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Reader’s Poll: The 50 Most Important LGBT Actors and Actresses

Reader's Poll: The 50 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 in our second annual Pride Month poll here at /bent, we asked 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 46 years. 

Check out all the results for every poll here.

127 people responded, and we’ll be sharing the results over the next few weeks, with the fourth list out today: The most important LGBT actors and actresses of the last 46 years (in that they have at least completed one film after Stonewall). 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 folks that have helped shape the queer cultural landscape. And we think it really is. So without further ado, we present the 50 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.

1. Sir Ian McKellen 
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. 

2. Lily Tomlin 
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,” “Grace & Frankie,” “Grandma”

3. Neil Patrick Harris 
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”
4. Laverne Cox 
Born: An unknown year in Mobile, Alabama
Notable Roles: “TRANSform Me,” “Orange is the New Black,” general awesomeness

5. Jodie Foster 

Born: 1962 in Los Angeles, California
Came Out Publicly: Kinda sorta at the Golden Globes in 2013 (see below)
Notable Roles: “Taxi Driver,” “The Accused,” “The Silence of the Lambs,” “Nell,” “Contact,” “Panic Room,” “The Beaver”

6 (tie). Ellen DeGeneres 
Born: 1958 in Metairie, Louisiana 
Came Out Publicly: In 1997.
Notable Roles: “Ellen,” “The Ellen DeGeneres Show”
6 (tie). Divine 
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”

8. Rock Hudson
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”

9. Ellen Page
Born: 1987 in Halifax, Canada
Came Out Publicly: In 2014
Notable Roles: “Juno,” “Whip It,” “Inception” the “X-Men” movies

10. Harvey Fierstein
Born: 1954 in Brooklyn, New York
Came Out Publicly: Was out as a gay men since the 1970s!
Notable Roles: “The Times of Harvey Milk,” “Torch Song Trilogy,” “Mrs. Doubtfire,” “Common Ground,” “Hairspray,” “Kinky Boots”

11 (tie). Alan Cumming 

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”

11 (tie). Rosie O’Donnell 

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”

13. Stephen Fry 

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”
14. Matt Bomer 
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”

15 (tie). Nathan Lane 
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”

15 (tie). Angelina Jolie 

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

18. Zachary Quinto 

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”

19 (tie). Sandra Bernhard 
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 (tie). Quentin Crisp
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” 

21. Jane Lynch 
Born: 1960 in Evergreen Park, Illinois
Came Out Publicly: Never hid her sexuality.
Notable Roles: The Christopher Guest films, “Two and a Half Men,” “Party Down,” “Glee”

22. Jim Parsons

Born: 1973 in Houston, Texas
Came Out Publicly: In a 2012 New York Times article
Notable Roles: “The Big Bang Theory,” “The Normal Heart”

23. Ben Whishaw 
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”
24. Jonathan Groff
Born: 1985 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania 
Came Out Publicly: During the National Equality March in 2009
Notable Roles: “Spring Awakening,” “C.O.G.,” “Glee,” “Looking”

25. Cynthia Nixon

Born: 1966 in New York, New York
Came Out Publicly: In 2004 when she started dating Christine Marinoni
Notable Roles: “Sex and the City,” “Warm Springs,” “Marvin’s Room,” extensive Broadway performances

26 (tie). Rupert Everett 
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”

26 (tie). Wanda Skyes 
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”
28. Chris Colfer 
Born: 1990 in Clovis, California
Came Out Publicly: In 2009 on Chelsea Lately (he was just 19!).
Notable Roles: “Glee,” “8,” “Struck By Lightning”

29. Ezra Miller
Born: 1992 in Wyckoff, New Jersey
Came Out Publicly: In a 2012 OUT magazine article.
Notable Roles: “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” “We Need To Talk About Kevin,” the upcoming “The Flash”

30. Sarah Paulson
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”


31. Sean Hayes
32 (tie). Maria Bello
32 (tie). Margaret Cho
34. Anna Paquin

35. Derek Jacobi

36. John Cameron Mitchell
37 (tie). Drew Barrymore
37 (tie). Kate McKinnon

39. Tab Hunter

40. Megan Fox
41. Xavier Dolan
42 (tie). Jesse Tyler Ferguson
42 (tie). Cherry Jones

44. Jussie Smollett
45. Evan Rachel Wood
46 (tie). Joe Dallesandro
46 (tie). Andrew Rannells

48. Cheyenne Jackson

49. Wilson Cruz
50. Lea DeLaria 

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