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Reader's Poll: The 25 Most Important LGBT Public Figures

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by /bent
June 26, 2014 7:12 PM
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June is Pride Month, commemorating the 1969 Stonewall riots and asking all of us to remember how we got where we are today. So we thought it might be fun to start up an annual Pride Month poll here at /bent, asking our readers to tell us the films, television shows, songs and people (both fictional and real) that have been important to them in the past 45 years. 

Check out all the results for every poll here.

Seventy-two people responded, and here's our eighth and final poll: The most important LGBT public figures of the last 45 years. 

Now, before we get to the results: We do realize doing this kind of thing is highly subjective, which is why we're going with "most important" and not "best." We hoped that what resulted was eclectic mix of people that have helped shape the queer cultural landscape. And we think it really is, more or less. But here are some interesting things to note before you go through the list: 

  • The "points" listed next to each film refers to the way we tabulated things. People voted in top 10 lists, so if the person was #1, it got 10 points, #2 got 9 points, etc. 
  • Of the 24 people on the list (one was a group), 13 are still alive, while 11 have passed away.
  • As expected, men made up for the vast majority with 17, while 7 were women. 
  • Fourteen of the 24 identify as gay, while 4 are lesbians, 2 bisexuals and 4 trans folk.
  • Most were Americans, with 18, alongside 4 from the UK and 1 Czech.
  • Most were born in the 1930s and 1940s (5 each), though every decade was represented from the 1900s to the 1980s (Quentin Crisp was first born, Lady Gaga last).
  • And in case you're curious, the 10 runner-ups, in order of votes, were: Dustin Lance Black; Edith Windsor; Tammy Baldwin; Neil Patrick Harris; Janet Mock; Rachel Maddow; Stephen Fry; Andy Warhol; Dan Choi and John Waters

So without further ado, we present the 25 most important LGBT public figures, according to you. Definitely use the comments section to discuss your thoughts and/or your own choices, but remember - these were your picks - do don't blame us if your offended about their quality or lack of diversity through the LGBT spectrum. And watch the clips! They were heavily curated ;)

25. Derek Jarman - 39

Born: 1942 in London, UK
Died: 1994 in London, UK

Profession: A filmmaker, activist and artist who was extraordinarily influential in a career that was cut way too short. 

24. George Takei - 42
Born: 1937 in Los Angeles, California
Legacy: Actor and author best known as Sulu from "Star Trek," Takei has become a visible and vocal advocate for LGBT rights, particularly on social media. 


23. James Baldwin - 44
Born: 1924 in New York, New York

Died: 1987 in Saint-Paul de Vence, France

Legacy: Though a lot of his work came before Stonewall (like 1956's explicitly gay book "Giovanni's Room"), novelist, poet, playwright and activist Baldwin remained an extraordinarily important figure through the 1970s and and 1980s for his exploration of racial, sexual and class distinctions in the US.

21 (tie). Quentin Crisp - 47
Born: 1908 in Sutton, England
Died: 1999 in Manchester, England
Legacy: A writer, actor and raconteur who was publicly gay at a time when it was downright dangerous to be so.



21 (tie). Harry Hay - 47
Born: 1912 in Sussex, England
Died: 2002 in San Francisco, California
Legacy: Founder of the Mattachine Society in 1950 (the first sustained gay rights group in the US) and the Radical Faeries, Hays was a gay rights activism pioneer if there ever was one -- and continued to be post-Stonewall.

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3 Comments

  • Codex | June 29, 2014 11:38 PMReply

    ... in America... ;)

  • bob hawk | June 28, 2014 7:11 AMReply

    Very interesting (and telling) that three of the top five were martyrs. Very glad to see such less generally known figures as Audre Lorde and Harry Hay. Am a bit surprised that there were more performers (some of very recent vintage) than writers. Poet James Broughton, and playwrights Tony Kushner and Terrence McNally came to mind most immediately. Still, it's one of the best of the lists. Hope you do this every year.

  • Frank Hui | June 27, 2014 5:00 PMReply

    Overall a good, diverse list. I am a little disappointed that Rev Troy Perry didn't even make the runner up list. He founded MCC and was calling for marriage equality way back since 1972! He actually went on Donahue to talk about it

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