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Voices of Pride: The 10 Most Famous LGBTQ Authors You Need to Read!

Voices of Pride: The 10 Most Famous LGBTQ Authors You Need to Read!

The special thing about authors in the genre of LGBTQ-related writing is that the books are – more often than not – at least partially autobiographical. This means that the words on their pages are no mere story. They are artistically reinterpreted experiences from real life, fueled with true emotions and actual memories, and this adds a touch to the genre that very few others have.

That isn’t to say that autobiographical works are the only ones worth reading and appreciating. All forms of LGBT writing are valuable elements of representation and represent valuable fractions of the uncontainable creativity that makes the community so special.

Fiction as a form of artistic expression is a large part of what makes human culture so valuable and indispensable. The ability to create and imagine with our minds is a pretty seriously underrated superpower but remains something that we’ve all experimented with over time regardless. 

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Not only is artistic expression valuable, but the societal statements made in pieces of LGBT writing have also proved to be indispensable throughout history. It induces thought, spreads the concepts of equal love, and unearths the things that would stay buried were it not for the power of literature. It puts straight people in gay people’s shoes, and it allows gay people to relate and resonate with media in a way that they never could if it were not for the works of LGBT authors.

The idealism and retrospective reflection in the works of some of the most famous LGBTQ authors, as showcased in this list, wield a potent influence in propelling our world towards progress. With each turn of the page in their best gay memoirs, we find narratives that not only illuminate personal journeys but also advocate for societal acceptance and understanding of LGBTQ experiences. As time progresses and our world gradually embraces more inclusive attitudes towards LGBT-related topics, may the aspirations these authors envisioned for their lives become increasingly attainable for all.

With that said, and now that we understand the importance of queer writers, let us explore these legends of days past and days present, the fighters for gay rights on the literary frontier. Get ready to take a walk through history in the making – the top ten (objectively!) most famous LGBTQ authors!

Voices of Pride: The 10 Most Famous LGBTQ Authors You Need to Read!

#1) Michael Dillon (1915 – 1962)

For the first entry on this list, it is fitting to start with a first of another kind. Laurence Michael Dillon’s life story and wide-spanning history of deeds is worthy of a book itself, with an autobiographical account available in his final and until recently unpublished work ‘Out of the Ordinary – A Life of Gender and Spiritual Transitions’.

Born female as the heir to the baronetcy of Lismullen, Dillon grew up in Kent, England, and eventually attended St Anne’s women’s college. It was during this time and soon after, as he began working at a Bristol research laboratory, that Dillon, one of the most famous LGBTQ authors, began to fully experience discomfort with the gender assigned to him at birth. Dillon always felt more comfortable living life as a male, and before long, he secretly began testosterone hormone treatment, a journey intricately explored in some of the best books about gender.

After receiving treatment under the guise of healing wounds sustained during WWII, Dillon became the first person in history to undergo gender affirmation surgery, changed his birth certificate, and lived out the rest of his days comfortably as a male.

Fleeing Bristol after unwanted attention due to his becoming the heir apparent to baronetcy caused him to flee, Dillon traveled to India, where he spent his last days writing, embracing Buddhism, and eventually becoming a novice monk under the name Lobzang Jivaka.

Notable works

  • Self: A Study in Endocrinology and Ethics (1946
  • Poems of truth (1957)
  • The Life of Milarepa (1962)
  • Imji Getsul (1962)
  • Out of the Ordinary (1962, published 2017)
#1) Michael Dillon (1915 - 1962)

#2) Becky Albertalli (1982 – )

Now to add a little touch of modern talent to this list. Becky is one of today’s most known writers of LGBT fiction – both directly and indirectly through the fame of her works – and her notoriety seems to be steadily growing every year. 

Most famous for her 2015 novel ‘Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda’, since adapted into film with ‘Love, Simon’ and series format with ‘Love, Victor’, Albertalli is a master of both narrative and expressive writing, weaving her books with a level emotional exploration that rivals the works of even the most regaled classical authors.

While the majority of Albertalli’s works are in the genre of young adult fiction or focus around young adult characters, this in itself is an important factor of LGBT representation and very much worthy of being talked about. Many of the societal challenges that today’s queer people must face manifest during adolescence and their time spent at high school. This means that allowing young adults to feel less alone and isolated is more important than ever, which is what Albertalli achieves with her writing to a tee.

Something that perhaps contributes to this idea of nurturing highschoolers is Albertalli’s one-time status as a high school psychologist. This certainly shows that she has a genuine interest in positively contributing through what she does. 

Notable works

  • Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda (2015)
  • What If It’s Us (2018)
  • Yes No Maybe So (2020)
  • Love, Creekwood (2020)
  • Imogen, Obviously (2023)
Becky Albertalli (1982 - ) - Famous LGBTQ Authors

#3) D. H. Lawrence (1885 – 1930)

This might be somewhat of a surprising entry, but one can be sure that Lawrence’s inclusion here is not without reason. Although many of Lawrence’s most famous books have strong focusses on heterosexual relationships, and though the nature of the author’s own attractions is clouded with rumors and assumption, his status as an author of great note means that he is still a worthy addition to this list. 

Lawrence’s fiction brims with themes of male bonding and sensuality, along with a sprinkling of explicit references to queer relationships and romance. Even when not directly broached, his works create space for discussions of LGBT-related topics, shedding light on the experiences of gay men and lifting writing about them somewhat out of the darkness of persecution. This exploration of queer themes in literature stands as a testament to the enduring impact of some of the most famous LGBTQ authors and their contributions to the best books for gay men.

That is not to say that his books were published without controversy. Lawrence’s works saw extensive censorship as a whole due to his coverage of explicit scenes and taboo topics. This included several chapters directly making references to homosexuality and queer romance. 

As mentioned above, Lawrence’s own sexuality is somewhat of a matter of conjecture, even despite the presence of some historical evidence. Lawrence’s own wife stated that she believes he maintained a relationship with a Cornish farmer named William Henry Hocking. He is also known to have said, “I believe the nearest I’ve come to perfect love was with a young coal-miner when I was about 16”.

Notable works

  • Sons and Lovers (1913)
  • The Rainbow (1915)
  • Women in Love (1920)
  • Lady Chatterley’s Lover (1928)
D. H. Lawrence (1885 - 1930) - Famous LGBTQ Authors

#4) Kate Bornstein (1948 – )

Performance artist, actor, and author Kate Bornstein is one of the most important, progressive gender theorists of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Identifying as non-binary and stating that “I don’t call myself a woman, and I know I’m not a man”, Kate is a frontier fighter for discussion about what it means to be male, female, or anywhere in between, as well as having written extensively about anorexia, BPD, and PTSD.

Her presence in theatre – performing in and writing works on the subject of gender debate and LGBTQ inclusion – marks her as a important figure of philosophy and inclusion, and her written books have provided inspiration to much further discussion and other published works. 

Her most famous work, ‘Gender Outlaw’, underwent a revision in 2016 and emerged with a new title, ‘Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women, and the Rest of Us’, reflecting a more contemporary perspective on transgender and non-binary gender issues. Reviews of the book applaud it as a definitive resource for challenging stereotypes within the gender spectrum and as a source of great empowerment for those grappling with their roles within it. This seminal text by one of the most famous LGBTQ authors stands as a cornerstone in the realm of the best lesbian books, offering profound insights into gender identity and expression.

Both the revised edition and the original are celebrations of individuality – of claiming something and not allowing your feeling of ‘self’ to slip away, regardless what opposition it comes up against and however many people attempt to convince you that it is invalid. 

Notable works

  • Gender Outlaw (1994)
  • A Queer and Pleasant Danger (2012)
  • My Gender Workbook (1997)
  • Hello, Cruel World (2006)
  • Nearly Roadkill (1996)
Kate Bornstein (1948 - )- Famous LGBTQ Authors

#5) E. M. Forster (1879 – 1970)

Critics and readers alike hold Edward Morgan Forster in high regard for his more mainstream works, but the main object of focus upon him in modern times as well as the source of his attention from the LBGTQ community is his posthumously published gay romance novel, ‘Maurice’.

Exploring the limitations that class gaps provide as well as the societal attitude towards queer relationships at the time, much of what Forster went on to explore in his other novels is perfectly exemplified in ‘Maurice’. Autobiographical in some senses – such as the experience of living and growing up in London and nearby British suburbs and attending Cambridge – the book details the romance between a young man named Maurice Hall and two other men named Clive Durham and Alec Scudder.

Forster was a well-versed and symbolic writer as a whole, possessing a well-padded and extensive literary catalogue. As mentioned above, however, this particular work was published only posthumously, and before then had only been read by several of Forster’s close friends and acquaintances.

Forster was determined to have the story be a regular romance novel with a happy ending, but this left him with the fear that it would see the book banned and himself prosecuted for spreading taboo content. To quote the note found upon the manuscript: “Publishable, but worth it?”

Notable works

  • The Longest Journey (1907)
  • Maurice (1913–14, posthumously published in 1971)
  • A Room with a View (1908)
  • Howards End (1910)
  • Passage to India (1924)
E. M. Forster - Famous LGBTQ Authors

#6) Sappho (630 BC – 570 BC)

Though she was more of a prolific poet than an author of books as we know them today, Sappho’s name is so ingrained with LGBTQ culture that it is used as an adjective to describe love shared between two women, for example ‘sapphism’ or ‘sapphic’. If that isn’t a statement of importance, then what is?

Regaled as one of the greatest poets of all time and ‘the female Homer’, Sappho of Lesbos was born somewhere around 620 BC in ancient Greece, and is said to spent most of her life upon the island of Lesbos. This is where the word ‘lesbian’ also sees its origins, given the association between Sappho’s work and the island upon which she lived.

Although little of her works survived the test of time and the wide range of destructive historical events between the modern day and her time of birth, we still possess a large number of Sappho’s poems – many of which are confessions of love, treatise over love and expressions of her romance, or simply focus on describing the beauty of the female body.

Another significant factor contributing to the obscurity of her works is the disdain and reluctance of literature experts and fellow poets from more modern times. Additionally, a considerable portion of her writings was destroyed by the church in the 4th century due to their depictions of same-sex romance and occasionally explicit nature. These challenges have hindered the recognition of her contributions to literature. Nonetheless, the resurgence of interest in her works, fueled by contemporary readers seeking diverse voices, has begun to shed light on her legacy.

As one of the most famous LGBTQ authors, her writings, though obscured for centuries, now find a place among the best sapphic fantasy books, captivating readers with their imaginative worlds and richly drawn characters.

Notable works

  • Ode to Aphrodite
  • Brothers Poem
  • Tenth Muse
  • The Poetess
Sappho - Famous LGBTQ Authors

#7) James Baldwin (1924 – 1987)

An African-American writer of great regard, Baldwin is famous for many different forms of literature, ranging all the way from essays and plays to poems and fictional novels. His first novel ‘Go Tell It on the Mountain’ was recognized by Time magazine as one of the top 100 books released from 1923 to 2005, and the amount of other awards given to his work is beyond count. 

Most famous of his written pieces, however, is without a doubt the romance novel ‘Giovanni’s Room’, which is single-handedly responsible for beginning a new era of queer representation in literature, and is attributed as the main inspiration for several other novels in the genre. Some such works include Maurice by E.M. Forster, A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood, and Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman. The book is even mentioned as the main cause for the two main characters of Swimming in the Dark by Tomasz Jedrowski to bond and spend time with one another.

To quote the author in ‘Life Magazine’ May 24, 1963, “You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.”

Notable works

  • Go Tell It on the Mountain (1953)
  • Giovanni’s Room (1956)
  • Another Country (1962)
  • If Beale Street Could Talk (1974)
James Baldwin - Famous LGBTQ Authors

#8) Oscar Wilde (1854 – 1900)

The famed creator of Dorian Gray and The Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde is more than just an author. A well-rounded master of many forms, while Wilde only published one novel – The Picture of Dorian Gray –  his other contributions to the literary world in the shape of plays and works of comic make his mark in history a deep one.

Although Wilde was married and had two children by the time that he was middle aged – something almost demanded of both men and women at the time – he was openly gay, despite the fact that homosexuality was illegal in England at the time and that very little people in his life were likely to support him or protect him from prosecution.

Eventually, the worst came to pass. Wilde was sent to London’s Newgate Prison for two years from 1895 to 1897 on account of being accused of sodomy and indecency. Wilde’s attempt to sue Sir John Sholto Douglas on account of slander backfired with an order for his arrest being issued, which eventually resulted in the author being tried and sentenced to incarceration.  After his release, Wilde spent the last three years of his life in isolation, separated from much of what he had had before his imprisonment.

Notable works

  • The Happy Prince and Other Stories (1888)
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891)
  • Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime and Other Stories (1891)
  • A House of Pomegranates (1891)
  • A Woman of No Importance (1893)
#8) Oscar Wilde (1854 - 1900)

#9) Virginia Woolf (1882 – 1941)

Virginia Woolf – born Adeline Virginia Stephen – is seen as one of the most important writers of the 20th century by both those within the LGBTQ community and without. Her name is a staple in literature, and she is considered the modernizer of ‘stream of consciousness’ in writing – a method which is used to capture the thoughts and emotions of the narrator.

Though she had filled the duty of marrying a man while young, like Oscar Wilde earlier on this list she did not allow that to stop her from seeing women and sharing romantic connections with them, to such a degree that her relationships were not so much secrets as obvious things that many chose to ignore, and continue to ignore to this day when discussing Woolf’s importance in literature. 

Entire compilations of her love letters to and from other women have been released (such as Love Letters: Vita and Virginia), and one such note to her husband Leonard states ‘I sometimes think that if I married you, I could have everything—and then—is it the sexual side of it that comes between us? As I told you brutally the other day, I feel no physical attraction in you.’

To this day Woolf remains a literary, queer, and feminist icon, and her image is a source of infinite inspiration and indominable courage for countless generations.

Notable works

  • To the Lighthouse (1927)
  • The Voyage Out (1915)
  • Orlando (1928)
  • The Waves (1931)
  • Mrs. Dalloway (1925)
Virginia Woolf - Famous LGBTQ Authors

#10) Christopher Isherwood (1904 – 1986)

Considered to be a strong portion of the Gay Liberation movement’s heart, Christopher Isherwood’s works and life as a gay man have proved to be crucial inspiration for many, with several of his books setting off a domino-effect of similar debates and publications ranging in span all the way to the present day of queer literature.

Isherwood’s greatest work is said by many to be ‘A Single Man’, which tells the tale and the surrounding history of one day in the life of a gay British professor teaching in the US. The book was made into a film in 2009, and is said to be a reflection of Isherwood’s own time time spent teaching at CSULA in Los Angeles, perhaps holding even more autobiographical significance to the author’s own life. 

That is not to say that his repertoire is devoid of a true memoir, however. Another of Isherwood’s works, ‘Christopher and His Kind’, details the author’s life-changing arrival and Berlin, and the series of events – both developmental and romantic – that drove him to stay in Germany until he fled the country along with the rise of the Nazi party. Accompanying him was his romantic partner Heinz Neddermeyer, who later separated from Isherwood upon learning the level of detail with which Christopher and His Kind explored their relationship and Isherwood’s life.

Notable works

  • Goodbye to Berlin (1939)
  • Christopher and His Kind (1976)
  • Mr Norris Changes Trains (1935)
  • Journey to a War (1939)
  • A Single Man (1964)
Christopher Isherwood - Famous LGBTQ Authors
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