Tuesday, July 23, 2024

40 Over 40 LGBT Icons

When it comes to LGBT icons, those over 40 are often missed off the lists! We wanted to balance it up a little bit by naming forty LGBT icons who are over 40.

Our list is based on who has powerfully been at the forefront of LGBT rights and is now over 40. We have purposefully not made it a ranked list, the first person is not more important than the other 39. They are all as important as each other, so we have listed them alphabetically by surname.

To all of those on our list, we thank you for being you and helping move our lives forward in so many different ways.

Lord Waheed Alli –  54

Lord Waheed Alli is a media entrepreneur and politician. He is the co-creator of the television series Survivor and has held executive positions at several television production companies. He is a member of the House of Lords in the United Kingdom, sitting as a life peer for the Labour Party, and is described as one of only a few openly gay Muslim politicians in the world. 

Tammy Baldwin – 57

Senator Baldwin is an American politician serving as the junior United States Senator from Wisconsin since 2013. In 1998 she became the first openly gay woman and first openly LGBT non-incumbent elected to the United States Congress, as well as the first woman elected to represent Wisconsin in Congress. In 2012 Baldwin became the first openly gay person and first openly LGBT person elected to the United States Senate.

Candis Cayne – 47

Candis Cayne is an American actress and performance artist. Cayne was known to perform in New York City nightclubs in drag since the 1990s, and came out as a woman in 1996; Cayne came to national attention in 2007 for portraying transgender mistress Carmelita on ABC’s prime time drama Dirty Sexy Money. The role makes Cayne the first transgender actress to play a recurring transgender character in primetime

Alan Carr – 42

Alan Carr is an English comedian and television personality. Carr has won two British Comedy Awards, two National Television Awards and a BAFTA TV Award. In 2016, he won Best LGBT+ Celebrity at the British LGBT Awards, giving an impassioned acceptance speech about LGBT+ rights around the world.

Margaret Cho – 50

Margaret Cho could be called the  “Queen of all Media” having conquered the worlds of film, television, books, music, and theatre. She has five Grammy Award nominations and one Emmy nod for her groundbreaking work on 30 Rock. Never one to shy away from a difficult or ‘taboo’ topic, her socially aware brand of stand-up comedy has made her both a thought leader as well as a teacher to those with open minds and open hearts. Margaret is widely recognized for her charitable work with gay rights and anti-bullying campaigns.

Photo: Albert Sanchez

RuPaul Charles – 58

RuPaul is probably the best-known drag queen in the world, shooting to fame in the ’90s with his own radio show, tv shows and hit records, he bounced back with the launch of RuPaul’s Drag race that set his fame in stone (gaining Emmy’s and his own Star on the Hollywood walk of fame,) launching many careers of other drag queens and his show seen in many countries with the UK and Taiwan producing their own versions.

Tim Cook – 59

Tim Cook is an American business executive and industrial engineer. Cook is the chief executive officer of Apple Inc. and previously served as the company’s chief operating officer under its co-founder Steve Jobs. In 2014, Cook became the first chief executive of a Fortune 500 company to publicly come out as gay.  Cook also serves on the boards of directors of Nike, Inc., the National Football Foundation, and is a trustee of Duke University. In March 2015, he said he planned to donate his entire stock fortune to charity.

Anderson Cooper – 52

Anderson Cooper is an American journalist, television personality, and author. He is the primary anchor of the CNN news show Anderson Cooper 360°. Cooper is openly gay; according to The New York Times, he is “the most prominent openly gay journalist on American television.” For years, Cooper avoided discussing his private life in interviews. On July 2, 2012, however, he gave Andrew Sullivan permission to publish an email that stated, in part: “…The fact is, I’m gay, always have been, always will be, and I couldn’t be any more happy, comfortable with myself, and proud.”

Laverne Cox – 47

Laverne Cox is an American actress and LGBTQ+ advocate. She rose to prominence with her role as Sophia Burset on the Netflix series Orange Is the New Black, becoming the first openly transgender person to be nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award in any acting category, and the first to be nominated for an Emmy Award since composer Angela Morley in 1990.

Alan Cumming OBE – 54

Alan Cumming is a Scottish-American actor, singer, writer, producer, director, and activist who has appeared in numerous films, television shows, and plays. Cumming is bisexual. Cumming has promoted LGBT rights, MC-ing and attending fundraisers for organisations such as the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), and taking part in an Equality Network video campaign, from New York, promoting the legalisation of same-sex marriage in Scotland.

Cressida Rose Dick CBE QPM – 58

Cressida Dick is a British police officer who in 2017 was appointed Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) in London. The MPS is the largest police force in the UK, with certain national responsibilities; the Commissioner, its head, is often thought of as being the highest-ranking police officer in the UK. She is the first woman to take charge of the service, being selected for the role in February 2017 and taking office on 10 April 2017.

Lee Daniels – 59

Lee Daniels is an American film and television writer, director, and producer. He produced Monster’s Ball and directed Precious, which received six Academy Award nominations, including Best Director; it won two of the awards. In 2012, Daniels directed The Butler, a historical fiction drama featuring an ensemble cast portraying unique events on the 20th-century presidents of the United States at the White House.

Ellen DeGeneres – 61

Ellen DeGeneres is an American comedian, television host, actress, writer, and producer. She starred in the popular sitcom Ellen from 1994 to 1998 and has hosted her syndicated TV talk show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, since 2003. She has won 30 Emmys, 20 People’s Choice Awards (more than any other person),  and numerous other awards for her work and charitable efforts. In 2016, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Ellen DeGeneres © Glenn Francis, www.PacificProDigital.com

Edward Kobina Enninful – 46

Edward Enninful was born in February 1972, in Ghana, and at a very young age, emigrated to Ladbroke Grove, London, along with his parents and five siblings. He had a hugely successful career as a fashion stylist and editor and, in 2017, became the first gay editor of British Vogue.

Tom Ford – 57

Tom Ford is an American fashion designer, film director, screenwriter, and film producer. He launched his eponymous luxury brand in 2006, having previously served as the Creative Director at luxury fashion houses Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent. Ford also directed the Academy Award-nominated films A Single Man and Nocturnal Animals.

Stephen Fry – 62

Stephen Fry is an English comedian, actor and writer. Fry struggled to keep his homosexuality secret during his teenage years at public school, and by his own account did not engage in sexual activity for 16 years from 1979 until 1995.  When asked when he first acknowledged his sexuality, Fry quipped: “I suppose it all began when I came out of the womb. I looked back up at my mother and thought to myself, ‘That’s the last time I’m going up one of those’. Fry was in a 15-year relationship with Daniel Cohen, which ended in 2010. Fry was listed number 2 in 2016 and number 12 in 2017 on the Pride Power list.

David Geffen – 76

David Geffen is an American business magnate, producer, film studio executive, and philanthropist. Geffen created or co-created Asylum Records in 1970, Geffen Records in 1980, DGC Records in 1990, and DreamWorks SKG in 1994. As philanthropist, he has donated to the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and other educational and research institutes. Geffen came out as gay in 1992. In May 2007, Out magazine ranked Geffen first in its list of the fifty “Most Powerful Gay Men and Women in America”.

Manvendra Singh Gohil – 53

Manvendra Singh Gohil, Hereditary Prince of Rajpipla, was born in Ajmer, the only son of Maharana Shri Raghubir Singhji Rajendrasinghji Sahib, Maharana of Rajpipla, and his wife Maharani Rukmini Devi. In 2000, he started the Lakshya Trust, of which he is chairman, a group dedicated to HIV/AIDS education and prevention. A registered public charitable trust, Lakshya is a community-based organization working for HIV/AIDS prevention among men who have sex with men. Gohil has been a staunch opponent of Section 377, India’s colonial-era law that criminalizes same-sex sexual activity, which was decriminalized in 2018.

Neil Patrick Harris – 45

Neil Patrick Harris is an American actor, comedian, writer, producer, magician, and singer. He is known primarily for his comedy roles on television and his dramatic and musical stage roles. On television, he is known for playing the title character on Doogie Howser, M.D., Barney Stinson on How I Met Your Mother (for which he was nominated for four Emmy Awards), and Count Olaf in A Series of Unfortunate Events. Harris was named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in 2010. He is married to David Burtka. In 2010, they had twins via surrogacy.

Sir Elton John CBE – 72

Elton John is an English singer, songwriter, pianist, and composer. John has sold more than 300 million records, making him one of the world’s best-selling music artists. His tribute single “Candle in the Wind 1997”, rewritten in dedication to Diana, Princess of Wales, sold over 33 million copies worldwide and is the best-selling single in the history of the UK and US singles charts. John came out as bisexual in a 1976 interview with Rolling Stone, but after his divorce from Blauel in 1988, he told the magazine in 1992 that he was “quite comfortable about being gay.”

Don Lemon – 53

Don Lemon is an American journalist and author. He is an award-winning news anchor for CNN based in New York City and hosts CNN Tonight. In his memoir, Transparent, Lemon came out as gay and discusses colorism in the black community, and the sexual abuse he suffered as a child.  On April 6, 2019, Lemon announced on social media his boyfriend of two years, Tim Malone, had proposed, which Lemon accepted.

Armistead Maupin – 75

Armistead Maupin was born in Washington, D.C. and is the creator of the hugely influential “Tales of the City”, a series of novels, the first portions of which were published initially as a newspaper serial starting on August 8, 1974, in a Marin County newspaper, The Pacific Sun, picked up in 1976 by the San Francisco Chronicle, and later reworked into the series of books published by HarperCollins. In Babycakes, published in 1983, Maupin was one of the first writers to address the subject of AIDS. Maupin is married to Christopher Turner, a website producer and photographer. He saw him on a dating website and then “chased him down Castro Street, saying, ‘Didn’t I see you on Daddyhunt.com?'”

Rachel Maddow – 46

Rachel Maddow is an American television host and liberal political commentator. Maddow hosts The Rachel Maddow Show, a nightly television show on MSNBC, and serves as the cable network’s special event co-anchor alongside Brian Williams. Maddow holds a doctorate in politics from Oxford University, and is the first openly lesbian anchor to host a major prime-time news program in the United States. Asked about her political views by the Valley Advocate, Maddow replied, “I’m undoubtedly a liberal, which means that I’m in almost total agreement with the Eisenhower-era Republican party platform.”

Sir Ian McKellen CH CBE – 80

Ian McKellan is an English actor. His career spans genres ranging from Shakespearean and modern theatre to popular fantasy and science fiction. He is the recipient of six Laurence Olivier Awards, a Tony Award, a Golden Globe Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award, a BIF Award, two Saturn Awards, four Drama Desk Awards, and two Critics’ Choice Awards. He has also received nominations for two Academy Awards, five Primetime Emmy Awards, and four BAFTAs.


Anthony Miller – 40

Anthony Miller hails from Northern Ireland. Beating the odds Anthony is a law graduate who is set to practice at the bar. Entering the modelling industry as a teenager he was a successful catwalk model and dancer. By the tender age of 21 he was managing the agency that first signed him. This led to various opportunities and with Gray Jones Media Co-CEO Richard Jones, Anthony led the UK in embracing civil partnerships. He has had his own tv show which has been distributed the world over, he has written for magazines and newspapers everywhere, he has campaigned for equal rights, and he is leading his cohort in his studies. Anthony is no doubt one to watch!


Ryan Murphy – 53

Ryan Murphy is an American screenwriter, director, and producer. Murphy is best known for creating/co-creating/producing a number of successful television series, including the FX medical drama Nip/Tuck, the Fox musical comedy-drama Glee, the FX anthology series American Horror StoryAmerican Crime Story, and Feud, and the Fox procedural drama 9-1-1. He is a co-creator of FX’s POSE. Murphy has been married to photographer David Miller since July 2012. In October 2015, Murphy received the Award of Inspiration from amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research for his contributions to TV and film as well as his work in the fight against AIDS.

Jason Nidorf “Max” Mutchnick – 53

Max Mutchnick is an American television producer. He has received an Emmy Award, a People’s Choice Award, and several Golden Globe Award nominations. Along with David Kohan, he created Boston Common and Will & Grace. The title characters of Will & Grace, Will Truman, and Grace Adler, are based on Mutchnick and his best friend, Janet.  Mutchnick, like Will Truman, is openly gay. Mutchnick married his husband, lawyer Erik Hyman, on October 25, 2008. The couple are fathers to twin girls born in 2008 via a surrogate

Cynthia Nixon – 53

Cynthia Nixon is an American actress, activist, and politician. For her portrayal of Miranda Hobbes in the HBO series Sex and the City, Nixon won the 2004 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series. She reprised the role in the films Sex and the City and Sex and the City 2. Regarding her sexual orientation, Nixon remarked in 2007: “I don’t really feel I’ve changed. I’d been with men all my life, and I’d never fallen in love with a woman. But when I did, it didn’t seem so strange. I’m just a woman in love with another woman.” She identified herself as bisexual in 2012. Prior to the legalization of same-sex marriage in Washington state (Marinoni’s home), Nixon had taken a public stand supporting the issue and hosted a fundraising event in support of Washington Referendum 74.

Graham Norton – 55

Graham Norton is an Irish television and radio presenter, comedian, actor, author, and commentator based in the United Kingdom. He is a five-time BAFTA TV Award winner for his comedy chat show The Graham Norton Show and an eight-time award winner, overall. Norton is known for his innuendo-laden dialogue and flamboyant presentation style.

Esther Newton – 79

Esther Newton is an American cultural anthropologist best known for her pioneering work on the ethnography of lesbian and gay communities in the United States. Newton identifies as lesbian. She is in a long-term partnership with controversial lesbian-feminist performance artist Holly Hughes.  (See our interview with Esther here)

Jim Parsons – 46

Jim Parsons is an American actor. He is known for playing Sheldon Cooper in the CBS sitcom The Big Bang Theory. He has received several awards for his performance, including four Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series and the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Television Series Musical or Comedy. On May 23, 2012, an article in The New York Times noted that Parsons is gay and had been in a relationship for the last ten years.

Sue Perkins – 48

Sue Perkins is an English comedian, broadcaster, actress, and writer. Originally coming to prominence through her comedy partnership with Mel Giedroyc in Mel and Sue, she has since become best known as a radio broadcaster and television presenter, notably of The Great British Bake Off. She was ranked sixth in The Independent on Sundays 2014 Rainbow List. In August 2012, Perkins appeared on Tatlers list of high-profile lesbians in London. She was outed as a lesbian in 2002 by her ex-girlfriend Rhona Cameron during Cameron’s appearance on ITV’s I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!  She has said that “being a lesbian is only about the 47th most interesting thing about me”.

Billy Porter – 49

Billy Porter is an American stage performer, pop singer, and actor. He attended the Musical Theaterprogram at Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts School’s School of Drama, graduated from Carnegie Mellon University School of Drama, and achieved fame performing on Broadway before starting a solo career as a singer. Porter won the 2013 Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical for his role as Lola in Kinky Boots at the 67th Tony Awards. He currently stars in the television series Pose, which is back for a second season in June 2019

Robin Roberts – 58

Robin Roberts is an American television broadcaster and is the anchor of ABC’s Good Morning America. Roberts began a romantic relationship with massage therapist Amber Laign in 2005. Though friends and co-workers had known about her same-sex relationships, Roberts publicly acknowledged her sexual orientation for the first time in late December of 2013.  In 2015, she was named by Equality Forum as one of their 31 Icons of the 2015 LGBT History Month.

Wanda Yvette Sykes – 56

Wanda Sykes is an American actress, comedian, and writer. She was first recognized for her work as a writer on The Chris Rock Show, for which she won a Primetime Emmy Award in 1999. In 2004, Entertainment Weekly named Sykes as one of the 25 funniest people in America. In November 2008, she publicly came out as a lesbian while at a same-sex marriage rally in Las Vegas regarding Proposition 8. A month earlier, Sykes had married her wife Alex Niedbalski, a French woman, whom she had met in 2006.

Mark Takano – 59

Mark Takano is an American politician who has been the United States Representative for California’s 41st congressional district since 2013. Upon taking office, Takano became the first openly gay person of Asian descent in Congress. Takano co-chairs the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus and is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the Congressional Arts Caucus, the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, the United States Congressional International Conservation Caucus, and the U.S.-Japan Caucus.

Peter Gary Tatchell – 67

Peter Tatchell is a British human rights campaigner, originally from Australia, best known for his work with LGBT social movements. In the 1990s he campaigned for LGBT rights through the direct action group OutRage!, which he co-founded. He has worked on various campaigns, such as Stop Murder Music against music lyrics allegedly inciting violence against LGBT people and writes and broadcasts on various human rights and social justice issues. He attempted a citizen’s arrest of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe in 1999 and again in 2001.

Neil Tennant – 64

Neil Tennant is an English musician, singer, songwriter, music journalist and co-founder of the synthpop duo Pet Shop Boys, which he formed with Chris Lowe in 1981. Tennant is openly gay, revealing his sexuality in a 1994 interview in Attitude magazine. He is also a patron of the Elton John AIDS Foundation.  The Pet Shop Boys agreed to personal appeals by major Conservative figures Boris Johnson and David Cameron for the group to play at the “winners’ parade” taking shortly after the 2012 Summer Olympics closing ceremony. Enjoying the event’s atmosphere and how their stage presence turned into a well-received performance, Tennant subsequently texted Cameron’s staff pushing Cameron to use gay scientist Alan Turing’s centenary year as an impetus for the British government to formally pardon Turing. The formal pardon did, in fact, go through on 24 December 2013, with the related official paperwork signed by Queen Elizabeth II.

Sandra Birgitte Toksvig OBE – 61

Sandy Toksvig is a British-Danish writer, broadcaster, actor and producer on British radio, stage, and television. She is also a political activist, having co-founded the Women’s Equality Party in 2015. She has written plays, novels, and books for children. She was arguably the first woman in British public life to come out as a lesbian, in 1994.

George Hosato Takei – 82

George Takei is an American actor, author, and activist. He is best known for his role as Hikaru Sulu, helmsman of the USS Enterprise in the television series Star Trek. He also portrayed the character in six Star Trek feature films and one episode of Star Trek: Voyager. In October 2005, Takei revealed in an issue of Frontiers magazine that he is gay and had been in a committed relationship with his partner, Brad Altman, for 18 years; the move was prompted by then California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s veto of same-sex marriage legislation. He said, “It’s not really coming out, which suggests opening a door and stepping through. It’s more like a long, long walk through what began as a narrow corridor that starts to widen.”

Many of the pictures used in this article are used via Wikipedia and used under license: creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/legalcode

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Richard Jones

Richard is the co-founder of Queer Forty. As a 40-something gay man, he is passionate about creating good, informative and entertaining content for the over 40 LGBTQ Community.

Richard Jones has 136 posts and counting. See all posts by Richard Jones

One thought on “40 Over 40 LGBT Icons

  • As a gay senior, this list and article really makes me feel good. We have come a long way, baby! I remember so very well that a list like this could never exist back in the late 1970’s when I was coming of age… Cheers to all on the list. Keep up the good work and Thanks to all of you including the author, Richard Jones.


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