Community Pioneers

The vibrant LGBTQ community in the Washington area today would not exist without the dedication and vision of remarkable people who came before. Since 2003, Rainbow History Project has given Community Pioneer awards to recognize individuals and groups whose creativity, commitment and hard work still makes an impact today. Our Community Pioneers have made contributions in every area: the arts, spirituality, health care, social services, activism and social justice, legal and political rights, employment, and where and how we socialize. Taken together, our Pioneers began working on the community’s behalf more than 70 years ago.

In December 2021, following in a nearly two-decade tradition, RHP recognized twelve history-making individuals and one organization as its newest Community Pioneers. From media to music, activism to arts, supporting lesbian and Latino communities, and developing and documenting LGBTQ voices, the 2021 Community Pioneers have been making a profound difference for more than four decades. Rainbow History’s 2021 Community Pioneers tell their stories in this celebratory video.

See an alphabetical list of nearly 90 individual and group Rainbow History Project Community Pioneers

Most of our Community Pioneers have their oral history in the collection

How RHP selects Community Pioneers

Countless people in myriad ways have contributed as individuals and in groups to create, sustain, enrich and improve the Washington area’s LGBTQ community. Some people take public roles, some work quietly in the background, but they all make a difference. How does Rainbow History Project select Community Pioneers when so many people have made an impact?

That process begins with community members, including you.

When RHP kicks off Community Pioneers planning, the board of directors reaches out to the public, RHP’s members and volunteers, and existing Community Pioneers to ask for nominations that include a brief statement of support for a nominee. An RHP committee considers every nomination, conducts research and solicits further information as needed regarding a nominee’s contributions. The goal is to develop a slate of nominees that represents our diverse community. The full RHP board reviews, discusses and approves the slate of Community Pioneers, and then announces the group. The awards are given on an occasional basis, not on a fixed schedule. Sign up for our email list to receive information about the next Community Pioneers process.