In many parts of the world, people are free to express their gender identity and sexuality, but this has not always been the case. In the past, individuals who were queer often concealed the fact for fear of violence, ridicule, and oppression. This is reflected in the literary world, where some of the most famous writers in history were LGBTQ individuals, though they often kept this hidden from the public. Members of the LGBTQ community are increasingly more open and continue to produce outstanding poems, novels, and other literary works that are often celebrated and inspiring. But even today, people may or may not be aware that some famous writers are or were LGBTQ.
Author and poet Walt Whitman was best known for works such as Leaves of Grass and Song of Myself. His early work often spoke of sexual love and at times had homoerotic leanings. This led many to believe that he was homosexual. Whitman, however, never publicly admitted to this, despite the claims of some who knew him. The author, who was born in 1819, passed away in 1892.
Oscar Wilde was an Irish author and poet who was well known for a number of works, particularly The Picture of Dorian Gray. The Picture of Dorian Gray was at the time of its publication considered immoral due to a male character's infatuation with another man. The author faced numerous legal problems associated with his personal life. He was convicted of sodomy, a charge that was bought on after he'd lost a libel case against the Marquess of Queensberry. As a result of his sodomy conviction, he spent two years in prison, which inspired him to write The Ballad of Reading Gaol. Following his time in prison, Wilde's success diminished as he lived in exile, and he died penniless in 1900.
A Raisin in the Sun is the most famous and critically acclaimed play written by the African-American playwright and activist Lorraine Hansberry. She was the first African-American woman to have a play produced and performed on Broadway. A Raisin in the Sun earned her several awards, including the New York Drama Critics Circle Award and a Cannes Film Festival special award. Her second play, The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window, played on Broadway until the day after she died of cancer in 1965. At the time of her death, she was 35.
Virginia Woolf was an English author and poet who had a long-term romantic relationship with Vita Sackville-West, another female writer and poet. Woolf authored Mrs. Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, and A Room of One's Own. As a writer, she was a member of the Bloomsbury Group, which was a group of intellectuals. Woolf suffered from mental health issues, which ultimately resulted in her death by suicide in 1941.
Writer and poet Langston Hughes flourished during the Harlem Renaissance and became one of the most important creative and literary figures of the time. He was also one of the first to use the art form known as jazz poetry. His works include The Weary Blues, Fine Clothes to the Jew, and Harlem (What Happens to a Dream Deferred?) Hughes's sexuality has been a subject of debate. The never-married poet is believed by some to have been homosexual due to the content of some of his works, while others believe he may have been asexual. Hughes died of complications from prostate cancer in 1967.
James Baldwin is an iconic American playwright and author of works such as Go Tell It on the Mountain and Giovanni's Room. The author, who immigrated to France in his mid-twenties, unabashedly wrote essays on issues associated with race and homosexuality. Other works by Baldwin include Notes of a Native Son, Nobody Knows My Name: More Notes of a Native Son, and The Fire Next Time. Baldwin, who was born in 1924, died in France in 1987.
When looking for LGBTQ writers, there's no need to search far. There are many prolific poets, novelists, and playwrights whose works are available for public consumption. These artists, both old and new, cover a wealth of issues and subjects that can entertain or move those who read them.