It’s no secret that people have tried to erase LGBTQ+ people and their achievements from history. But we’ve trawled through the archives to shine a light on 20 figures whose remarkable stories must not be forgotten, going back as far as 2,300 years ago and continuing on into the late 20th century. Some of the names on our list may not come as a surprise, but many will be much less familiar. Read on to find out about how members of the queer community have played leading roles in political and cultural history throughout the centuries — despite what some experts might want you to think.
Alexander the Great
Considering that he was only 32 when he died in 323 B.C., Alexander the Great was something of a high-achiever. Inheriting the Greek kingdom of Macedonia from his father was nowhere near enough to satisfy Alexander’s ravening ambition. He went on to conquer the mighty Persian Empire by force of arms and extended his territorial gains all the way to India.
As to Alexander’s sexual preferences, it seems that he had a taste for female and male company, favoring both in large numbers. When it came to men, Alexander is believed to have had a single highly significant relationship which was much more than a one-night stand. That was with one of his own generals, Hephastion. Tragically, Alexander’s lover was killed in battle and not long before the conqueror himself died. Some said that he had pined away after the death of Hephastion.
Leonardo da Vinci
One of the most famous artists of all time, Leonardo da Vinci was not just a genius when it came to painting and drawing. It’s worth remembering that he also had an extraordinary talent for futuristic inventing. The innovations he sketched out included a convincing prototype helicopter, a machine gun, and an airplane. If ever there was an individual who merited the title of “renaissance man” it had to be da Vinci.
What about his love life? A 2021 article in British news website The Independent quoted Kandice Rawlings of the Oxford University Press. She admitted, “There’s no way of knowing Leonardo’s sexual orientation for sure,” but added, “Scholars’ opinions on the issue fall along a spectrum between ‘maybe’ and ‘very probably’.” In fact in 1476 aged 24, da Vinci did end up in court for sexual misbehavior with a 17-year-old man. Frustratingly, we don’t know the outcome of the case.