It’s estimated that nearly one in three men are gay or bisexual. Believe it or not, this number has remained relatively consistent throughout history. The only difference is that today, more and more people are “coming out,” whereas this wasn’t as accepted several hundred years ago. In fact, admitting to being gay several hundred years ago could have resulted in severe punishment (and sometimes death). So it’s easy to see why there were so many great and powerful men in the past who never admitted to being gay.
Whether you knew they were gay or not, there are many men who had a lot of power despite having a sexual orientation that was considered “different.” It’s also important to note that these men took on a variety of positions and roles. Some were actors and artists, while others were presidents and war leaders. This goes to show that sexual orientation doesn’t matter when you’re trying to pursue a position of fame, prestige, or influence. In this article, we’re going to break social barriers, inspire, captivate, and challenge your beliefs by showing you 10 of the most powerful gay men in history!
10 Tim Cook
After the passing of Steve Jobs, Apple’s new CEO Tim Cook stepped up and took over the company. As you know, Apple has revolutionized the way people remain interconnected from around the world. Cook became Jobs’ successor in 2011, and he’s also on the board of directors for both the National Football Foundation as well as Nike. When Cook “came out of the closet,” he helped inspire gay, bisexual, and lesbian business professionals all around the world. What would Apple be like today without Cook stepping in? It’s tough to say, but let’s just say that we’re all happy that it happened.
9 Anderson Cooper
Television personality and award-winning journalist Anderson Cooper is very famous for his work on CNN. As a matter of fact, he hosted an award-winning news show called Anderson Cooper 360, which covered trending events around the world. It became so popular that the network extended the show’s run time from one hour to two. Not only does Cooper happen to be gay, but he’s also inspired aspiring anchors and reporters around the world to pursue their dreams. Today, Cooper remains an adored and trusted television personality who continues to inform people about the latest events happening around the world.
8 Neil Patrick Harris
In 2010, Neil Patrick Harris was named as one of the world’s most influential people according to Time magazine. Harris is best-known for his roles in How I Met Your Mother (TV show), and has hosted the Tony Awards on Broadway in 2013, 2012, 2011, and 2009. In 2015, he hosted the 87th Academy Awards, making him the first (openly) gay man to take on such a role. Here’s another interesting fact about him: he was born and raised in Ruidoso, New Mexico, and graduated in 1991 with an honors degree. Needless to say, he’s achieved quite a bit in his life.
7 Alexander the Great
Known as one of the most successful military commanders of all time, Alexander the Great was undefeated in battle. And little do most people know, he was also gay. What made Alexander the Great so different from other commanders during his time was that he would integrate foreigners into his army. This strategy, which became known as “Policy of Fusion” was revolutionary, and something that had never been utilized before. He conquered Egypt, Bactria, Gaza, Judea, Phoenicia, Syria, Anatolia, and eventually extended his boundaries to India. This goes to show that even being the strongest military leader in history has nothing to do with your sexual orientation.
6 Leonardo Da Vinci
Leonardo Da Vinci was famous for his geology, art, and cartography studies. Thanks to his designs and artwork, he helped inspire inventions like the helicopter, parachute, and tank. He was a very talented artist, and many of his pictures and works of art remain on display in museums and galleries all around the world. Not many people realize that Leonardo Da Vinci also happened to be gay. One of his most famous paintings was the Mona Lisa. Da Vinci also used his life to create geographical maps, and he also studied many things like reading and math, and he even mastered writing backwards. Why did he write backwards? Many people believe it’s so that other people wouldn’t steal his ideas.
5 Giorgio Armani
Giorgio Armani is an Italian fashion designer who happens to be one of the richest designers in the world- and he’s also gay. One of the main reasons for his success is Armani’s keen eye for detail. He strives for perfection with all of his products, and because of this, Armani is a brand that’s recognized all around the world. What has Armani done for the gay community? Well, he’s certainly inspired young and upcoming designers, and shown them that dreams are possible no matter what your sexual orientation may be. Let’s hope that more people take after this powerful (and gay) fashion designer.
4 Sir Ian McKellen
Sir Ian McKellen is one of the most respected actors in the industry. He’s probably best known for his role in the X-Men series, where he played the role of Magneto. In his 70s today, McKellen has been climbing the cinema and theater ladder for most of his life, and has become a supporter of the LGBT movement in the United Kingdom. Thanks to his openness about being gay, this has certainly sparked a new movement where younger actors and performers are no longer afraid to display their sexual orientation in fear of being judged or not finding work.
3 Sir Elton John
With more than 300 million records sold throughout his 50-year career, Sir Elton John could definitely be considered one of the most powerful gay men in history. He’s known today as the best-selling music artist in the world, and has even won a massive six Grammy awards. Not only is he an inspiration for music lovers around the world, but he’s also a living legend for the gay community. He may not be a military leader (#7) or a civil activist (#2), but he’s certainly made millions of people around the world feel better with his music.
2 Bayard Rustin
Bayard Rustin is probably one of the least-known powerful gay men on this list. Born on March 17th, 1912, he was an American leader in socialism, nonviolence, gay rights, and civil rights. Early on in life, he was a stage and nightclub singer in New York City. In 1941, he would go on to collaborate with A. Phillip Randolph to help end discrimination in employment. What would the world look like today had Rustin not gone above and beyond to support all of these movements? We can’t know for sure, but we can all thank him for his efforts in trying to make the world a better place. And as you can see, his sexual orientation didn’t matter.
1 Abraham Lincoln
If we had to list all of Abraham Lincoln’s achievements on a single page, it would be impossible. You’re probably thinking, “But Abraham Lincoln wasn’t even gay!” Before thinking that, realize that in his early 20s, Lincoln shared a bed with a friend named Joshua Speeds.
During this same time, Lincoln kept a journal, in which he described Speeds as “a streak of lavender, and spots soft as May violets.” Abraham Lincoln was the person who made the decision to fight to prevent the United States from splitting apart. Another major achievement that he was known for was issuing the Emancipation Proclamation, which was a strong starting point for freeing slaves in the United States.