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New York City Gay Biographies


Throughout its history, New York City has been home to countless gay people, many of them famous figures in the mainstream society of their day. This ever-growing list of biographies reveals an extremely diverse group of early New Yorkers who each, in their own way, bravely fought the prejudice of their times. Click through to learn more about these fascinating -- and in many cases, nearly forgotten -- LGBT pioneers.

Walt Whitman

Born on Long Island but a longtime Brooklyn resident and Manhattan fixture, Walt Whitman was also one of America's greatest writers, and a powerful figure in our country's LGBT history. Learn more about Walt Whitman's fascinating life and important literary work.

Peter Sewally (alias Mary Jones, Miss Ophelia, Beefsteak Pete, and Man-Monster)

When New York City police captured prostitute Mary Jones for pickpocketing in 1836, little did they know that it would lead to an early transgender tabloid scandal, or that their detainee, Peter Sewally, would come to be known as Beefsteak Pete. Learn more about this fascinating piece of early NYC LGBT history.

Murray Hall

Murray Hall, a late 19th century Tammany Hall politico, was a hard drinking Scots-born New Yorker -- or so his buddies and nearly everyone else thought, until upon his death they discovered that he'd been born a woman. Find out more about Murray Hall, a fascinating and heartbreaking figure from NYC's long LGBT history.

Langston Hughes

As one of the leaders of the Harlem Renaissance, Langston Hughes was a profoundly important figure in 20th century African-American history, and has posthumously been embraced for his role in an emerging LGBT culture as well. Find out more about the life of this world-wandering poetic genius who called Harlem home.

Gladys Bentley

Wearing men's clothes and weighing in at 250 pounds, singer Gladys Bentley cut one of the most striking figures of the Harlem Renaissance. Learn more about this talented and fascinating NYC black lesbian pioneer.

Carl Van Vechten

Midwest-born Carl Van Vechten came to New York City in 1906 and became a noted dance critic, writer, photographer, society darling, and one of the few notable white figures in Harlem's mostly black Renaissance. Learn more about Van Vechten's life, work, and blatant-for-his-day homosexuality.

Paul Cadmus

New York City artist Paul Cadmus was one of the first in his field in the modern era to live his life as an openly gay man. Learn more about this brave but humble artist and his controversial 1934 U.S. Navy-commissioned but highly homoerotic work, The Fleet's In!

Lon of New York

In the years after World War II, Alonzo Hanagan -- better known as Lon of New York -- became one of the city's best known beefcake photographers. His work was rediscovered in the 1980s and '90s, leading to his first gallery show ever in 1999, shortly before he passed away. Learn more about Lon and his place in muscle stud photo history.

Allen Ginsberg

Hipster gay icon Allen Ginsberg was a poet, a radical, and a deep lover of New York City's East Village. Find out more about the Beat godfather's life and his many local addresses.

Read more about New York City's rich gay history

Read gay history timelines for Manhattan neighborhoods uptown and downtown.

Timeline of Harlem gay history

Timeline of Chelsea gay history

Timeline of West Village gay history

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