.
Not only a trailblazer for gay rights in Canada, but Robinson has also been the recipient of many awards recognizing his contribution to gay rights and many other topics. He also served as a consultant with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, coordinating their parliamentary relations.
Robinson is set to join Simon Fraser University for the 2020-2021 academic year as the J.S. Woodsworth Resident Scholar, a position named after the former MP J.S. Woodsworth.