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Reader’s Poll: The 25 Most Important LGBT Actors and Actresses

Reader's Poll: The 25 Most Important LGBT Actors and Actresses

June is Pride Month, commemorating the 1969 Stonewall riots and asking all of us to remember how we got where we are today. So we thought it might be fun to start up an annual Pride Month poll here at /bent, asking our readers to tell us the films, television shows, songs and people (both fictional and real) that have been important to them in the past 45 years. 

Check out all the results for every poll here.

Seventy-two people responded, and we’ll be sharing the results over the next few weeks, with the fourth poll up today: The most important LGBT actors and actresses of the last 45 years. 

Now, before we get to the results: We do realize doing this kind of thing is highly subjective, which is why we’re going with “most important” and not “best.” We hoped that what resulted was eclectic mix of actors and actresses that have helped shape the queer cultural landscape. And we think it really is. But here are some interesting things to note before you go through the list: 

  • The “points” listed next to each film refers to the way we tabulated things. People voted in top 10 lists, so if the person was #1, it got 10 points, #2 got 9 points, etc. 
  • Some of the below aren’t generally known as “actors”.. more performers or comedians, but we included everyone that technically had acting credits to their names. 
  • As expected, men made up for the vast majority with 15, though 10 were some women and the top 10 was an even 5/5 split. 
  • 13 of the 25 identify as gay, while 5 are lesbians, 4 bisexuals and 2 trans folk (though Divine is an arguable inclusion in the latter, as he largely identified as a gay man).
  • Seven of the people on the list are not American-born: 6 from the UK and one Canadian.
  • Eight of the people on this list were born in the 1950s, the most represented decade. Five came out of the 1970s, and 3 from the 1960s. The 1910s, 20s, 30s, 80s and 90s were all represented with one or two folks each.
  • The first to come out on this list did so in the 1920s, the last just earlier this year.
  • And in case you’re curious, the 10 runner-ups, in order of votes, were: Margaret Cho, Sean Hayes, Jane Lynch, Jim Parsons, Jack Wrangler, Cherry Jones, Cynthia Nixon, Maria Bello, John Cameron Mitchell and Ezra Miller

So without further ado, we present the 25 most important LGBT actors and actresses, according to you. Definitely use the comments section to discuss your thoughts and/or your own choices, but remember – these were your picks – do don’t blame us if your offended about their quality or lack of diversity through the LGBT spectrum. And watch the clips! Some of them are quite something.

25. Sarah Paulson – 33 points
Born: 1974 in Tampa, Florida
Came Out Publicly: In 2007, when noting her relationship with actress Cherry Jones (35th on this list).
Notable Roles: “The Notorious Bettie Page,” “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,” “Game Change,” “Martha Marcy May Marlene,” “American Horror Story,” “12 Years a Slave”

24. Chris Colfer – 35
Born: 1990 in Clovis, California
Came Out Publicly: In 2009 on Chelsea Lately (he was just 19!).
Notable Roles: “Glee,” “8,” “Struck By Lightning”
23. Nathan Lane – 36
Born: 1956 in Jersey City, New Jersey
Came Out Publicly: After the death of Matthew Shepard in 1999 (though he was out to friends and family since he was 21).
Notable Roles: “Guys and Dolls,” “The Lion King,” “The Birdcage,” “Love! Valour! Compassion!,”  “The Producers,” “Nicholas Nickleby”

22. Ben Whishaw – 37
Born: 1980 in Clifton, England
Came Out Publicly: In 2011 to Out Magazine, more or less.
Notable Roles: “I’m Not There,” “Brideshead Revisited,” “Bright Star,” “The Hour,” “Skyfall,” “Cloud Atlas,” “Lilting”

21. Wanda Skyes – 40
Born: 1964 in Portsmouth, Virginia
Came Out Publicly: In 2008 at a same-sex marriage rally.
Notable Roles: “Monster-in-Law,” “The Chris Rock Show,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “The New Adventures of Old Christine”

Check out all the results for every poll here.

20. Sandra Bernhard – 44
Born: 1955 in Flint, Michigan
Came Out Publicly: Has been openly bisexual as long as she’s been famous.
Notable Roles: “The King of Comedy,” “Without You I’m Nothing,” “Hudson Hawk,” “Roseanne,” “The L Word”

19. Matt Bomer – 45
Born: 1977 in St. Louis, Missouri
Came Out Publicly: In 2012, during an acceptance speech
Notable Roles: “White Collar,” “Magic Mike,” “8,” “The Normal Heart”

18. Rupert Everett – 49
Born: 1959 in Burnham Deepdale, England
Came Out Publicly: In the 1989 novel he wrote “Hello Darling, Are You Working?”
Notable Roles: “Another Country,” “Shakespeare in Love,” “My Best Friend’s Wedding,” “An Ideal Husband,” “The Next Best Thing”

16 (tie). Angelina Jolie – 57
Born: 1975 in Los Angeles, California
Came Out Publicly: As bisexual in 2003.
Notable Roles: “Hackers,” “Gia,” “Girl Interrupted,” “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider,” “Mr & Mrs Smith,” “Wanted,” “Maleficent”
16 (tie). Quentin Crisp – 57
Born: 1908 in Sutton, England
Died: 1999 in Manchester, England
Came Out Publicly: Always was out, even in the 1920s.
Notable Roles: “The Naked Civil Servant,” “The Bride,” “Orlando” 

14 (tie). Zachary Quinto – 58
Born: 1977 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Came Out Publicly: In October 2011 after the suicide of Jamey Rodemeyer
Notable Roles: “Heroes,” “24,” “Star Trek,” “American Horror Story”

14 (tie). Harvey Fierstein – 58
Born: 1954 in Brooklyn, New York
Came Out Publicly: Was out as a gay men since the 1970s (watch the interview below, it’s quite amazing)
Notable Roles: “The Times of Harvey Milk,” “Torch Song Trilogy,” “Mrs. Doubtfire,” “Common Ground,” “Hairspray,” “Kinky Boots”

13. George Takei – 62
Born: 1937 in Los Angeles, California
Came Out Publicly: In October 2005 to Frontiers magazine.
Notable Roles: The original “Star Trek” series and movies.

12. Laverne Cox – 68
Born: An unknown year in Mobile, Alabama
Notable Roles: “TRANSform Me,” “Orange is the New Black”

11. Stephen Fry – 71
Born: 1957 in London, England
Came Out Publicly: In 2009 on Twitter, though he didn’t really hide it previously.
Notable Roles: “Peter’s Friends,” “Wilde,” “Gosford Park,” “The Life and Death of Peter Sellers,” “Alice in Wonderland”

Check out all the results for every poll here.

10. Rosie O’Donnell – 75
Born: 1962 in Commack, New York
Came Out Publicly: In 2002 (unless the below clip counts)
Notable Roles: “A League of Their Own,” “Sleepless in Seattle,” “The Flintstones,” “The Rosie O’Donnell Show,” “The View”

9. Lily Tomlin – 82
Born: 1939 in Detroit, Michigan
Came Out Publicly: Met partner Jane Wagner in 1971, and didn’t formally come out until the 2000s though she didn’t hide it.
Notable Roles: “Laugh-in,” “Nashville,” “9 to 5,” “All of Me,” “I Heart Huckabees,” “The West Wing”

8. Divine – 86
Born: 1945 in Baltimore, Maryland
Died: 1988 in Los Angeles, California
Came Out Publicly: Was always divinely himself publicly.
Notable Roles: “Pink Flamingos,” “Female Trouble,” “Polyester,” “Hairspray”

7. Alan Cumming – 90
Born: 1952 in Perthshire, Scotland
Came Out Publicly: As bisexual in 1998.
Notable Roles: “Cabaret,” “Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion,” “The Anniversary Party,” “The Good Wife,” “Any Day Now”

6. Ellen Page – 101
Born: 1987 in Halifax, Canada
Came Out Publicly: In 2014!
Notable Roles: “Juno,” “Whip It,” “Inception” the “X-Men” movies
5. Rock Hudson – 106
Born: 1925 in Winnetka, Illinois
Died: 1985 in Beverly Hills, California
Came Out Publicly: Was outed during his struggle with AIDS largely via a People magazine article.
Notable Roles: “Giant,” “Pillow Talk,” “Come September,” “Dynasty”

4. Neil Patrick Harris – 120
Born: 1973 in Albuquerque, New Mexico
Came Out Publicly: In 2006.
Notable Roles: “Clara’s Heart,” “Doogie Howser, MD,” “How I Met Your Mother,” “Hedwig and the Angry Inch”
3. Ellen DeGeneres – 122
Born: 1958 in Metairie, Louisiana 
Came Out Publicly: In 1997.
Notable Roles: “Ellen,” “The Ellen DeGeneres Show”
2. Jodie Foster – 135
Born: 1962 in Los Angeles, California
Came Out Publicly: Kinda sorta in 2013 (see below)
Notable Roles: “Taxi Driver,” “The Accused,” “The Silence of the Lambs,” “Nell,” “Contact,” “Panic Room,” “The Beaver”
1. Sir Ian McKellen – 205
Born: 1939 in Burnley, England
Came Out Publicly: 1988
Notable Roles: “Plenty,” “Richard III,” “Gods and Monsters,” the “X-Men” and “Lord of the Rings” films. 

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