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26 incredible queer icons who left the world too soon

26 incredible queer icons who left the world too soon

Drag icon Divine

From the worlds of music, film, art, literature and celebrity, modern life is full of famous LGBTI stars.

There are also more straight people in the public eye championing queer issues than ever before.

But what about the famous faces of yesteryear, who blazed this progressive trail?

The following feature is comprised of stars who have contributed to queer history in an undeniable way, regardless of their own sexualities (and sometimes, levels of openness on the subject.)

We of course couldn’t include everyone, because the list would go on forever – but if you can think of any notable omissions, let us know in the comments!

1 Marlene Dietrich

When and where was Marlene Dietrich born?

Marlene was born in 1901 in Germany.

What was she famous for?

She became one of the leading names in the Golden Age of Hollywood, starring in films such as Morocco and Shanghai Express. The bisexual star was the first German actress to be nominated for an Oscar.

When and how did she die?

Marlene died of kidney failure in 1992 at the age of 90.

2 Anthony Perkins

When and where was Anthony Perkins born?

Anthony was born in New York City in 1932.

What was he famous for?

He became a horror movie icon after starring in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. He was also Oscar nominated for his role in Friendly Persuasion.

When and how did he die?

Anthony died of an AIDS-related illness in 1992 at the age of 60.

3 Freddie Mercury

When and where was Freddie born?

Freddie was born in Tanzania in 1956, and lived there and in India during his childhood before moving to England in his teens.

What was he famous for?

He found global fame as the frontman of rock band Queen, and is considered one of the greatest cultural figures of all time. Despite some playful and ambiguous quotes in interviews, he arguably didn’t directly address his sexuality during his lifetime, but it’s widely believed Freddie was gay.

How and when did he die?

Freddie died of an AIDS-related illness in 1991 at the age of 45.

4 Venus Xtravaganza

When and where was Venus Xtravaganza born?

Venus was born in 1965 in New Jersey before moving to New York in her teens.

What was she famous for?

The trans performer found fame after her death: she was one of the most memorable New Yorkers featured in the seminal documentary Paris Is Burning, exploring the city’s ball culture.

How and when did she die?

Venus died of homicide in 1988 at the age 23. Her strangled body was found at the Duchess Hotel, and her killer was never found. Her heartbroken friends discuss the tragedy in the movie.

5 Justin Fashanu

When was Justin born?

Justin was born in 1961 in Hackney, London.

What was he famous for?

He rose to become one of the country’s most famous Premier League footballers of his era, playing for Norwich City. When he transferred to Nottingham Forest, he became the first black footballer to carry a £1million [$1.28m, €1.08m] transfer fee.

How and when did he die?

After coming out as gay in 1990, Justin suffered years of homophobic abuse in the press and on the pitch. He was then accused by an American 17-year-old of sexual assault, and committed suicide in 1998.

6 Keith Haring

When and where was Keith Haring born?

Keith was born in 1958 in Pennsylvania.

What is he famous for?

The artist pioneered the graffiti movement, and is known for his sculptures and murals, often featuring brightly-colored figures. (A NSFW version of the latter can be found in the bathroom of New York City’s Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center.)

How and when did he die?

He died in 1990 of AIDS-related complications at the age of 31.

7 Harvey Milk

When and where was Harvey Milk born?

Harvey Milk was born in Woodmere in New York State in 1930.

What was he famous for?

The politician was the first openly gay man to become an elected official in California. He was the subject of the 2008 Oscar-winning film Milk, written by Dustin Lance Black.

When and how did he die?

He was assassinated by Dan White in San Francisco in 1978 at the age of 48.

 

8 Elizabeth Taylor

When and where was Elizabeth Taylor born?

Elizabeth was born in 1932 in London.

What was she famous for?

The movie star, who married eight times in her lifetime (including twice to Richard Burton), was the sultry star of films such as Cleopatra and Cat On a Hot Tin Roof.

When and he did she die?

She died in 2011 of Congestive heart failure at the age of 79. Her legacy lives on through the The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation.

9 Virginia Woolf

When and where was Virginia Wolf born?

Virginia was born in in 1882 in Kensington, London.

What was she famous for?

The feminist, who had relationships with men and women during her lifetime, wrote some of the most important literary works of the last century including To the Lighthouse, Mrs Dalloway and A Room of One’s Own.

How and when did she die?

She committed suicide in 1941 after a year-long battle with mental illness.

10 Rock Hudson

When and where was Rock Hudson born?

Rock was born in 1925 in Illinois.

What was he famous for?

Movie star Rock appeared in films such as Pillow Talk, Giant, Send Me No Flowers and Written on the Wind. Although he was married to a woman, details of his homosexuality emerged after his death.

When and how did he die?

Rock died in 1985 of an AIDS-related illness.

11 Gertrude Stein

When and where was Gertrude Stein born?

Gertrude was born in 1874 in Pennsylvania.

What is she famous for?

The poet and art collector explored themes of sexuality in her work, and for much of her life lived with her female partner Alice B. Toklas in Paris.

How and when did she die?

She died of stomach cancer at the age of 72 in 1946.

12 Marsha P. Johnson

When and where was Marsha P. Johnson born?

Marsha was born in New Jersey in 1945.

What is she famous for?

The trans activist and drag icon was involved in the Stonewall Riots, and this year was the subject of a documentary, The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson.

How and when did she die?

It was ruled that Marsha committed suicide at the age of 46 in 1992, although friends reported seeing her being harassed earlier that day.

13 Judy Garland

When and where was Judy Garland born?

Judy was born in 1922 in Minnesota.

What is she famous for?

The mother of Liza Minelli is one of Hollywood’s untouchable stars, and her most beloved role was as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. She was also a Grammy Award-winning recording artist.

How and when did she die?

She died of a barbiturate overdose at the age of 47 in 1969.

14 Alan Turing

When and where was Alan Turing born?

Alan was born in 1912 in West London.

What is he famous for?

Codebreaker and mathematical genius Alan is widely credited with ending World War 2 early. He underwent chemical castration to ‘cure’ him of his homosexuality during his lifetime. Alan was the subject of an Oscar-winning biopic, The Imitation Game, in 2014.

How and when did he die?

It is widely believed he committed suicide at the age of 41 in 1954.

15 Audrey Hepburn

When and where was Audrey Hepburn born?

Audrey was born in 1929 in Belgium and spent some of her youth in England.

What is she famous for?

Her most iconic role was as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and her other memorable screen roles include Roman Holiday and My Fair Lady.

How and when did she die?

She died in her sleep of of appendix cancer at the age of 63 in 1993.

16 Lili Elbe

When and where was Lili Elbe born?

Lili was born in 1882 in Vejle, Denmark.

What is she famous for?

Painter Lili was one of the first people in the world to undergo sex reassignment surgery. Interest in Lili was renewed in 2015 when she was the subject of the Oscar-winning biopic The Danish Girl.

How and when did she die?

She died of transplant rejection at the age of 48 in 1931.

17 Allen Ginsberg

When and where was Allen Ginsberg born?

Allen was born in 1926 in Newark, New Jersey.

What is he famous for?

Allen was a poet whose book Howl and Other Poems – a rallying cry against political and cultural conservatism – resulted in an unsuccessful obscenity trial. He is remembered as one of the greatest writers of the 20th century.

How and when did he die?

He died of Hepatitis at the age of 70 in 1997.

18 David Bowie

When and where was David Bowie born?

David [pictured above with Cher] was born in Brixton, London in 1947.

What was he famous for?

Selling an estimated 140 million records worldwide, David Bowie is one of pop music’s most iconic names, and was totally unapologetic about his bisexuality.

How and when did he die?

David died of liver cancer at the age of 69 in 2016.

19 Alvin Ailey

When and where was Alvin Ailey born?

Alvin was born in 1931 in Rogers, Texas.

What is he famous for?

Choreographer and activist Alvin founded the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 1958. It is still popular today, and his piece Revelations is one of the most iconic pieces of modern dance ever.

How and when did he die?

He died of AIDS at the age of 58 in 1989.

20 Divine

When and where was Divine born?

Divine was born in 1945 in Baltimore, Maryland.

What was she famous for?

The muse of queer film director extraordinaire John Waters, Divine starred in some of his most subversive and celebrated movies, such as Pink Flamingos (1972) and Multiple Maniacs (1970). She came to mainstream attention with her role in Waters’ box office hit film Hairspray.

How and when did she die?

Divine died of an enlarged heart at the age of 42 in 1988.

21 Oscar Wilde

When and where was Oscar Wilde born?

Oscar was born in 1854 in Dublin in the Republic of Ireland.

What is he famous for?

Oscar penned enduring works of literature such as The Picture of Dorian Gray and plays like The Importance of Being Earnest, finding great success in his lifetime. He married a woman, but was arrested and put on trial for gross indecency with men. After two years in prison, he spent his last years living in destitution in Paris.

How and when did he die?

He died of meningitis at the age of 46 in 1900.

22 Christopher Isherwood

When and where was Christopher Isherwood born?

Christopher was born in 1904 in Greater Manchester, England.

What is he famous for?

Novelist Christopher is remember for novels such as A Single Man and Christopher and his Kind. His semi-autobiographical stories about the queer underground of pre-war Berlin would go on to inspire the Broadway musical and film Cabaret.

How and when did he die?

He died of prostate cancer at the age of 81 in 1986.

23 Andy Warhol

When and where was Andy Warhol born?

Andy was born in 1928 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

What is he famous for?

Originally an illustrator for magazines and advertisements, gay artist Andy went on to father the pop art movement, and created some of the most enduring images of the last century.

How and when did he die?

He died of irregular heartbeat at the age of 58 in 1987.

24 Billie Holiday

When and where was  Billie Holiday born?

Billie was born in 1915 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

What is she famous for?

One of the most influential singers of all time, Billie’s iconic jazz tracks include Summertime, Strange Fruit and Blue Moon. She was known for having relationships with men and women.

How and when did she die?

She died of liver cirrhosis in 1959.

25 Frida Kahlo

When and where was Frida Kahlo born?

Frida was born in 1907 in Coyoacán, Mexico.

What is she famous for?

The bisexual artist was world-renowned for her bizarre, colourful self-portraits, as well as her iconic sense of personal style.

How and when did she die?

She died of a pulmonary embolism at the age of 47 in 1954.

26 Brenda Howard

When and where was Brenda Howard born?

Brenda was born in 1946 in New York City.

What is she famous for?

Brenda, the bisexual ‘Mother of Pride’, invented the pride movement after the Stonewall Riots in 1969. She organized the first Christopher Street Liberation Day March the following year.

How and when did she die?

Brenda died of colorectal cancer at the age of 58 in 2005.

All pictures by Wiki and YouTube