12 Historical Figures You Didn’t Know Were Gay

Alexander the Great
Alexander the Great

Many historians insist that the Greek king of Macedon’s lifelong relationship with Hephaestion was more than friendship.

Leonardo Da Vinci
Leonardo Da Vinci

The legendary painter and sculptor was accused of sodomy when caught with a well known male prostitute in his lifetime. His art is often influenced by images of eroticism and androgyny.

Michelangelo
Michelangelo

The artist behind the Sistine Chapel and David made his sexuality clear in many of his poems, written to his male lovers, the most notable of which was Tommaso dei Cavilieri.

President James Buchanan
President James Buchanan

Likely the only gay American president to date, Buchanan shared a boarding house with former Vice President William Rufus King. Even Buchanan’s biographer insists he was homosexual.

Walt Whitman
Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman’s poetry contains plenty of homosexual and bisexual undertones, and many have speculated on his various male lovers.

Oscar Wilde
Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde, poet and author of The Portrait of Dorian Gray, was initiated into homosexuality by Robert Ross.

Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln

This is a controversial one. Several of Lincoln’s biographers have insisted the Civil War president was gay.

Laurence Olivier
Laurence Olivier

The English actor, generally considered one of the greatest of the 20th century, was likely homosexual or bisexual.

Tennessee Williams
Tennessee Williams

The celebrated playwright behind A Streetcar Named Desire was openly gay, and part of a thriving homosexual circle in 1940s New York City.

Eleanor Roosevelt
Eleanor Roosevelt

The first lady, who assumed many responsibilities during the worst of her husband’s illness, reportedly fell madly in love with Associated Press reporter Lorena Hickok.

Cary Grant
Cary Grant

The old Hollywood sex symbol was married five times, but had relationships with several other men, including a 12 year relationship with actor Randolph Scott.

Anthony Perkins
Anthony Perkins

The shy actor, best known as Norman Bates in Psycho, was married but, according to his biographer, had relationships with Christopher Makos, dancer Rudolf Nureyev, and composer Stephen Sondheim.

Fortunately, we live in a mostly accepting time of homosexuality, but of course, history hasn’t been so kind to the gay community.

With centuries upon centuries of gay suppression, its no wonder that countless gay historical figures and celebrities have had to hide their controversial sexuality. No doubt, there are many closeted historical figures who we’ll never know if they were truly gay.

Some, however, were either not so adept at hiding their sexual preferences, or they were shockingly open with it. While nothing’s set in stone, we’ve managed to dig up a dozen gay historical figures whose sexuality is, more or less, agreed upon.

They may have been married or had children or denied it vehemently, but these men and women were quite likely gay in a time before that was at all acceptable.

Thankfully, now we can look back with interest, fascination, and acceptance of their homosexuality.

So scroll through the slideshow above to view some of the most surprising gay historical figures.

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