The Gay List

One of our favorite mantras around the AfterElton
offices is “because visibility matters.”
Indeed, the idea that gay and bisexual
men need to be visible, both to ourselves and to the wider culture,
is one of the principle reasons even exists. After all, it is only
by being visible to family, friends and the world that we’ve been able to
overcome the stereotypes and bigotry used to justify discrimination against the
GLBT community.

That quest for visibility explains why we have done so many
including the AfterElton Hot 100, the Fifty Greatest Gay Movies, the Top
50 Gay TV Characters
, and the 50 Best Gay Books. After all, it’s not as if Entertainment Weekly is going to ask gay
and bisexual men which guys we think are the hottest, which movies mean the
most to us or, in the case of our latest poll, which celebrities we most

But guess what? When we do so, much of the rest of the world tends to
notice. The results of our Hot 100 poll are always reported in dozens of
countries, and winners of other AE polls are often mentioned in all sorts of

But why a poll about out celebrities? For better or worse,
celebrities are some of the most influential people on the planet, and their
fame allows them to either make the world a better place (Oprah Winfrey,
anyone?) or act like total jackasses in front of the entire planet. (Way to go, Charlie

By highlighting which out gay and bisexual men our readers most admire,
we celebrate not just those men, but how far the entire gay community has come.
After all, it wasn’t so long ago that finding 50 out gay and bisexual men for a
list like this would have been pretty hard to do.

It certainly isn’t any more. Thousands of AfterElton readers
voted in our poll, nominating over 300 different gay/bi men they admired. That’s a lot of visible
gay and bisexual men.

And note: we’re not even including all the out women there are. (We left that poll to our sisters over at, and if you’re interested you can find their results here.)

The men who made the top fifty in our poll were diverse in many ways,
including not just the obvious actors and musicians who rule pop culture, but
also includes two politicians, three athletes, a soldier, two writers, a sex
advice columnist and a gay rights activist.

Actually, almost everyone on the list could be called a gay
rights activist, and not just because they have all made the decision to be
out. Rather, almost every man in the top fifty is someone who has done
something to further the cause for gay equality, whether it be fighting Don’t
Ask/Don’t Tell, speaking up for marriage equality, or speaking out on the issue
of gay teens who are bullied.

Some, like Sir Ian McKellen, have been doing it for decades,
while others are brand new to the fight, but no less important or visible for

Alas, the results weren’t terribly racial diverse, which
highlights an ongoing problem: limited GLBT visibility in minority
communities. But our list did have some men of color including two Hispanic
men, three Asians and two African American celebrities.

Enough pontificating about why this list matters.
We’re pretty sure you already get it. It’s on to the results, starting at number
50 and working our way to number 1!

50. Nathan Lane

Actor Nathan Lane

Born February 3, 1956 (1956-02-03) (age 55), stage and screen actor Nathan Lane might be best known for his role  as the flamboyant Albert in 1996’s The Birdcage (the all-time highest grossing gay film in North America). 

He came out officially in 1999 prompted by the death of Matthew Shepard. But even before that he dropped a lot of hints. When a reporter once asked him if he was gay he famously replied, “I’m 40, single and work in the musical theater. You do the math.”

Recently, Lane turned up on Modern Family as Cam and Mitch’s friend “Pepper.”


49. T. R. Knight

Actor T.R. Knight

Born March 26, 1973 (age 37) Theodore Raymond Knight is best known for his role as Dr. George O’Malley on Grey’s Anatomy. Knight came out publicly after reports surfaced that co-stars Patrick Dempsey and Isaiah Washington got into a fight over Washington’s use of the word “f*ggot” to describe another cast member (Knight).

Afterward, Knight released the following statement to People: “I guess there have been a few questions about my sexuality, and I’d
like to quiet any unnecessary rumors that may be out there. While I
prefer to keep my personal life private, I hope the fact that I’m gay
isn’t the most interesting part of me.”

Washington was eventually let go from the series, and Knight asked to be released from his contract in 2009. Since then the actor has been active on the stage. Recently, he was on Broadway starring opposite Patrick Stewart in David Mamet’s A Life in the Theatre.

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