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  • Writer's pictureAlanna Grayce

#59: Queer People you might not have known were Queer, with Syd

Happy Pride my loves.

Here's the thing: love is love. That's it. It's not our place to tell people who they can and can't love. Thanks.

Now for this episode-

Be ready for some of my most awful cackle laughs, some thoughts on how sometimes a person’s sexuality is none of our business, and some surprising bits of Queer history. Queerstory? This is an attempt at me being an ally, trying to educate and change people's perspectives and hopefully disseminate some of the hatefulness that weirdly still exists around this topic that literally hurts no one. I hope I did ok.

PS we accidentally call Demi Lovato she/her a few times while we are literally discussing their coming out as nonbinary and we DID NOT mean to, seriously a major slip and we are so sorry!!


Sally Ride

So Sally was an American physicist and astronaut, and was the first American woman in space. I felt it was only fitting for her to be the first on the list, ya know? She was not openly gay throughout her life and career, at least not open enough that it was documented. After she left NASA, she taught at the University of California San Diego. Then, on her death in 2012, her obituary revealed that she had been in a relationship with a woman for 27 years. WOW. according to her sister, Bear, who is also a lesbian and an ordained minister, Sally’s not being out of the closet was more about her personal private nature than anything, and that she was proud of being gay. She was just private because they were a Norweigan family and that was a cultural thing.

Audre Lorde

A Black writer and civil rights activist- I had no idea that she was gay, so I had to include her, even it’s just me that didn’t know and everyone else did. Actually, it’s definitely just me that missed it somehow. She famously said “Those of us who stand outside the circle of this society’s definition of acceptable women; those of us who have been forged in the crucibles of difference – those of us who are poor, who are lesbians, who are Black, who are older – know that survival is not an academic skill. It is learning how to take our differences and make them strengths. For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” She is also well known for her mastery of emotional expression in her poetry, and her poems and prose mainly deal with issues related to the things she herself experienced- civil rights, racism, feminism, lesbianism, injustices of capitalism, classism, and the exploration of her identity, amongst so many other themes.

Leonardo da Vinci

Da Vinci’s sexuality was very much kept secret by himself- it has been the subject of much speculation. Freud was super obsessed with the idea of da Vinci’s sexuality- he said “ok he’s gay, but he was celibate so he wasn’t really gay”. However, there is a court document from 1476, when da Vinci was 24, that he and three other young men were charged with sodomy with a well-known male prostitute. The charges were dismissed due to lack of evidence, and probably the Medici family helped get rid of it. Overall, his gayness is apparently pretty acknowledged at this point, but somehow i think i missed it… i wasn't surprised though, honestly. In his own letters there is proof of his attraction to the opposite sex- and apparently he was also super fascinated with the idea of androgynoy and transcending gender and gender constructs. We see this a lot in a handful of his works, even early ones, where angels are painted with both masculine and feminine traits.

Christine Jorgensen

She was technically the world’s first OUT transgender woman. The New York Daily News headline that announced her read: “EX-GI BECOMES BLONDE BEAUTY: OPERATIONS TRANSFORM BRONX YOUTH”. Before her transition, she was drafted into the Army during World War 2. A few years after the war, she travelled to Copenhagen to undergo reassignment operations. She became famous instantly, and was known for her wit and advocacy. For a lot of people, Christine brought a likable, relatable face to the idea of gender issues. She was an actress and worked at a nightclub, as well as being a lecturer and she authored an autobiography.

Alla Nazimova

An actress- now I know she isn’t a super well known household name to be super surprised by- but I included her because get this: she is credited with coming up with the phrase “Sewing circle” like oh me and the ladies have our sewing circle tonight AS A CODE WORD FOR HER AND HER FELLOW LESBIAN AND BI HOLLYWOOD ACTRESSES.

Alexander the Great

Widely considered to have been some kind of bisexual by pretty much all historians- which finally- Alexander had partners and mistresses, as well as queens. He married first for love, and then the second and third were political. His most controversial partner was a young Persian eunuch, Bagoas, who Alexander publicly kissed at a festival. However, his most prominent partner was his “best friend” Hephaestion, whose death devastated Alexander terribly. Alexander threw him the world’s most expensive funeral, and his death contributed to Alexander’s failing mental and physical health. This is a pretty controversial relationship, i will say, as none of their contemporaries explicitly describe them as homosexual- BUT they were very often compared to Achilles and Patroclus, who were classically considered a couple. This is super interesting, because it is kind of pretty accepted that they had a homosexual relationship as young men, which was very common and actually encouraged in Greek culture- it wasn’t so accepted between adult males, though, BUT some people think the Macedonian court, which is where Alexander was from, might have been more chill with it.

Alan Turing

A famous mathmetician and the key to cracking nazi code during world war 2, allowing the allies to defeat the nazis in many crucial battles. He was convicted of having a relationship with a man, and because it was illegal to engage in gay sex, he was “punished” with chemical castration. A key component in beating the nazis was literally stabbed in the back by his own government. Soon after, he took his own life at only age 41 after using cyanide to poison an apple. Can you imagine? Being thanked for your service to the literal world in that way. A law was put in place in 2017 that pardoned people (Even posthumously) for their convictions of being gay, which is obviously a little late. I guess props for doing something about it though.

Oscar Wilde

Playwright and novelist Oscar Wilde was one of those rare authors that is wildly famous in his own time. At the height of his fame, he was actually imprisoned for his homosexuality, and the contents of his books and plays were used against him in court has proof of his immorality. He was sentenced to two years hard labor, and this took a serious toll on his health. afterward , though, he reunited with his previous lover (the one whose family caused all these issues actually) for a few months before their families forced them apart again. Sadly, he died impoverished, exiled, and sick with meningitis at only 46. He was pardoned in 2017 also, by the Alan Turing law.

Florence Nightingale

Arguably the most famous nurse of them all- she pulled together a team of nurses to help the deplorable conditions soldiers were facing during hte Crimean War in the 1850s- which is where she made a name for herself mainly. Because of her heroism there, Queen Victoria granted Florence funding to found a hospital and a training school for nurses, which is Lit.

She was never married to a man, but she was in relationships with multiple women throughout her life, most notably her cousin (Weird) Marianne, whom Florence wrote was “the only person” she had ever loved “with passion”.

Andy Warhol

American artist best known for his leading role in the pop art movement, he lived openly as a gay man before even the gay liberation movement. He often drew inspiration from underground gay culture, and liked to explore the complex idea of sexuality. Because of this, actually, his first works he submitted to a fine art gallery were rejected for being too gay because they were homoerotic male nudes.

Nancy Kulp

Ok you probably don’t know her name, but you know her- THE BANKER’S SECRETARY MISS HATHAWAY FROM THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES. Y’all. When asked by a writer about her sexual orientation- she said “I find that birds of a feather flock together. That answers your question.”

Freddie Mercury

As the frontman of Queen, he is still regarded as as one the greatest. In the early 70s he began a long term relationship with Mary Austin, but after he began an affair with an American man and told Mary about his sexuality, they ended their relationship. They did stay close friends though which i think is so sweet. His partner Jim Hutton was at his side when he died of HIV, at the young age of 45.


Long story short, the University of Illinois at Springfield’s LGBTQ, Questioning, and Allied Resource Office gives the following assessment of the ambiguity of Michelangelo’s sexuality- they write that in spite of gossip at the time, there is no clear written evidence of his homosexuality- but the physical beauty of many of his greatest works, which happen to be male nudes, “gives a clear indication as to where Michelangelo’s erotic interests lay”. Which is kind of a hilarious way to put that???

I do think it’s important to note that one Italian painter and writer, who was a contemporary, wrote that Michelangelo had “monk-like chastity”. His poetry and letters reveal some interesting stuff, though- the longest sentence out of his three hundred sonnets and madrigals displays deep feelings of romance for a young man, from another man; the poetry was written specifically to Tommaso dei Cavelieri, and they remained very close until Michelangelo’s death.

Eleanor Roosevelt

The first lady and her husband, President Franklin D Roosevelt, had a bit of an arrangement- he could do what he pleased, and so could she. She chose reporter Lorena Hickock,-who actually quit her job at the Associated Press because she felt that her closeness to Eleanor compromised her ability to objectively report on the family. A few years later, she was named the executive secretary for the DNC, and SHE MOVED INTO THE WHITEHOUSE. After Eleanor’s death, the family destroyed most of the letters and stuff that would prove her sexuality, but a few were preserved somehow. In 1933, she wrote to Lorena- “I want to put my arms around you. I ache to hold you close… Your ring is a great comfort to me. I look at it and think she does love me, or I wouldn’t be wearing it.”

Ugh, the romance. love it. love is love!!!!!!!!

For Sydney to become your friend:


The links Syd mentioned:

My sources:

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