The Best Influential LGBTQ Authors From Across Time

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Let’s face it, the LGBTQ community has played a huge part in arts, music, drama, and theatre, since...probably the beginning of time. Despite persecution, condemnation, and flat-out rudeness, LGBTQ artists have managed to get their work into public view for centuries through metaphors, art movements, and a lot of subtext.

LGBTQ authors are no different and are responsible for some of the most influential literature of our time, regardless of whether or not it involves queer, gay, or lesbian characters. With the mainstream growth and acceptance of same-sex relationships, more and more LGBT novels and books are being published, giving new generations of LGBT youth the same validation, support, and understanding that was so valiantly fought for.

We are here to pay homage to those great authors and their works with this list of some of the most influential LGBTQ authors from the past and present. ..

This list is in no particular order and no author is ranked because, we believe, these authors are geniuses in their own right and, like the LGBTQ community, stand together as one unstoppable force for guiding, inspiring, and entertaining past, present, and future generations for decades to come!

The Classics That Started It All

While the amount of LGBTQ books and novels being published is growing exponentially with the mainstream acceptance of homosexuality in this era, we must not forget that there were other times in history where homosexuality was not only mainstream, it was widely accepted.

In ancient Rome, this was seen through the works of Homer and Sappho. Both ahead of their time when it came to stitching words together to create dramatic and emotional representations of the human experience.

Not only is it widely accepted that both authors possessed same-sex attractions, but both also managed to incorporate fully developed characters who had intense emotional connections with others in their writing. Most famously this would include the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus in the Iliad and the Odyssey, and the ever present representation of lesbian encounters and relationships in Sappho’s poems.

One of the most famous works of gay literature came from Petronius in the form of Satyricon. This ancient writing chronicles the relationship between a man and his 16-year-old lover in ancient Rome. Widely accepted as probably one of the earliest examples of gay literature, this particular piece of work dives into a variety of encounters and relationships that highlight the culture of homosexuality at the time.

The Greats We Know And Love

In the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries, LGBTQ authors published a stunning amount of novels, books, and essay collections detailing their personal lives, the metaphors for the way they want to live, and overall commentary on the conservatism at the time.

Often their works have been a catalyst for “golden eras” of literature, motivational words for civil rights movements, and selections for distinguished nominations and awards. While some stayed in the closet, choosing to use their works as a direct form of self-expression, others came out into the open to give those that have not (or can not) a direct sense of community and understanding.

Whatever their reasons for writing, one thing is for sure. Literature wouldn’t be the same without these amazing LGBTQ authors:

  • Oscar Wilde - Most famous for the classic novel The Picture of Dorian Gray as well as a variety of plays and essays that touched on matters of cultural supremacy, religious hypocrisy, and the general state of things at the time. Oscar Wilde was described as “a flamboyant dresser, a charming conversationalist, and an incredibly social creature. Imprisoned for a short time for violating the UK’s sodomy and indecency laws that were strictly enforced at the time, Wilde spent his final years in France where he died.

  • Virginia Wolfe - Works created by this 20th century LGBTQ author have been the cornerstone of classic modern literature for decades. Virginia Woolf, famous for classic literary works such as A Room of One’s Own, The Lighthouse, and Mrs. Dalloway, was a fierce modernist and activist that was popular in many high society English circles. Her novels often critiqued the elite social class she was born into. While she declined in popularity during WW2, her works found new fame during the feminist movement in the 1970’s. Her personal confession to her sister about her same-sex affair with fellow writer Vita Sackville-West solidified her as a classic icon of powerful feminism and liberty in LGBTQ history.

  • David Sedaris - Often described as a sharp, witty, engaging, and real-talk-kinda-dude, David Sedaris has grown in popularity leaps and bounds since his debut on NPR in 1992. His work is often a glimpse into his personal life and the interactions he has with his family, friends, and coworkers. What is special about Sedaris’s work is his openness to discuss his journey to finding himself and discovering (sometimes rather clumsily) his sexuality in a way that is relatable and entertaining. His most famous works include Me Talk Pretty One Day, Holidays On Ice, Naked, and Dress Your Family In Corduroy and Denim all became New York Times Best Sellers.

  • Sylvia Plath - One of the greatest American novelists and poets was Sylvia Plath. Plagued with depression and suicidal thoughts and tendencies, Plath turned her condition into a creative outlet for expressing her opinions on gender roles, the objectification of women, and the struggle to stay “normal” in a world ruled by hypocrisy, stereotypes, and tradition. Her most famous work, The Bell Jar, is a semi-autobiographical novel that has been the study of numerous literature and women’s studies classes.

  • Chuck Palahniuk - Openly gay writer Chuck Palahniuk describes himself as a transgressional fictionist, meaning most of his work follows characters that act out as a result of feeling overburdened by societal pressures that require us to maintain the status quo no matter how it may affect us on the inside. The most famous example of this type of work would be Fight Club which was made into the cult movie hit with the same name.

Those We Might Not Have Heard Of…Yet!

The growing acceptance of the LGBTQ community into mainstream movies, tv, and media has left the door wide open for LGBTQ authors to create new work that builds on the power, influence, and provocative thinking that is so important to the growth and reflection of our society. These new authors include Vivek Shraya, Shyam Selvadurai, and Alison Bechdel. 

The Takeaway

These incredibly influential LGBTQ authors have explored, examined, and exposed life as someone on the outside. With writing that is relatable to anyone that has ever felt marginalized, suppressed, afraid, or curious, these influential authors have created masterful works that continue to be timelessly relevant to every generation that seeks to find a connection to the emotions, thoughts, and impulses they struggle with every day.

Finding LGBTQ authors to influence and inspire you is easy! Authors hail from all genres including science fiction, romance, westerns, historical, and autobiographies.

Now get out and start reading!