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11 Important People in History That You Didn’t Know Were Gay

Gay people have been around since the beginning of time and we’ve made great contributions to society. Too often they were in the closet but now its time to bust open the doors and give credit where credit is due to these famous LGBT folks.

Famous Gay People in History

These LGBT folks cross-cultural and sexual boundaries throughout time all across the world.  They range from political leaders to famous sports stars. So no, we’re not all hairdressers and interior designers.

#1 King James

James (right) depicted aged 17 beside his mother Mary (left), 1583. In reality, they were separated when he was still a baby.

Yes, the same King James who was responsible for the first translation of the Holy Bible from Greek, Latin, and Hebrew into English. There is considerable evidence that James Charles Stuart was gay.

It was well documented that he preferred to keep the company of handsome young men. It is said he had a relationship with a young Scotsman named Robert Carr and the Earl of Buckingham. It seems he was also quite fickle never sticking with one man very long.

#2 Emporer Ai of Han

Emperor Ai of Han and Dong Xian, by Chen Hong Shou (17th century)


Reigning from 27BC to the year 1BC. Emperor Ai was also famous for being the most effusive homosexual emperor of the Han dynasty. Traditional historians characterized the relationship between Emperor Ai and Dong Xian as one between homosexual lovers and referred to their relationship as “the passion of the cut sleeve” (斷袖之癖) after a story that one afternoon after falling asleep for a nap on the same bed.

Emperor Ai cut off his sleeve rather than disturb the sleeping Dong Xian when he had to get out of bed. Dong was noted for his relative simplicity contrasted with the highly ornamented court and was given progressively higher and higher posts as part of the relationship, eventually becoming the supreme commander of the armed forces by the time of Emperor Ai’s death. Dong was afterward forced to commit suicide.

#3 Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde in 1889

Oscar Wilde, the Irish author, and playwright played an important role in bringing homosexuality into the public eye. The scandal in British society and subsequent court case from 1895–6 was highly discussed not only in Europe, but also in America, although newspapers like the New York Times concentrated on the question of blackmail. It alluded to the homosexual aspects as having “a curious meaning,” in the first publication on April 4, 1895.

Wilde had a relationship with Lord Alfred Douglas who introduced him to the world of prostitution. Wilde was known to court young male prostitutes offering them gifts, dine with them, and then take them to a hotel room. 

#4 Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman was an American poet who arrived in New York in 1841. He was immediately drawn to young working-class men found in certain parks, public baths, the docks, and some bars and dance halls.

He kept records of the men and boys, usually noting their ages, physical characteristics, jobs, and origins. Dispersed in his praise of the city are moments of male admiration, such as in Calamus—”frequent and swift flash of eyes offering me robust, athletic love” or in poem Crossing Brooklyn Ferry, where he writes:

“Was call’d by my nighest name by clear loud voices of young men as they saw me / approaching or passing, / Felt their arms on my neck as I stood, or the negligent leaning of their flesh against me as / I sat, / Saw many I loved in the street or ferry-boat or public assembly, yet never told them a / word, / Lived the same life with the rest, the same old laughing, gnawing, sleeping, / Play’d the part that still looks back on the actor or actress, / The same old role, the role that is what we make it, as great as we like, / Or as small as we like, or both great and small.”

#5 King Kabaka Mwanga II

King (Kabaka) Mwanga from Buganda (1868-1903).

In February 2014, President Yoweri Museveni signed a new law, the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Act, which provided tougher penalties for gay people including criminalizing people who did not report them. The new law also covered lesbians for the first time. However, on 1 August 2014, the Constitutional Court of Uganda ruled the new law invalid.

It is widely believed this was due to political pressure from the west. It’s interesting how in a country that now claims that homosexuality is ‘un-African’ once had a gay leader. It was an open secret that the King of Buganda (now Uganda) was gay. According to The Guardian, Young men served in his court and offered sexual favors to him and his guests.

# 6 Susan B. Anthony

Often considered the mother of the women’s suffrage movement in America. In 1851, she met Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who became her lifelong friend and co-worker in social reform activities, primarily in the field of women’s rights. In 1852, they founded the New York Women’s State Temperance Society after Anthony was prevented from speaking at a temperance conference because she was female. In 1863, they founded the Women’s Loyal National League, which conducted the largest petition drive in United States history up to that time, collecting nearly 400,000 signatures in support of the abolition of slavery.  It is widely believed that Anthony and Stanton were lovers.

#7 Tammy Baldwin

Tammy Suzanne Green Baldwin (born February 11, 1962) is an American politician serving as a  Senator from Wisconsin since 2013. A member of the Democratic Party, she served three terms in the Wisconsin State Assembly, representing the 78th district, and from 1999 to 2013 represented Wisconsin’s 2nd congressional district in the United States House of Representatives.

As a gay woman, Baldwin has made history several times through her electoral success. In 1998, she became the first openly gay woman and first openly LGBT non-incumbent elected to the United States Congress as well as the first woman elected to represent Wisconsin in Congress. In 2012, Baldwin became the first openly gay person and first openly LGBT person elected to the United States Senate.

#8 Jason Colins

Jason Paul Collins (born December 2, 1978) is an American retired professional basketball player who played 13 seasons in the National Basketball Association (NBA). A center, Collins played college basketball for Stanford University, where he was an All-American in 2000–01. Collins was selected by the Houston Rockets as the 18th overall pick in the 2001 NBA draft. He went on to play for several different teams.

After the 2012–13 NBA season concluded, Collins publicly came out as gay. He became a free agent and did not play again until February 2014, when he signed with the Nets and became the first openly gay athlete to play in any of four major North American pro sports leagues. In April 2014, Collins was featured on the cover of Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World”. In 2014 he was dating movie producer Brunson Green.

#9 Justo Justo

Justo Justo was a gay Filipino AIDS activist. JJ founded Pasay Aids Watch and Information Drive (PAWID) and used his own foundation JJ Barangayan (Phils.) Foundation, Inc. to fight against the spread of AIDS. Justo used to host a television program titled Etchos Lang, and gained attention for the cause when he convinced AIDS victim Sarah Jane Salazar to share her story to the public.

He also played a leading part in the establishment of the “Home for the Golden Gays”, a retirement home for homosexuals such as Walter Dempster. JJ was among the first media celebrities to make the transition to public office. He started his career in the political arena as a Kagawad and later became a barangay chairman in 1987. He became a councilor of Pasay City in the 1980s, and completed three terms.

#10 Edith Windsor

Edith “Edie” Windsor was an American LGBT rights activist and a technology manager at IBM. She was the lead plaintiff in the 2013 Supreme Court of the United States case United States v. Windsor, which overturned Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act and was considered a landmark legal victory for the same-sex marriage movement in the United States.

The Obama Administration and federal agencies extended rights, privileges, and benefits to married same-sex couples because of the decision. Windsor passed away on September 12th, 2017.


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