1. Sue Frumin
Sue is a British playwright and author of a fantastic play titled Raising The Wreck for Gay Sweatshop Theatre in 1985. The play draws heavily on Sue’s experience as a lesbian.
2. Lisa Orlando
Lisa is the author of the Asexual Manifesto (1972). At the time of publication, Lisa was a member of the New York Radical Feminists. The group had caucuses for the heterosexual, lesbian and bisexual members already, so Lisa took it upon herself to ensure that asexual were included too.
3. Dionne Edwards
Dionne is a British filmmaker of mixed Jamaican and Nigerian heritage and released her first feature Pretty Red Dress this year. (Congrats Dionne!) As a gay woman, she has put a lot of her lived experience into her writing. Pretty Red Dress touches on sexual fluidity, Black masculinity and self-discovery.
4. Julie D’Aubigny
Julie was a French opera singer, sword fighter and bisexual in the 1600s: the original triple threat. Her life was full of so much drama, it’s impossible to know where to start. Let’s just say she was so wild that she had to be pardoned by the King of France not once, but twice!
5. Jim Sinclair
Jim is an American autistic activist and writer who in the 1980s founded the Autism Rights Movement. They self-describe as an “androgynous and nonsexual person” and wrote several essays, arguing that autism is part of a person’s identity, and calling for support rather than a “cure”.
6. Jonathan Bailey
Jonathan Bailey is a very well-known actor, but did you know he also uses his platform to further LGBTQIA+ inclusion? As well as using his talent to tell more LGBTQIA+ focused stories, he has been able to use his fame to bring attention to causes close to his heart. For example, this year he became a patron for Just Like Us – an amazing LGBTQIA+ young people’s charity for which, I myself am an ambassador!
7. Gladys Bentley
Gladys was an incredibly successful blues singer and entertainer in the 1920s and 30s. Known for her signature tailcoat and tophat, she was frequently harassed for wearing ‘men’s’ clothes and being openly lesbian. However she didn’t let this get in the way, and she became one of the most financially successful Black women in the United States at the time.
8. Leonardo Da Vinci
Leo is what I am calling the wildcard – yes, we all know who he was, but did you know he was gay? Or, so many historians have come to believe. It is even thought that his painting Saint John the Baptist supports this as well as his drawing The Incarnate Angel.
9. Gilbert Baker
Gilbert was an American artist, designer and activist. He was first taught to sew in the 1970s by fellow activist Mary Dunn and it was this helpful lesson that led him to design the Pride flag we all know and love.
Coccinelle, meaning ladybird, was a French actress and entertainer, beginning her career in the 1950s. She was openly transgender and a dedicated activist for the trans community. She founded the organisation Devenir Femme (To Become a Woman), providing support to those seeking gender affirming surgery.
11. Alla Nazimova
Alla was a Russian-American actress and filmmaker, born in 1879. She was the first woman to start her own Hollywood production company and was once billed “The World’s Greatest Actress”, although she has unfortunately since been largely forgotten. Alla was bisexual and ran a hotel that became a hub for Hollywood’s LGBTQIA+ community. Because of this, she was also dubbed the Founding Mother of Sapphic Hollywood – why have one legacy when you can have two?
12. Andy Pryor
Andy is a casting director responsible for casting many iconic shows. Over recent years we have seen an increase in inclusive casting, and this includes LGBTQIA+ representation and actors. Andy has been a big part of some of our favourite LGBTQIA+ positive shows including Gentleman Jack, It’s a Sin and, since its return in 2005, Doctor Who.
13. Lorraine Hansberry
Lorraine is most well known for her play A Raisin In The Sun (1959), the first Broadway play to be written by a Black woman, directed by a Black man and with an almost all-Black cast. Lorraine had written in her personal notebooks about her attraction to women as well as announcing herself as a lesbian in a letter to an LGBTQIA+ magazine. Unfortunately, this part of her identity has largely been forgotten due to her ex-husband’s denial of it both during her life and after her death.
14. Natalie Barney
Natalie was an American poet and prose writer and ran weekly salons, which gathered together many of the 20th century’s greatest artists and writers. She openly lived and wrote as a lesbian despite it being very taboo at the time, and her first book was a collection of love poems about women, published under her own name.
15. Armen Ohanian
Armen was an innovator, belly dancer and political revolutionary. Originally from Armenia, she is credited as being one of the first women to bring traditional Middle Eastern dance to the West in the 1900s. Armen was bisexual and alongside her exciting and innovative career, she also had multiple love affairs with both men and women.
16. Xuân Diệu
Xuân was a Vietnamese poet, dubbed the “King of Love Poetry” in his home country for his innovative and romantic writing style. Over his decades of work in the 1900s, he left most of his writing gender-neutral in homage to the romantic relationships he had with men, which he chose to conceal for the entirety of his career.
17. Magnus Hirschfeld
Magnus was a German physician and sexologist. In 1921, he founded the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee and the World League for Sexual Reform. The committee is thought to be one of the first to advocate for gay and transgender rights. In 1933, his institute in Berlin was stormed by fascists and they burnt all of his books, leading to the world’s most important repository of research material on sexuality being lost.
18. Jiří Langer
Jiří was a writer and teacher during the 1900s. A Hasidic Jew, within his work he would explore the topics of homosexuality and Hasidic practices. During his short lifetime, he still had a large impact on both his own community and the larger Jewish community. He was able to find harmony in both his sexuality and religion, never feeling that he needed to sacrifice one for the other.
19. The Squatters of Railton Road
This entry is not so much an individual but a group of individuals – during the 1970s, the area around Railton Road was host to many activist groups as well as a large number of squatters. It was a community created by those who needed it most and, although it still came with its own dangers and unknowns, it was largely considered a safe place for LGBTQIA+ individuals.
20. Eva Gore-Booth
Eva was an Irish poet, theologian, dramatist, social worker and suffragist who campaigned to improve pay and conditions for women workers in the 1800s. Eva’s sexuality has been a topic of debate among academics; some believe she was in a relationship with a woman named Esther Roper, but others believe they were simply just “roommates”.
21. Evelyn Irons
Evelyn was a Scottish, lesbian journalist. Incredibly underestimated throughout her career, she eventually made a name for herself when she chose to report directly from the battlefields in World War I. She became the first woman to receive the Croix De Guerre with Silver Star.
22. SpongeBob SquarePants
Okay, so everyone knows who Spongebob is, but did you know he is possibly an asexual icon? I say possibly because in 2002, show creator Stephen Hillenburg said that he considered SpongeBob “to be almost asexual”. The word “almost” leaves some speculation but hey, sexuality is a spectrum after all, and not something that always needs defining.
23. Anna Freud
Anna is one of the founders of child psychology and daughter of Sigmund Freud. When her father released a paper on her, diagnosing her with “hysteria” due to her lesbian relationships, she fought back and released her own study, fighting back against the negative beliefs around homosexuality that were circulating at the time.
24. Nayyab Ali
Nayyab is a Pakistani human rights defender, transgender activist and social scientist. In 2018, she was one of the first transgender people to run for election in Pakistan alongside 12 other transgender candidates. She had advocated for LGBTQIA+ rights from an early age and helped set up the Khawaja Sira Community Centre in Okara which offers a literacy and numeracy program to the transgender community.
Charly volunteers as an ambassador for Just Like Us, the LGBTQIA+ young people’s charity. LGBTQIA+ and aged 18 to 25? Sign up here!