The Gay 100:
A Ranking of the Most Influential Gay Men and Lesbians, Past and Present
The list below is from the book The Gay 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Gay Men and Lesbians, Past and Present, Kensington Publishing Corporation/Citadel Press (2002), written by Paul Russell.
NOTE: It should be pointed out that many of the people on this list were not actually "Gay" in any normative sense of the word, although they may have been part-time bisexuals, "latent homosexuals, or "potentially homosexual." Clearly many of those listed were in no way members of contemporary GLBT culture; in fact, a large proportion of the individuals lived prior to the advent of GLBT culture as we know it. If one utilizes enough definitions and identifiers of what qualifies a person as "gay," then potentially 98 to 100% of the human population can be classified as such. This book, although presumably well-meaning, certainly uses a wide variety of definitions, although the author is, of course, not quite so all-inclusive. The list includes a number of people who are regarded by mainstream historians as life-long celibates or heterosexuals who had only minimal experience or latent homosexual potential. William Shakespeare and Madonna are just two of the more questionable "gays" included on the list.
As explained in the book's introduction, listings are based less on an individual's own lifestyle, self-identity, or proclivities, and more on the impact that their actions had on GLBT culture. The fact that author Paul Russell strongly identifies and writes from the perspective of contemporary GLBT culture (and not simply homosexuality in general) is made plain by the listing of "The Patrons of Stonewall Inn" in the #5 spot on his list of history's "most influential gays and lesbians. Although these are the individuals who participated in the foundational event of contemporary GLBT culture, they are clearly not as influential or as widely known in mainstream, non-GLBT culture as most of the people listed lower on the list (such as Walt Whitman, Gertrude Stein, Mary Wollstonecraft, Susan B. Anthony, Virginia Woolf, Tennessee Williams, etc.) Russell points out that the title of this book is misleading in terms of the actual premise he used in compiling the list. That is, if a person could be classified as gay and was immensely influential (say, an important inventor or political figure whose impact is felt by everybody), but that person in no way directly influenced GLBT culture, such a person would be omitted from the list. Thus, Russell's book even includes gay actor Ian McKellen, who may be well known today, but is certainly of little mainstream historical importance. On the other hand, Russell did not include U.S. President James Buchanan on the list, despite the fact that Russell identifies Pres. Buchanan as "obviously gay."
Webpage created 3 November 2005. Last modified 11 August 2007.
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