Illinois is a must-visit for LGBTI people around the world. Not only is it one of the most welcoming places in the States, they have gay districts like Chicago’s Boystown that are the envy of the world.
But there are other reasons to check out this state: it’s also the birthplace of some of the most influential LGBTI people in the country. From activists to actors, here are all the famous people you didn’t know were from Illinois.
1 Jane Lynch
Jane Lynch became iconic in the late 2000s for playing a no-nonsense, slightly scary, lesbian badass in both Role Models and Glee. But the inspiration for her powerful characters has to come from the state. She grew up in Dolton, Illinois, in the 60s as the daughter of a banker. Later on, she received her Bachelor’s degree from Illinois State University. So the next time you see her steal the scene on screen, you can thank the state of Illinois.
2 Dan Savage
Sex advice specialist Dan Savage is a proud member of the gay community. Running sex advice columns as well as his famous Savage Lovecast, the 53-year-old guides people through the tribulations of sex – and not without controversy. He was born in Chicago, studied at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and lives with his husband, Terry Miller, and his son, DJ.
3 Anthony Rapp
Anthony Rapp is one of the first openly queer actors on Broadway. He dazzled people on the stage with his performance as Mark Cohen in the original cast of Rent. The star has been dazzling on the stage (and silver screen with the Rent movie), but he ended up making history in 2016. Rapp played the first ever gay character to appear on Star Trek, with his appearance as Lt. Paul Stamets. The 46-year-old was born in Joliet.
4 Lea DeLaria
Lea DeLaria isn’t just iconic for playing Carrie ‘Big Boo’ Black on Netflix’s Orange is the New Black (though that does make her pretty iconic). She was also one of the first openly gay comics to appear on a late night talk show, with her appearance on The Arsenio Hall Show. Her colorful career spans everywhere from Cars 3 to Broad City, and it all started in Belleville.
5 Taylor Bennett
The brother to Chance the Rapper is a star in his own right. The American hip-hop artist is not only delivering exciting music and growing a fan base to rival his brother’s, he is paving a way for LGBTI people in the musical genre. The Chicago-born 22-year-old came out as bisexual on Twitter before his 21st birthday, getting the support of family and fans alike.
6 Lana and Lilly Wachowski
The two transgender sisters are a national treasure. They are the filmmakers behind The Matrix, one of the most iconic pieces of art of all time, and have since gone on to make several smash hits. Such as Sense8, the LGBTI community’s favorite TV show! These spectacular heavyweights of talent both hail from Chicago too.
7 Kim Chi (Sang-Young Shin)
Kim Chi is one of the most famous Chicago drag queens from RuPaul’s Drag Race. She dazzled the judges all the way up to the top three in season eight of the show. She’s one of the most famous Asian-American queens, with one of her most iconic moments arriving at the end of her time on Drag Race. She performed a lip-sync and dazzled the judges with a song created specifically for her, ‘Fat, Fem, & Asian’.
8 Sean Hayes
No list of famous LGBTI people from Illinois could be complete without Sean Hayes. The actor plays Jack in iconic NBC sitcom Will & Grace, which he has won multiple awards for. The 48-year-old, Chicago-born star has played rolls on television, film, and Broadway, including an award-nominated role in Promises, Promises.
Illinois Office of Tourism is a partner of Gay Star News