Throughout history many LGBTQ+ individuals have made significant contributions despite the social pressures and opposition. Some were open about their sexuality and involvement in the LGBTQ+ community, making way for others, while others kept their identities very quiet, only allowing a select few to know. Here are 25 of the most well known figures throughout history that were part of the LGBTQ+ community.

Alexander The Great

His name earned by his many great military conquest, Alexander the Great was known for creating one of the biggest ancient empires by the fair age of 30. While very well known for his involvement in military history, many may not know about the debate surrounding his sexuality.

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When Alexander was around the nature of sexuality wasn’t nearly as taboo as it is today, making it difficult to solidify the truth about his sexuality. However some historical sources cite Alexander’s intimate relationship with Bagoas, a young Persian eunuch.

Julius Caesar

During his dictatorship of the Roman Empire, Julius Caesar was often attacked by political enemies and adversaries because of the rumors swirling around about his queer relationships.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

He was accused of “sleeping his way” into a position of power, and was known to spend ample amounts of time with King Nicomedes of Bithynia.Its rumored that they relationship was more than platonic, and he faced a lot of scrutiny for being a submissive within the relationship that he had with the king.

Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci was a jack of all trades, he was an inventor, artist, and an overall intellectual. With his most known paintings being “Mona Lisa” and “The Last Supper.”

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One of the hidden aspects of da Vinci’s life was his sexuality, with biographer Walter Isaacson citing da Vinci’s notebooks in recounting the artist’s relationships with younger men, including his students. There are also records that show he was arrested in 1476 for sodomy.

Chevalier D’Eon

The Chevalier d’Éon, a French diplomat and soldier, served in the Seven Years War as a spy for France primarily from England. Notably androgynous in appearance, the Chevalier presented as a man initially but would later live the rest of their life as a woman.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Chevalier was noted as being one of the first ever recorded tansgender individuals.

Isaac Newton

Issac Newton’s impact on the scientific world has had long lasting impacts on the entire world. He is credited for developing the laws of motion and the theory of gravity, teachings that can be found in any modern classroom.

Source: Wikipedia

However, there has been a long standing speculation about his romantic preferences, mainly because he was never married or had any relationships that were publicly announced. Many believe that he was an oppressed gay man, or even an asexual.

Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman is a notorious American poet known for poems such as “Leaves of Grass.” At the time of its publication, however, some critics targeted its content for its overt sexuality.

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While there is still plenty of debate over the lack of evidence regarding Walt’s sexual orientation, many of his readers note his more salacious poems are about men.

Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickenson, a Massachusetts native, was known for her unconventional poems. However, It wasn’t until after she died in 1886 when her sister found her collection of poems did Dickinson’s work gain fame and acclaim.

Source: Culture Club

Much of her poems were dedicated to her sister-in-law Susan Gilbert, this combined with the many letters between the two led people to believe that the two shared more than a friendly relationship.

Oscar Wilde

As one of the most prolific authors and playwrights of his time, Oscar Wilde wrote everlasting works such as the novel “The Picture of Dorian Gray” and the play “The Importance of Being Earnest.” Wilde was known for being flamboyant and witty, with many of his spoken and written quotes still used in the present day.

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At the height of his career, Wilde was confronted with prosecution for “indecency” with men and was sentenced to two years of hard labor; he would sadly pass away not long after this.

Lili Elbe

Born genetically a male, Lili Elbe was a painter who was one of the first people who underwent  gender-affirming surgery. Elbe was married to fellow painter and artist Gerda Wegener, who frequently used Elbe as a subject and model of her art, and during social engagements she would introduce her as a family member of her “husband.”

Source: artsandculturalstudies.ku

Elbe received an array of surgeries between 1930 and 1931, eventually passing away from complications from one of the operations.

Wilfred Owen

English soldier Wilfred Owen wrote many memorable poems during the First World War, including “Dulce et Decorum Est,” which detailed a poisonous gas attack that occurred during the war.

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Eventually Owen would gain notoriety for his poetic work, although this would not occur until his untimely death during the war. Owen was in an intimate relationship with poet Siegfried Sassoon, both were known for writing poems about their strife over the war.

Virginia Woolf

English writer Virginia Woolf is regarded as a pioneer of the modernist literary movement, with her stream-of-consciousness prose becoming extremely influential. However, despite the fact that she was married to a man, Wolfe was known for her extremely close relationship with fellow author Vita Sackville-West. The two were known for sending each other intimate letters.

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It is believed that Sackville-West was Woolf’s inspiration for the protagonist of her novel “Orlando,” with Sackville-West’s son calling the book “the longest and most charming love letter in literature.”

Josephine Baker

Josephine Baker was a multi-talented singer, dancer, activist, and she was even a spy during World War II.

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She was born in the United States but would later move to France. She was most known for being the first black woman to be featured in a major movie. She was also cited for having “lady lovers” during an era when “bisexual” was not a term that was used.

Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo was a  world renowned painter from Mexico, known for her unconventional art style and her many self-portraits, her fame has far outlived her own life. Kahlo was married to a male painter Deigo Rivera, although the two were known to engage in multiple affairs.

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It is rumored that Kahlo had affairs with famous women such as Georgia O’Keefe and Chavela Vargas. It is said that Rivera encouraged his wife’s affairs with women.

Bayard Rustin

Bayard Rustin fearlessly navigated the dangerous social and political environment of the 40’s as an openly gay black man. He was known to fight for both black and LGBTQ+ rights during a time when it was pretty much illegal to be either in the United States.

Source: National Museum of African American History and Culture

Rustin was a close advisor of the famous Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and was also an integral part of organizing the March on Washington, he was an organizer, strategist, and a blaze-carrying torchbearer in the fight for civil rights for all.

Alan Turing

Celebrated as the “father” of modern computer science and a crucial figure in World War II. Alan Turing, a British mathematician, worked as a cryptanalyst for the Allies, he would eventually crack the Nazi Enigma code, which helped contribute to the Allies’ victory.

Source: HistoryExtra

Despite all of that, Turing was prosecuted by the government for engaging in a homosexual relationship. He would sadly die of a suspected suicide from ingesting cyanide at the age of 41. poisoning at age 41. He would receive a public apology from the British government in the 21st century and would be granted a royal pardon many years after his death.

Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday, also known as “Lady Day,” was an iconic jazz singer most known for her incredible vocal range and improvisational ability.

Source: Britannica

Holiday would ultimately marry three different men throughout her life, as she faced multiple hardships in her life including drug addiction, and a short prison term. During her time in prison, it was said that Holiday had numerous relations with other women, it is also said that she had a relationship with actress Tallulah Bankhead.

Gore Vidal

Gore Vidal’s work was known to challenge the social norms in the United States during his time. For example, his novel, “The City and the Pillar” featured a relationship between two men, while another novel titled “Myra Breckinridge” mentioned a gender-affirming operation.

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He was openly bisexual, and famously proclaimed that “we are all bisexual to begin with.”

James Baldwin

According to some academics the sexual orientation of Black American author James Baldwin was described as “complex.”

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Baldwin’s written work addressed topics such as sexuality, race, and class, highlighting matters that both Black Americans and gay Americans faced during his lifetime.

Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol was most known for his influential work in the “pop art” movement.

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Warhol moved from Pittsburgh to New York City to pursue a career in commercial illustration, eventually using celebrities and other pop cultural images as subjects for his visual art. He lived his life as an openly gay man, occasionally conveying his sexuality through his drawings of nude men.

Tab Hunter

Tab Hunter, a well known heartthrob in Hollywood, began his career in the 1950’s. However he wouldn’t come out as a gay man until 2005.

Source: CNN

Before then, all rumors about Hunter’s sexuality were merely hearsay, despite his secret romance with “Psycho” star Anthony Perkins. After coming out, Hunter married producer and long-time partner Allan Glaser until Hunter’s death at age 86.

Harvey Milk

Harvey Milk, who was nicknamed the “Mayor of Castro Street,” was an openly gay politician in  San Francisco noted for his energy and charisma.

Source: AP

While he initially lost an election for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, Milk would continue to serve his local gay community through other means, founding the San Francisco Gay Democratic Club and eventually winning a seat on the Board of Supervisors. Unfortunately both he and Mayor George Moscone were assassinated in November 1978 by former city supervisor Dan White.

Jackie Shane

Born genetically a male, starting at a very young age singer Jackie Shane conducted performances with long hair and in women’s clothing.

Source: Vice

Eventually Shane would find success after relocating from the U.S. to Canada, with her single  “Any Other Way.” She is regarded as a trailblazer for transgender representation.

Marsha P. Johnson

Arguably one of the most influential players in the gay liberation movement of the 60s and 70s, Marsha P. Johnson was an activist and self proclaimed drag queen. Johnson was subjected to abuse from police and was a bit of a vagabond while she worked as a drag queen and waitress. She would eventually find herself at the frontlines of the gay rights protest after police raided the Stonewall Inn in 1969.

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She would go on to co-found the Gay Liberation Front and Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries. Her work included finding adequate shelter and safety from trans youth. Johnson was found dead in the Hudson River in 1992, and while police ruled her death a suicide, friends and many observers believe she wass met with foul play.


Harris Glen Milstead, also known as Divine, was known as the “Drag Queen of the Century” in the 1970s and 80s. Divine’s most famous work included collaborations with counterculture filmmaker John Waters.

Source: Senses of Cinema

His films include “Mondo Trasho,” “Pink Flamingos,” and “Hairspray,” where Divine originated the role of Edna Turnblad. The drag performer would influence practically every drag performer to come after, leaving a legacy that included a bombastic stage personality and cult classic movies.

Freddie Mercury

Freddie Mercury was the face of the iconic British rock band Queen. His exceptional vocal range and lyrical abilities gave way to legendary songs such as “We Are the Champions,” “Don’t Stop Me Now,” and “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

Source: Alex Bailey

While Mercury never publicly admitted his sexuality, he was known as a bisexual man, having had intimate relationships with both women and men; Mercury would later succumb to AIDS at the age of 45 .