Culture The Most Important LGBTQ+ Thinkers of All Time  

LGBT
250 votes 44 voters 50 items

List Rules Vote up the LGBTQ+ individuals who made the biggest mark on the world.

From writers to philosophers to activists, there are plenty of LGBTQ+ thinkers whose thoughts and ideas have shaped the world over the years. These individuals were hugely influential in terms of opening up minds and encouraging bolder critical thought. Who is the most important LGBT+ thinker out there? Vote below to help decide! 

Some LGTB leaders in history were open and honest about their sexual orientation or gender identity, which helped change minds and make the public more open and accepting. Harvey Milk, for example, amplified public awareness of gay rights during his time in the San Francisco political scene. LGBT writers, like Virginia Woolf and James Baldwin, often tackled topical issues in their work and their contributions still impact how we think today. There are plenty of other influential LGBT people who work in an array of fields from science to philosophy to medicine to music. Vote up the most important LGBT thinkers of all time below and feel free to add anyone you think is missing. 

list ordered by

1
13 0
Alan Turing is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Most Important LGBTQ+ Thinkers of All Time
Mathematician, Logician, Computer scientist Alan Mathison Turing, OBE, FRS was a British pioneering computer scientist, mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst, philosopher, mathematical biologist, and marathon and ultra distance runner. He ...more

2
14 1
Virginia Woolf is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Most Important LGBTQ+ Thinkers of All Time
Novelist, Author, Writer Adeline Virginia Woolf was an English writer and one of the foremost modernists of the twentieth century. During the interwar period, Woolf was a significant figure in London literary society ...more

3
10 1
James Baldwin is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Most Important LGBTQ+ Thinkers of All Time
Activist, Poet, Novelist James Arthur Baldwin was an American novelist, essayist, playwright, poet, and social critic. His essays, as collected in Notes of a Native Son, explore palpable yet unspoken intricacies of ...more

4
11 2
Michel Foucault is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Most Important LGBTQ+ Thinkers of All Time
Sociologist, Writer, Philosopher Michel Foucault was a French philosopher, historian of ideas, social theorist, philologist and literary critic. His theories addressed the relationship between power and knowledge, and how they ...more

5
9 1
Oliver Sacks is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Most Important LGBTQ+ Thinkers of All Time
Neurologist, Author, Physician Oliver Sacks is a film story contributor.

6
6 1
Oscar Wilde is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Most Important LGBTQ+ Thinkers of All Time
Poet, Journalist, Writer Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde was an Irish author, playwright and poet. After writing in different forms throughout the 1880s, he became one of London's most popular playwrights in the ...more

7
6 1
Truman Capote is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Most Important LGBTQ+ Thinkers of All Time
Novelist, Screenwriter, Actor Truman Streckfus Persons, known as Truman Capote, was an American author, screenwriter, playwright, actor, many of whose short stories, novels, plays, and nonfiction are recognized literary ...more

8
9 4
Walt Whitman is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Most Important LGBTQ+ Thinkers of All Time
Poet, Nurse, Journalist Walter "Walt" Whitman was an American poet, essayist and journalist. A humanist, he was a part of the transition between transcendentalism and realism, incorporating both views in his ...more

9
8 4
Michelangelo is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Most Important LGBTQ+ Thinkers of All Time
Sculptor, Painter, Poet Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, commonly known as Michelangelo, was an Italian sculptor, painter, architect, poet, and engineer of the High Renaissance who exerted an unparalleled ...more

10
8 4
John Maynard Keynes is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Most Important LGBTQ+ Thinkers of All Time
Politician, Investor, Economist John Maynard Keynes, 1st Baron Keynes, CB, FBA, was a British economist whose ideas have fundamentally affected the theory and practice of modern macroeconomics and informed the economic ...more

11
7 4
Susan Sontag is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Most Important LGBTQ+ Thinkers of All Time
Cultural critic, Novelist, Screenwriter Susan Sontag was an American writer and filmmaker, teacher and political activist, publishing her first major work, the essay "Notes on 'Camp'", in 1964. Her best known works include ...more

12
6 3
Allen Ginsberg is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Most Important LGBTQ+ Thinkers of All Time
Film Score Composer, Poet, Screenwriter Irwin Allen Ginsberg was an American poet and one of the leading figures of both the Beat Generation of the 1950s and the counterculture that soon would follow. He vigorously opposed economic ...more

13
5 2
Harvey Milk is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Most Important LGBTQ+ Thinkers of All Time
Businessperson, Politician Harvey Bernard Milk was an American politician who became the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in California when he won a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. ...more

14
4 1
W. H. Auden is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Most Important LGBTQ+ Thinkers of All Time
Poet, Librettist, Screenwriter Wystan Hugh Auden was an Anglo-American poet, born in England, an American citizen, and regarded by many critics as one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. His work is noted for its ...more

15
3 0
Adrienne Rich is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Most Important LGBTQ+ Thinkers of All Time
Poet, Essayist, Writer Adrienne Cecile Rich was an American poet, essayist and feminist. She was called "one of the most widely read and influential poets of the second half of the 20th century", and was ...more

16
3 0
Gore Vidal is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Most Important LGBTQ+ Thinkers of All Time
Politician, Journalist, Novelist Gore Vidal was an American writer and a public intellectual known for his patrician manner, epigrammatic wit, and polished style of writing. As Eugene Louis Vidal, he was born to a political ...more

17
6 4
Marcel Proust is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Most Important LGBTQ+ Thinkers of All Time
Librarian, Novelist, Essayist Valentin Louis Georges Eugène Marcel Proust was a French novelist, critic, and essayist best known for his monumental novel À la recherche du temps perdu, published in seven parts ...more

18
5 3
Bayard Rustin is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Most Important LGBTQ+ Thinkers of All Time
Bayard Rustin was an American leader in social movements for civil rights, socialism, nonviolence, and gay rights. He was born and raised in Pennsylvania, where his family was involved in civil ...more

19
5 3
Audre Lorde is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Most Important LGBTQ+ Thinkers of All Time
Activist, Librarian, Poet Audre Lorde was a Caribbean-American writer, radical feminist, womanist, lesbian, and civil rights activist. Lorde served as an inspiration to women worldwide, one of her most notable efforts ...more

20
4 2
Karl Heinrich Ulrichs is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Most Important LGBTQ+ Thinkers of All Time
Writer Karl Heinrich Ulrichs was a German writer who is seen today as the pioneer of the modern gay rights movement.

21
4 2
Chelsea Manning is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Most Important LGBTQ+ Thinkers of All Time
Soldier Chelsea Elizabeth Manning is a United States Army soldier who was convicted in July 2013 of violations of the Espionage Act and other offenses, after releasing the largest set of confidential ...more

22
2 0
Richard Isay is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Most Important LGBTQ+ Thinkers of All Time
Psychiatrist, Professor, Writer Richard A. Isay was an American psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, author and gay activist. He was a professor of psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College and a faculty member of the Columbia ...more

23
2 0
Roland Barthes is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Most Important LGBTQ+ Thinkers of All Time
Writer, Philosopher Roland Gérard Barthes was a French literary theorist, philosopher, linguist, critic, and semiotician. Barthes' ideas explored a diverse range of fields and he influenced the development ...more

24
2 0
Dan Savage is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Most Important LGBTQ+ Thinkers of All Time
Editor, Commentator, Theatre Director Daniel Keenan "Dan" Savage is an American gay activist, author, media pundit, and journalist. Savage writes the internationally syndicated relationship and sex advice column Savage ...more

25
2 0
Elizabeth Bishop is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Most Important LGBTQ+ Thinkers of All Time
Poet, Writer Elizabeth Bishop was an American poet and short-story writer. She was the Poet Laureate of the United States from 1949 to 1950, the Pulitzer Prize winner for Poetry in 1956, the National Book ...more

26
4 3
John Ashbery is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Most Important LGBTQ+ Thinkers of All Time
Poet, Professor, Novelist John Lawrence Ashbery is an American poet. He has published more than twenty volumes of poetry and won nearly every major American award for poetry, including a Pulitzer Prize in 1976 for his ...more

27
2 1
Alice Walker is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Most Important LGBTQ+ Thinkers of All Time
Poet, Novelist, Author Alice Malsenior Walker is an American author and activist. She wrote the critically acclaimed novel The Color Purple for which she won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. ...more

28
2 1
Maggie Nelson is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Most Important LGBTQ+ Thinkers of All Time
Maggie Nelson Maggie Nelson is an American poet, art critic, lyric essayist and nonfiction author of books such as Women, the New York School, and Other True Abstractions, The Red Parts: A Memoir, The Art of ...more

29
1 0
Edward Albee is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Most Important LGBTQ+ Thinkers of All Time
Screenwriter, Author, Writer Edward Franklin Albee III is an American playwright who is known for works such as The Zoo Story, The Sandbox, and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. His works are considered well-crafted, often ...more

30
1 0
Alvin Ailey is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Most Important LGBTQ+ Thinkers of All Time
Choreographer, Dancer Alvin Ailey was an African-American choreographer and activist who founded the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York City. He is credited with popularizing modern dance and ...more

31
1 0
Barbara Gittings is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Most Important LGBTQ+ Thinkers of All Time
Barbara Brooks Gittings was a prominent American activist for gay equality. She organized the New York chapter of the Daughters of Bilitis from 1958 to 1963, edited the national DOB magazine The ...more

32
1 0
Barney Frank is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Most Important LGBTQ+ Thinkers of All Time
Politician Barnett "Barney" Frank is an American politician who served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Massachusetts from 1981 to 2013. A member of the Democratic Party, he ...more

33
1 0
Larry Kramer is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Most Important LGBTQ+ Thinkers of All Time
Novelist, Film Producer, Screenwriter Larry Kramer is an American playwright, author, public health advocate, and LGBT rights activist. He began his career rewriting scripts while working for Columbia Pictures, which led him to ...more

34
1 0
Tracy Chapman is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Most Important LGBTQ+ Thinkers of All Time
Musician, Singer-songwriter, Singer Tracy Chapman is an American singer-songwriter, known for her hits "Fast Car" and "Give Me One Reason", along with other singles "Talkin' 'bout a Revolution", ...more

35
1 0
Harry Hay is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Most Important LGBTQ+ Thinkers of All Time
Actor, Film Director, Teacher Henry "Harry" Hay, Jr. was a prominent American gay rights activist, labor advocate, and Native American civil rights campaigner. He was a founder of the Mattachine Society, the first ...more

36
1 0
Gertrude Stein is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Most Important LGBTQ+ Thinkers of All Time
Poet, Librettist, Author Gertrude Stein was an American writer of novels, poetry and plays. Born in West Allegheny, Pennsylvania and raised in Oakland, California, Stein moved to Paris in 1903, making France her home ...more

37
3 3
Jeanette Winterson is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Most Important LGBTQ+ Thinkers of All Time
Journalist, Novelist, Screenwriter Jeanette Winterson, OBE is a British writer, broadcaster and activist.

38
3 3
Willa Cather is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Most Important LGBTQ+ Thinkers of All Time
Novelist, Author, Writer Willa Sibert Cather was an American author who achieved recognition for her novels of frontier life on the Great Plains, in works such as O Pioneers!, The Song of the Lark, and My ...more

39
3 3
Tennessee Williams is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Most Important LGBTQ+ Thinkers of All Time
Screenwriter, Writer, Playwright Thomas Lanier "Tennessee" Williams III was an American playwright and author of many stage classics. Along with Eugene O'Neill and Arthur Miller he is considered among the three ...more

40
0 0
Judith Butler is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Most Important LGBTQ+ Thinkers of All Time
Professor, Writer, Philosopher Judith Butler is an American philosopher and gender theorist whose work has influenced political philosophy, ethics and the fields of feminist, queer and literary theory. Since 1993, she has ...more

41
0 0
Bill Hayes is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Most Important LGBTQ+ Thinkers of All Time
Actor, Singer William "Bill" Foster Hayes III is a long-time American dramatic actor and former Billboard Hot 100 #1 recording artist. Following a 20-year-long successful career as a musician, he ...more

42
0 0
Anderson Cooper is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Most Important LGBTQ+ Thinkers of All Time
Journalist, Television producer, Film Producer Anderson Hays Cooper is an American journalist, author, and television personality. He is the primary anchor of the CNN news show Anderson Cooper 360°. The program is normally broadcast live ...more

43
0 0
Troy Perry is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Most Important LGBTQ+ Thinkers of All Time
Troy Perry Troy Deroy Perry Jr founded the Metropolitan Community Church, a Christian denomination with a special affirming ministry with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities, in Los ...more

44
0 0
Tammy Baldwin is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Most Important LGBTQ+ Thinkers of All Time
Politician, Lawyer Tammy Suzanne Green Baldwin is the junior United States Senator from Wisconsin and a member of the Democratic Party. She previously served as the U.S. Representative from Wisconsin's 2nd ...more

45
0 0
Mark Doty is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Most Important LGBTQ+ Thinkers of All Time
Poet, Author, Writer Mark Doty is an American poet and memoirist, and the winner of the National Book Award for Poetry in 2008.

46
0 0
Paul Goodman is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Most Important LGBTQ+ Thinkers of All Time
Writer Paul Goodman was an American novelist, playwright, poet and psychotherapist, although now best known as a social critic, anarchist philosopher, and public intellectual. Though often thought of ...more

47
3 4
Tony Kushner is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Most Important LGBTQ+ Thinkers of All Time
Screenwriter, Author, Writer Anthony Robert "Tony" Kushner is an American playwright and screenwriter. He received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1993 for his play Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National ...more

48
2 3
Sappho is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Most Important LGBTQ+ Thinkers of All Time
Lyric poet Sappho was a Greek lyric poet, born on the island of Lesbos. The Alexandrians included her in the list of nine lyric poets. Her birth was sometime between 630 and 612 BCE, and it is said that ...more

49
0 1
Tim Cook is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Most Important LGBTQ+ Thinkers of All Time
Businessperson Timothy Donald "Tim" Cook is an American business executive, and is the CEO of Apple Inc. Cook joined Apple in March 1998 as Senior Vice President of Worldwide Operations—he also ...more

50
0 1
Thornton Wilder is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Most Important LGBTQ+ Thinkers of All Time
Novelist, Screenwriter, Playwright Thornton Niven Wilder was an American playwright and novelist. He won three Pulitzer Prizes—for the novel The Bridge of San Luis Rey and for the two plays Our Town and The Skin of Our Teeth—and ...more