Influential GLBT People



Alexander the Great 356-323 BCE - Military leader whose conquests changed the course of civilization by bringing together the east and the west. His open homosexual love has offered a rebuttal to the stereotype of the effeminate gay male.

Andy Warhol 1928-1987 - Pop Artist who revolutionized contemporary thought about what art could be by elevated trivial images (e.g. soup cans) to the status of art and by mass-producing art.

Audre Lorde 1934-1992 - Poet whose writings, in addition to her leadership as the editor of the lesbian journal Chrysalis, provided a strong voice for the feminist moment.

Bessie Smith 1894-1937 - Singer responsible for introducing the blues into mainstream American popular music. She pushed the envelope of tolerance and acceptance for homosexuality in popular music culture.

Elsie de Wolfe 1865-1950 - Interior Designer. Using her social connections as a socialite and a professional actress she created an entirely new profession in 1904-Interior Designing.

Gertrude Stein 1874-1946 - Writer who explicitly dealt with lesbian themes in her novel Q.E.D. but was mostly influential as a women who was open about being a lesbian during a time when most lesbian lives were cloaked in secrecy.

Hadrian 76-138 - Roman Emperor who ruled during the height of Roman Civilization. The love that Hadrian shared with his partner Antinous continues to inspire writers to this day.

Harvey Milk 1930-1978 - Politician - The first openly gay politician elected in the United States. He was assassinated by Dan White defender of "family values" who disagreed with Milk over gay issues.

James Baldwin 1924-1987 - Writer whose novels, Giovanni's Room and The Fire Next Time, brought him prominence as a spokesperson that condemned discrimination against African-Americans and homosexuality.

Jane Addams 1860-1935 - Social Reformer Founder of Hull House, which provided cultural opportunities to the working class of Chicago and trained social workers. She won the 1931 Nobel Peace Prize.

Marlene Dietrich 1901-1992 - Actress who androgynous image helped to promote the acceptable questioning of gender image in modern culture.

Martina Navratilova 1956- Tennis Star whose nine singles wins at Wimbledon and four U.S. open championships has inspired many women athletes and provided positive role model for many other lesbians.

Michelangelo Buonarroti 1475-1564 - Sculptor, Painter, Architect, Poet famous for painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, and sculpting David. He had a profound influence on the way masculine beauty was embodied.

Oscar Wilde 1854-1900 - Writer famous for works like The Picture of Dorian Gray, and The Importance of Being Earnest was imprisoned for sodomy following a highly sensationalized trial.

Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky 1840-1893 - Composer famous for operas such as The Queen of Spades and Eugene Onegin and ballets like Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, and the Nutcracker.

Rosa Bonheur 1822-1899 - Painter who specialized in painting wild animals. Her works were both a critical and a financial success and inspires many women artists.

Ruth Benedict 1887-1948 - Anthropologist - Questioned who challenged established psychiatric and psychological ideas of normal and abnormal functioning noting that such ideas were culturally constructed.

Socrates 469-399 BCE - Philosopher who in two dialogues (i.e. Symposium and Phaedrus) examined how love begins with the erotic passion of an older man for a beautiful boy.

Walt Whitman 1819-1892 - Poet whose open treatment of homoerotic desire in his writings helped raise gay awareness in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

Willa Cather 1873-1947 - Writer who wrote stories encoded with gay and lesbian symbolism when overtly writing about such topics would not have been tolerated. Her works include novels like "O Pioneers" and the Pulitzer Prize winning "One of Ours".


Adapted from: Higgins, P. (Ed.). (1993). A queer reader: 2500 years of male homosexuality. New York, NY: New Press.