The MacArthur Foundation awards its “Genius” fellowships annually to those individuals who “show exceptional creativity in their work and the prospect for still more in the future.” So it’s exciting to look at this year’s list of recipients, which was announced on Wednesday, and find two truly exceptional figures from the LGBTQ community—Alison Bechdel and Mary Bonauto.
Many readers will know Bechdel from her critically acclaimed 2006 graphic memoir Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, which captures (among many other things) her coming out experience and the discovery that her father himself was homosexual and closeted. As we covered here, the book recently enjoyed a second-life as an off-Broadway musical. Bechdel’s second memoir, Are You My Mother: A Comic Drama, was similarly well-received; Bechdel discussed that book and its themes with Outward’s June Thomas in 2012.
If Bechdel comes from the artistic sector of queer luminaries, civil rights lawyer Mary Bonauto is an ideal representative of the crucial legal activism side. Thought it’s easy to forget in a world where Windsor dominates the lede of most gay marriage stories, Bonauto and her partners at Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) were responsible for building out much of the legal framework that made later gay rights victories possible, especially in terms of the state-by-state approach which laid the groundwork for successful federal challenges. As Slate’s Justin Peters succinctly put it in a profile of Bonauto last summer, “she has had a hand in pretty much every major gay marriage legal victory over the past 20 years.”
Genius can be a subjective term, but in the case of these two remarkable queer women, it’s clearly well-deserved.