5 LGBT Authors Who Have Made an Impact

5 LGBT Authors Who Have Made an Impact
Updated on 11 June 2015

It’s no secret that some of the finest pieces of literature ever written were authored by members of the LGBT community. From the poetry of Walt Whitman to the landmark plays of Tony Kushner, it’s impossible to overstate the impact LGBT authors have had in American literature. In honor of Pride Month, here are five of the most important and influential LGBT writers of all time.

Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde, a prolific Irish author whose poems, essays, and plays remain relevant more than 100 years after his death, wrote just one novel, “The Portrait of Dorian Gray.” The novel provoked a public outcry over what was perceived as a stunning lack of morality. Wilde, perhaps Britain’s leading proponent of the Aesthetic Movement, defended his novel in its preface, stating, “ethical sympathy in an artist is an unpardonable mannerism of style.” Later, he wrote, “Vice and virtue are to the artist materials for an art.”

Wilde was arrested on charges of public indecency for his open homosexuality and served two years in prison. He died at 46, penniless and in exile in France.

Tennessee Williams

Born Thomas Lanier Williams in 1911, Tennessee Williams is considered one of America’s best playwrights of the 20th century. His iconic “Streetcar Named Desire” earned Williams both a Pulitzer Prize and a Drama Critics Award. Other important successes include “The Glass Menagerie,” “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” and “Orpheus Descending,” which was made into a movie (“The Fugitive Kind”) starring Marlon Brando.

Williams was openly gay, even suffering a hate attack in Key West in 1979. The author lapsed into a period of alcoholism and drug use and was found dead in 1983 at the age of 71.

Virginia Woolf

Woolf’s most famous work, “Mrs. Dalloway,” earned the bisexual author a prominent role in contemporary American literature; in 2005, Time magazine placed it in the top 100 English-language novels of the past century. Woolf suffered sexual abuse early in her life at the hands of half-brothers; her battle with mental illness and depression throughout her life influenced her work. “Mrs. Dalloway,” written in mesmerizing prose, raises emerging social issues, such as feminism and homosexuality.

Woolf ultimately succumbed to her depression and committed suicide at the age of 59 by filling her pockets with stones and walking into the River Ouse.

Alice Walker

A committed social activist, teacher, and lecturer, Alice Walker’s prolific writing career spans more than four decades. Her works encompass novels, short stories, children’s books, poems, and essays; she is most famous for the groundbreaking and critically acclaimed “The Color Purple,” which earned Walker a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award. Many of Walker’s works promote themes of the black feminist movement and explore issues related to race and gender identity.

Other highly influential works include “The Temple of My Familiar” and “Possessing the Secret of Joy.”

Chuck Palahniuk

This author’s pointed, minimalistic writing style has earned both praise and criticism and his works often explore controversial themes such as morality, sexuality, and religion. His most famous work is “Fight Club,” a novel that was made into a movie starring Brad Pitt; his widely acclaimed novel “Choke” was his first book to make the New York Times best seller list.

Palahniuk’s writing is influenced by giants such as Albert Camus, Michel Foucault, Thom Spanbauer, and Bret Easton Ellis. He is also a freelance journalist and essayist.

While not all LGBT authors write about sexuality and gender, the classic works mentioned above reflect the uniquely valuable LGBT perspective. Do you have a favorite LGBT author or work that deals with LGBT issues?


June is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month. Celebrate human rights, tolerance, and equality with us throughout the month! #PrideMonth

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