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Gay Historical Figures Who Will Change Your View Of The Past

Gay Historical Figures Who Will Change Your View Of The Past

Marlon Brando

Brando was a famous womanizer, and in his later years, he revealed why: he was in love with another man, actor Wally Cox! Brando once said he wished he could have married Cox, and the two are buried together today. Brando also had a steamy affair with Laurence Olivier, and always defended his attraction to men, calling himself "unashamed."

Alec Guinness

Yes, Obi-Wan Kenobi himself led a gay life, at least a closeted one, as evidenced by an arrest for "cottaging"--that is, soliciting gay sex in a public park! Actor and friend Ian McKellen also recalls Guinness begging McKellen to not involve himself in the gay rights movement, or to come out publicly. McKellen has called Guinness a self-loathing homosexual.

Eleanor Roosevelt

The greatest First Lady in American history remained devoted to her husband and his ideals despite his dalliances, and despite her own. Eleanor fell in love with reporter Lorena Hickock, and their love letters to one another survive. She also kept close company with other lesbian couples throughout her life.

Greta Garbo

Friends of the screen giant have acknowledged her affairs with men and women, and some of Garbo's personal correspondence has revealed long affairs with other women like Louise Brooks and Mimi Pollack. Gore Vidal also described how Garbo would only refer to herself in third person as "he" or "him,"and recalled an incident when Garbo asked Irvin Shaw's girlfriend if she, Garbo, could see her breasts (she complied).

William Shakespeare

Shakespeare's sexuality divides historians into polarized fighting camps. Little definitive evidence survives today, though he does write about erotic love for men in his Sonnets. The controversy appears to date from Shakespeare's own lifetime, and rumors about affairs with noblemen like the Earl of Southampton persist.

Joan Crawford

Crawford, by all accounts, had a voracious sexual appetite which included tastes for men and women. Crawford's daughter Christina has claimed she had affairs with women, which included Marilyn Monroe, Claudette Colbert and Barbara Satnwyck.

Alexander the Great

The great conqueror of the ancient world had a life-long boyfriend in his bodyguard and general Hephaestion. At least one contemporary scholar likens them to Achilies and Patroclus, two ancient gay lovers. Indeed, Hephaestion's death sent Alexander into horrible depression, and he died a few months later.

James I

The successor to Elizabeth I had little use for women in his life, and historical scholars refer to him as a "Queen." He had a number of close male liaisons throughout his life, and recent excavations at his country estate uncovered a hereto unknown secret passage linking his bedroom to that of George Villers, Duke of Buckingham. Villers and King James enjoyed a long friendship and both James' contemporaries as well as modern scholars considered the two lovers.

Lord Byron

In keeping with his Romantic philosophies of free love, Byron bragged about sex with men and women to friends. In letters to his close associate John Hobhouse, he wrote of numerous gay affairs in a secret code to avoid any legal penalties.

Sir Francis Bacon

Friends of the great English statesman and scientist have written at length of his acrimonious marriage and of his love of other men. At least one political enemy threatened to charge Bacon with sodomy, and his long friendship with King James I have led scholars to speculate that the two had an affair.

Richard the Lionheart

Richard I of England--the King Richard of Robin Hood stories--had no children in his marriage and contemporary accounts of his life refer to him committing the sin of Sodom (historical slang for homosexuality). He is also rumored to have had a torrid affair with King Phillip II of France.

Leonardo Da Vinci

The artist behind The Mona Lisa indulged in drawing quasi-erotic figures of men, and in his writings, expressed disgust toward sex with women. He was charged with sodomy at least twice in his life, and lived in Florence, a haven for gay men in his time. Some evidence exists which suggests Da Vinci also had affairs with his students.

Christopher Isherwood

The famed writer lived his entire adult life open about his sexuality, a theme which he wove into works like Berlin Stories, the basis for the film Cabaret. His boyfriend of over 30 years, Don Bachardy, still lives in Los Angeles in the same home he shared with Isherwood.

King David

Controversy alert! The biblical King and slayer of Goliath had a long, intense relationship with his friend Johnathan as chronicled in the ancient texts. Since at least the middle ages, scholars have noted the intimacy of their relationship, the wording used in biblical accounts, and speculated that they had a homosexual affair. Scholars are hotly divided over the possibility David and Johnathan were lovers, though one piece of evidence that supports the theory is that the word "ahava" is used to describe their love. The word is used to describe other sexualized relationships between heterosexual couples.

James Buchanan

Pundits can speculate on when the United States will elect a gay President, though few realize they already did! James Buchanan, the 15th President, never married. He did, however, live with Senator William Rufus King for a good portion of his adult life. Andrew Jackson referred to them as gay, and Governor Aaron Brown referred to them as a married couple. Surviving letters detail their intimate relationship, though Buchanan's family destroyed a good portion of their correspondence due to its scandalous nature.

Julius Caesar

The Roman general became the first dictator of the republic, and paved the way for the transition to a full-blown empire. Naturally, he polarized public opinion in his own time, and critics often used his sex life to deride him. Numerous Roman historians recorded his affair with king of Bithynia (now part of Turkey), and attacked him for playing the "passive" role in the relationship.

Walt Whitman

Few historians doubt the homosexuality of the Leaves of Grassauthor. Other than the homoerotic overtones to his poetry, personal letters detail his affair with gay poet Edward Carpenter, as well as a long relationship with bus conductor Peter Doyle, and neighbor Bill Duckett.

Frida Kahlo

The melancholic artist had a stormy marriage to fellow painter Diego Rivera riddled with affairs to men--and women. She had a well-documented relationship with Josephine Baker, and husband Rivera knew of her numerous dalliances. Believe it or not, he didn't mind her stepping out with other women, just other men!

Billie Holiday

Holiday rose to stardom as one of the most powerful jazz vocalists of all time, and lived her life as an open bisexual. She had affairs with various other star women, including Tallulah Bankhead, and several female lovers while in prison on drug charges.


The great Greek philosopher had lots of male sex partners, as was the style of the time. In his case, Aristotle seemed to love sex with other men, including fellow writers like Plato, and had little use for women in his life.

Bessie Smith

The jazz singer had a torrid marriage to a man, due in large part to her constant affairs with women! She's rumored to have had an affair with fellow singer Ma Rainey, and is known to have had relationships with female dancers in her stage shows. She made no secret of her love of women, and even sang songs with explicit lesbian content in the 1920s!


Roman Emperor Hadrian found a longtime companion in Antinous, a younger soldier. Roman historians record them often hunting together and Hadrian authoring poems about their love. When Antinous died, Hadrian was devastated. He had Antinous declared a god and built temples to his memory.

W.H. Auden

English ex-patriot and poet Auden came to the US with his close friend and sometime lover Christopher Isherwood. When he settled in New York, he met his longtime boyfriend Chester Kallman and the two moved in together. They dubbed their home "February House," which became an artistic center of the east coast. In his letters, Auden referred to his relationship with Kallman as a "marriage."

William Butler Yeats

Scholars often cite Yeats, along with T.S. Elliot, as the greatest poet of the 20th century. He practiced mysticism and struggled with his faith throughout his life. In his final years, he wrote a poem confessing his homosexuality, and how much he loved a male companion who remains unidentified.

J.M. Barrie

Historians debate Barrie's sexuality, with speculation ranging that the Peter Pan author could have been anything from a pedophile to asexual. What is certain is that he had a long relationship with his neighbors, the Davies boys, whom he adopted when their parents died. Two died from suicide: one, Michael, was gay and died with his lover. The other, Peter, destroyed his letters from Barrie before offing himself. Other writers have speculated that Peter & Barrie were in love, and Peter destroyed the evidence.

Laurence Olivier

One of the great actors of the 20th century, Oliver had a number of gay affairs, including trysts with Marlon Brando and Noel Coward. Friends knew well of his love of male company, as did his wives! His late widow, actress Joan Plowright, has acknowledged his numerous affairs with men.

Josephine Baker

Baker made a splash as one of the great dancers of the 20th century, and lived an openly bisexual life. She enjoyed affairs with artist Frieda Kahlo and French writer Colette. Baker's son also recalls his mother's many affairs with other female dancers.

George Bernard Shaw

Shaw made his name as an essayist and playwright, withPygmalion considered his masterwork. Like his protagonist Henry Higgins, Shaw had no interest in women, only marrying in his 40s so he could use his wife as a secretary! He also was an early gay rights advocate, defending gay people in his essays and his close friend Oscar Wilde at his trial.

Queen Christina

The 17th century Swedish monarch shocked her court by dressing as a man and taking part in typically masculine activities like hunting, equestrian sport and swordplay. She adamantly refused to marry, even abdicating her throne as a result. Historians believe her longtime Lady-in-Waiting, Ebba Sparre, was likely her lover.

Cary Grant

Grant's sexuality has become the stuff of Hollywood legend. While his widow and children dispute the fact that he was gay, ex-wives, girlfriends and close associates attest to his love of men. Friends Arthur Laurents and Betty White claim Grant had numerous gay affairs, including trysts with designer Orry-Kelly and Cole Porter.


Like Aristotle, Socrates had affairs with men which was considered acceptable and even encouraged in Greek society. Plato writes that Socrates once argued that love could only exist between two men, and that the philosopher could hardly control himself around beautiful young men. That Socrates was also executed for "corruption of youth" also suggests he may have loved men a bit too young!

J. Edgar Hoover

The tyrannical ex-FBI head blackmailed and spied on celebrities and political rivals he considered homosexual. The great irony is that Hoover himself was gay, as numerous friends and associates like Roy Cohn and Ethel Merman attest. His long-term boyfriend was his right hand man, Clyde Tolson. Rumors that Hoover was also a drag queen remain unconfirmed.

Lou Reed

Reed began his career as the underground front man of the rock band The Velvet Underground, and by hanging out with Andy Warhol. At the time, he made no secret of his bisexuality, and discussed the abusive "cure" at the hands of his parents: shock treatment. He had affairs with David Bowie an allegedly, photographer Billy Name.

Lesley Gore

60s singer Gore died in 2015, long out of the public eye. Few of her fans of songs like "It's My Party," "You Don't Own Me," and "California Nights" realized she's lived happily with jewelry designer Lois Sasson for 33 years. When she came out publicly in 2005, Gore revealed part of the reason she left her recording career behind in favor of behind-the-scenes composing was to live her life as a lesbian, free of public ridicule.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Emerson became one of the leading voices of the abolitionist movement, trancendentalism and modern religious thought in the 19th century. He also never quite understood that his attraction to men meant he was gay! Emerson had no interest in women--he proposed to his wife by writing her a letter--but couldn't get over his infatuation with colleague Martin Gay, for whom he wrote passionate love poems. Rumors of his affair with Henry David Thoreau remain unproven.

Noel Coward

Referred to as "The Master" by friend Peter O'Toole, Coward was a giant of dramatic arts, with wild success as an actor, playwright, singer and composer, penning staples of theatre likeBlithe Spirit and Private Lives. He never denied his homosexuality, but also would never discuss it. Upon his death, he authorized his longtime secretary to write a biography, which revealed long affairs with actor Graham Payn and even the Duke of Kent!

Virginia Woolf

Woolf, the author of touchstone queer works like Mrs. Dallowayand Orlando, lived openly as a lesbian, even while married to a man! Her one-and-only appears to have been fellow author Vita Sackville-West. Woolf's sister Vanessa never minded the gossip about her gay sister, or judged her, for that matter. That said, she did once ask Virginia "how it's done" when she couldn't figure out how lesbians had s3x.

Abraham Lincoln

Licncoln's sexuality remains the subject of furious debate. While no gay rumors followed him during his lifetime, surviving private letters do hint at several same-sex relationships. He never warmed to women, but did spent lots of time with male companions and wrote at least poem about sex with men. Letters also reveal he frequently slept in the same bed with bodyguard David Derickson. Hotly disputed are papers discovered in an apartment Lincoln once shared with friend Joshua Speed, which detail a sexual relationship.

Cesar Romero

The Joker on the infamous 1960s Batman television series lived openly as a "confirmed bachelor"--old Hollywood code for a gay man, and never denied his sexuality, though he never discussed it, either. His longtime boyfriend was actually actor Tyrone Power, and he also had a one night stand with Desi Arnaz!

Raymond Burr

Yes, Perry Mason himself lived life as an unapologietic gay man. When not appearing in films or television, Burr operated a winery with Robert Benevides, his boyfriend for over 30 years. Upon Burr's death, Benevides inherited his entire estate and renamed the winery "The Raymond Burr Vineyard."

John Gielgud

Geilgud has a legacy as one of the stage's greatest actors. He also has one of self-loathing and closet living! He was arrested in 1953 for sex with a man in a public park. Following his death, biographers gained access to letters to longtime boyfriend Paul Anstee, as well as diary entries that reveal that blackmailers tried to extort money from Geilguld in exchange for keeping his homosexuality secret.

Roddy McDowall

The great British character actor had a long career with starring roles in Fright Night and the Planet of the Apes series. He also kept a quiet private life as a gay man, and had close friendships with fellow closet cases Rock Hudson and Montgomery Clift.

Alan Turing

The mathematical genius responsible for cracking the Nazi code during World War II, Turing should have lived a hero's life. Instead, by 1952, he lived his life in disgrace after admitting to an affair with another man. The British government forced him to undergo hormone treatments to "cure" his disorder which made him grow enlarged breasts and rendered him impotent. He lost his job & security clearance, and when he tried to emigrate to the USA, the American government denied his application based on his homosexuality.

Marlene Dietrich

Dietrich lived her long life as a sexual libertine, indulging in affairs with men and women. She never hid or apologized for her bisexuality, quipping "in Europe we make love with whomever we like." Some of her "likes" included Edith Piaf and Greta Garbo.


Go figure that the master sculptor of "David" and the man who painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel would be gay! Historians debate if he had any sexual encounters at all throughout his life. Writers who knew him often commented on his aesthetic lifestyle, which bordered on the monk-like. His letters, however, reveal passionate love and lust for other men, in particular Italian noble Tommaso Dei Cavalieri.

Anthony Perkins

The star of Psycho lived a troubled personal life. Despite a long marriage to photographer Berry Berrenson, Perkins actually spent most of his time with gay lovers, including Tab Hunter, Stephen Sondheim and Rudolf Nureyev. His longest relationship was a torrid affair with dancer Grover Dale. Close friends say Perkins almost declared his homosexuality publicly before his sudden death from AIDS in 1992.

Tommy Kirk

Kirk enjoyed a presitgeous career as a child actor in classic Disney films like Old Yeller and Swiss Family Robinson. His career went into sharp decline in the early 1960s, however, when he was outed as gay and found himself blacklisted by Disney. He struggled with drugs and alcohol thereafter before leaving the business in the 1970s. He underwent something of a comeback in the early 2000s, after Disney declared him a company legend, inviting him to appear at various conventions which also lead to getting roles in several films as well.

Graham Chapman

Best known as King Arthur in the cult comedy Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Chapman worked as a creative force for the Monty Python comedy troop, and for gay rights in Britain as early as the 1960s! He met his husband David Sherlock in 1966, and the two later adopted a son together. Chapman and Sherlock remained together until the actors sudden death in 1989.

Edith Piaf

Perhaps France's premiere singer, Piaf is widely considered a gay icon the world over. Many of her fans, however, do not know of the singer's own bisexuality. She had several torrid marriages to men (including one who was gay himself), and an on-again, off-again affair with Marlene Dietrich.


Like many of the Roman elite, the Emperor Tiberius indulged in sex with both men and women, so much so that some historians refer to him as a sex addict. He opened a pornographic retreat on the island of Capri where he kept a harem of boys for his pleasure.

Dusty Springfield

The 1960s crooner of "Son of a Preacher Man" kept her life as a lesbian secret for fear it would harm her career. Springfield also had a wild, torrid love life which included relationships with singers Norma Tanega and Carole Pope. Springfield also married actress Teda Bracci in a 1982 spiritual ceremony, though the relationship soured two years later when Bracci smashed Springfield in the face with a frying pan during a fight!

George Washington Carver

The so-called "wizard of the peanut" never married, though he did try to court one woman, Sarah L. Hunt, in his later years. The relationship didn't last, and Hunt's letters reveal that Carver actually was more attracted to men, and had several gay affairs during his life. Sadly, the botanist never felt comfortable enough to have a lasting relationship with another man.

Errol Flynn

Yes, one of the screen's first and biggest action stars, known for classic films like Captain Blood and The Adventures of Robin Hood preferred the company of men. Flynn had a reputation as a sex addict in general--producer Robert Evans recalls Flynn taking him to a Mexican orgy--and besides his notorious womanizing, also had affairs with Tyrone Power, Truman Capote and Howard Hughes.

Sal Mineo

Former teen heartthrob Mineo came out publicly in 1972. At the time, he'd already lived with his longtime boyfriend, actor Courtney Burr III for six years. Mineo also gained gay icon status following his murder in a hate crime.

Dick Sargent

Best known as the replacement Darren on Bewitched, Sargent worked for years to conceal his romantic preference. After a long career in TV and film, he came out in 1989 after doctors diagnosed him with prostate cancer. He did so to control the narrative of his own life: he didn't want people speculating that he died of AIDS, and so that his longtime boyfriend Albert Williams would not have to deal with frenzied gossip. Sargent worked to promote gay rights--in particular outreach to gay teens--until his death in 1994.

Jeffery Dahmer

While the LGBT community probably is not eager to claim him, noted serial killer Jeffery Dahmer was a gay man. Struggles with his sexuality may have played a role in Dahmer's pathology, and it certainly drew him to select male victims whom he would have sex with, murder and eat.

Robert Reed

The iconic TV dad of The Brady Bunch kept a secretive personal life, even from close friends and co-stars for fear it would harm his career. He died of colon cancer in 1992, though his doctors later shocked his friends, family and fans by announcing that the actor had contracted HIV before his death. His close relationship with his co-stars had a profound impact, inspiring them all to become outspoken gay rights advocates.

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