20 Historical Figures You Didn't Know Were Queer
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Politics and Activism

20 Historical Figures You Didn't Know Were Queer

For a very long time, being gay was illegal, many of which were prominent figures in history.

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20 Historical Figures You Didn't Know Were Queer
Wikipedia

For a very long time, being gay was illegal, meaning that many people were forced to live their whole lives in the closet.

Many of which, were prominent figures in history. In honor of their life-long struggles, here's a list of 20 historical figures you didn't know were queer.

1. Eleanor Roosevelt

Her love letters to Lorena Hickrock still survive to this day. Eleanor also kept company with many other lesbian couples

2. Alec Guinness

Guinness was very closeted until he was arrested for solicited gay sex in public. Ian McKellan has referred to Guinness as a self-loathing homosexual.

3. James I

Scholars have referred to him as a "queen." He had many close male friends throughout his life, including his lover, George Villers (Duke of Buckingham).

4. Shakespeare


Little definitive evidence that Shakespeare was queer survives today, but we do know he wrote about erotic love for men in his sonnets.

5. DaVinci

DaVinci drew quasi-erotic figures of men. He also wrote about his disgusts towards having sex with women. He was charged with sodomy at least twice.

6. Walt Whitman


His poetry had homoerotic overtones. His personal letters of his affair with gay poet Edward Carpenter and with his neighbor still survive.

7. James Dean

William Best, Dean's longtime friend, and screenwriter, recently admitted that the two had a sexual relationship.

8. Alexander the Great

His bodyguard was his life-long boyfriend. When he died, Alexander fell into a horrible depression and died shortly after.

9. Frida Kahlo

Kahlo had a stormy marriage with Diego Rivera, whom she cheated on with both men and women. Rivera didn't care about the women, but he hated when she stepped out with other men.

10. Julius Caesar

A record of his affair with King of Bithynia exists to this day. Julius was known for playing the passive role in the relationship.

11. James Buchanan

Buchanan never married but did live with Senator William Rufus King. Andrew Jackson often referred to the two as gay.

12. Socrates

Socrates had many affairs with men, which was accepted and encouraged in Greek society.

13. Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln had many private letters hinting at homosexual relationships. He had only male companions and wrote at least one poem about sexual relations with men.

14. Billie Holiday

Holiday was openly bisexual. She had many affairs with women and many female lovers in prison as well.

15. Alan Turing

The British government forced Turing to undergo hormone treatments to "cure" his homosexuality. Turing eventually committed suicide, finding the treatments unbearable.

16. Queen Christina


Christina was the 17th-century Swedish monarch. She often dressed as a man, participated in typically masculine activities, and refused to marry, abdicating her throne.

17. Greta Garbo

Garbo had many long affairs with women. She also referred to herself as "he" and "him," speaking in the third person.

18. Ralph Waldo Emerson

Emerson had no interest in women whatsoever. He did not understand his obsession with men was actually homosexuality.

19. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Tchaikovsky kept his homosexuality a secret his entire life, which played a major role in his depression. He was married to a woman for two months before leaving her.

20. Aristotle

Aristotle had multiple male partners. He loved having sex with other men, including Plato.

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