The 200 most iconic queers in cultural history, part three

Versace, Pasolini, Bert and Ernie: we're entering the top 100 on our countdown.

Versace, Pasolini, Bert and Ernie: we're entering the top 100 on our countdown

Frank Ocean, Tilda Swinton and Laverne Cox. (Getty Images)

Queeries is a Digital Publishing Award-winning weekly column by CBC Arts producer Peter Knegt that queries LGBTQ art, culture and/or identity through a personal lens. This is a celebration of its 200th edition.

The celebration of the 200th edition of this column continues as we count down the 200 most iconic queers in all of cultural history in an epic four-part series. This is the penultimate instalment, and it's getting severe up in here.

You can read a full explanation of the list in this introduction (which also includes the first queers) and catch up with the second edition here, and then when you're ready... it's time for numbers 100 to 51.

100. Joel Schumacher

Occupation: Film director, screenwriter, costume designer
Years active: Got his start in film in the early 1970s, when he designed the wardrobes of Dyan Cannon, Joan Hackett and Raquel Welch for the film The Last of Sheila. By the end of that decade, he had written the screenplays for Car Wash and The Wiz, and by the mid-1980s, he had directed St. Elmo's Fire and The Lost Boys. He passed away at the age of 80 in 2020, leaving us a legacy that included directing everything from Falling Down to The Client and telling George Clooney that Batman was gay (while directing him as a very gay Batman, I might add).
Why so iconic: An extremely tough call between estimating, in an iconic 2019 New York Magazine interview, that he'd had sex with somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000 men over the course of his life (I mean, haven't we all?) OR being responsible for this:

99. Jodie Foster

Occupation: Actress, filmmaker
Years active: Made her acting debut in 1968, when she was just five years old, in The Andy Griffith Show spinoff, Mayberry R.F.D. Was nominated for an Oscar in 1977, when she was just 14 years old, for playing a sex worker in Taxi Driver. Won two Oscars for best actress (for 1988's The Accused and 1991's The Silence of the Lambs, the latter of which remains a perfect movie) before she turned 30. Also has been gay for a while, kinda?
Why so iconic: As challenging as it has been to understand Foster's low-pride approach to publicly acknowledging her queerness (especially when she's much more keen to publicly acknowledge her unconditional love for Mel Gibson), you do have to hand it to her for this absolutely wild "I am not Honey Boo Boo Child!" Golden Globes speech that is the closest thing we have to her formally "coming out." Frankly, I'll take this over a cover of People magazine any day:

98. Kristen Stewart

Occupation: Actress, filmmaker
Years active: Got her big break at the age of 11 playing the daughter of none other than Jodie Foster in David Fincher's 2002 film Panic Room. Currently in the midst of getting the respect she's deserved for some time thanks to her Oscar-nominated work in Spencer.
Why so iconic: For deciding post-Twilight that she would adopt a zero fucks attitude (but in the most charming way possible) to both what Hollywood expects of her career choices and how the public views her sexuality. And definitely also for this badass Saturday Night Live monologue that displayed a considerably more measured approach to coming out on live TV in front of millions of people than her former onscreen mother, Foster:

97. Rickie Vasquez

Occupation: High school student
Years active: Technically, he only existed for the half-year that My So-Called Life aired on ABC in late 1994 and early 1995, before it was tragically cancelled. But he has lived on in reruns — and in our hearts — ever since.
Why so iconic: Like he did for many, Rickie changed my so-called life when I watched him over the 19 episodes MSCL ran. I was 11 years old, and I'd never seen anyone like him on television: a 15-year-old gay boy who wore eyeliner, hung out in the girls' bathroom and was actually played by a gay actor (Wilson Cruz, the first openly gay actor to ever play an openly gay teen on TV). Rickie taught so many us '90s kids that it was OK to embrace our queerness, and for that, we'll be, like, forever grateful.

96. to 94. Bob the Drag Queen, Eureka O'Hara and Shangela

Occupations: Drag queens
Years active: All three started doing drag around 2009: Bob (initially with the stage name Kittin Withawhip) in the New York City bar scene; Eureka in Bristol, Tenn.; and Shangela in Los Angeles. They have collectively been on seven different seasons of RuPaul's Drag Race, though, shamefully, only Bob has been crowned a winner, baby.
Why so iconic: While it was rare any of them weren't being iconic during their various Drag Race seasons, the greatest gift this trio has given culture has been by travelling across America together to get residents of small towns to participate in one-night-only drag shows on HBO's staggeringly well-crafted reality series We're Here. Drag has never healed so hard.

From left: Bob the Drag Queen, Shangela and Eureka O'Hara HBO's We're Here. (HBO)

93. Billy Tipton

Occupation: Musician, bandleader, talent broker
Years active: In the 1930s and 1940s, Tipton made a name for himself touring the American midwest playing saxophone and piano. When he passed away in 1989, friends and family were surprised to discover he had been a trans man — something the media of course handled with rampant transphobia.
Why so iconic: For finally getting his story told — and starting a necessary dialogue about transmasculinity — when Aisling Chin-Yee and Chase Joynt utilized Tipton's narrative as the focus of their documentary No Ordinary Man.

92. Billy Porter

Occupation: Actor, singer, author, red carpet assassin
Years active: Appeared on the same 1992 episode of Star Search as a very young Britney Spears (and won $100,000 for it) before making his Broadway debut playing Teen Angel in the 1994 Broadway revival of Grease. Rose to new heights of fame with his Tony Award-winning performance in Kinky Boots and his Emmy Award-winning performance in Pose. He was the first queer Black person to win either award.
Why so iconic: For obliterating every red carpet he's ever been on:

Billy Porter attending (left to right) the 2020 Grammys, 2019 Met Gala, and 2019 Academy Awards. (Getty Images)

90. & 91. Billie Jean King and Dr. Renée Richards

Occupations: Tennis players (both); side-hustle ophthalmologist (just Richards)
Years active: Two of the tennis greats of the 1970s and 1980s. King was the first prominent female athlete to come out, while Richards was one of the first professional athletes to identify as transgender. They were doubles partners in the early 1970s and have been friends ever since.
Why so iconic: King destroyed Bobby Riggs in front of 50 million viewers during the 1973 "Battle of the Sexes," a huge victory in the battle for recognition and respect for women's tennis. Richards fought to compete as a woman in the 1976 U.S. Open after she had surgically transitioned, suing them for gender discrimination when they wouldn't allow it (a lawsuit in which King signed an affadavit in support). The judge ultimately ruled in Richards's favour — a massive victory in legal transgender rights. 

89. Margaret Cho

Occupation: Comedian, actress, musician, fashion designer, author
Years active: After working as a sex phone operator and a dominatrix, she launched a stand-up career in the early 1990s that quickly led to ABC offering her her own sitcom, All-American Girl, when she was just 25. 
Why so iconic: Bounced back from being treated with absolutely vile racism and misogyny by producers and network executives on All-American Girl to write and perform a series of legendary stand-up tours, including 2002's Notorious C.H.O. (the first comedy show I ever saw live and still one of the absolute best). She's also the only person ever nominated for an Emmy for playing Kim Jong-il.

88. Peaches

Occupation: Musician, producer, visual artist
Years active: Began her career in the early 1990s as part of Toronto folk trio Mermaid Cafe before releasing her first solo album, Fancypants Hoodlum, in 1995.
Why so iconic: For being an everlasting iconoclast who schooled us all in what queer electroclash could do in her 2000 breakthrough album, The Teaches of Peaches. Its signature song, "Fuck The Pain Away," contains "one of the most iconic needle-drops in pop culture history," becoming an unlikely phenomenon that was parodied by Miss Piggy and featured in everything from Lost in Translation to South Park to The Handmaid's Tale

87. David Sedaris

Occupation: Author, comedian, radio contributor
Years active: Discovered by National Public Radio host Ira Glass, who produced Sedaris's Christmas 1992 reading of a story called "SantaLand Diaries," which was about his time playing an elf at a department store. By the following year, one million people were regularly listening to him read excerpts from his diaries and he had signed a two-book contract with Little, Brown.
Why so iconic: For every late-night talk show appearance he's ever made (especially this one); for normalizing the presence of hilarious, intellectual gay essayists on late-night television; and for being the brother of someone equally iconic for her own talk show appearances.

86. George Takei

Occupation: Actor, activist
Years active: Got his start in the 1950s doing voiceovers for characters in the English dubs of Japanese monster films before playing Sulu on Star Trek in television and film from 1965 into the '90s. Since the 1970s, it had been an open secret among Trekkies that Takei was gay, though he officially came out in 2005 and has been a vocal activist for LGBTQ rights ever since. 
Why so iconic: For many reasons, but undeniably, first and foremost, for this.

84. & 85. Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist

Occupations: Cowboys
Years active: Born in the 1997 short story Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx. Brought to life by actors Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger in the devastating 2005 film of the same name, which I saw seven times in cinemas when I was 21 years old. 
Why so iconic: For pronouncing me dead for at least 10 seconds the first time I ever saw this scene:

83. Melissa Etheridge 

Occupation: Singer, songwriter, activist
Years active: After becoming a fixture playing gigs at Los Angeles lesbian bars, she was discovered by the head of Island Records in the mid-1980s.
Why so iconic: For publicly coming out (though she never actively hid it) in 1993 at a gay ball in honour of President Bill Clinton's first inauguration, then releasing a very gay album — Yes I Am — which featured iconic lesbian anthems, like "Come to My Window" and "I'm The Only One," and proved to be her first big mainstream success.

82. John Cameron Mitchell

Occupation: Actor, filmmaker, playwright, singer
Years active: Started working as an actor on Broadway in the mid-1980s before writing and starring in his own off-Broadway rock musical, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, in 1998.
Why so iconic: For adapting Hedwig into a movie, which he directed and starred in himself to wild success in 2001, inviting the entire world to put on some makeup and turn on the tape deck to its high-voltage, genderqueer glory. Then, for finally bringing it to Broadway in 2014 and winning a Tony Award for it.

John Cameron Mitchell in Hedwig and the Angry Inch. (New Line)

81. Eddie Izzard

Occupation: Comedian, writer, actor, performer
Years active: Spent much of the early 1980s working as a street performer before making her first stage performance at the Comedy Store in London in 1987. Her big break came in 1991, when she performed this "Raised by Wolves" sketch on a televised benefit for AIDS.
Why so iconic: Absolutely, for four decades of consistently brilliant work on stage, in comedy, on television, in film and through activism. But also for the fact that last year — at the age of 58 — she ran 32 marathons and performed 31 comedy gigs all in the month of January to raise more than £275,000 for various charities.

80. Vaginal Davis

Occupation: Performer, painter, curator, composer, writer, cultural antagonist, film scholar, erotic provocateur
Years active: First gained notoriety in the late 1970s performing with various art-punk bands, including Pedro, Muriel and Esther; Cholita! The Female Menudo; black fag; and the Afro Sisters.
Why so iconic: For doing it all — writing, low or no-budget video, public-access programming, bar drag, music, sculpture, theatre, performance art — and doing it for decades without compromise. For being the godmother of the queercore punk movement and for being a key proponent of the performance aesthetic known as "terrorist drag," which "disrupts the cultural assimilation of gay-oriented and corporate-friendly drag." (And for making me seem like the tiniest man once in 2010.)

79. Todd Haynes

Occupation: Filmmaker
Years active: While an MFA student at Bard College in 1987, Haynes made the film Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story, which used Barbie dolls as actors to chronicle the life of the titular troubled pop singer. Haynes got sued and the film was legally barred from screening, but it became a bootleg sensation and launched his career.
Why so iconic: For having one of the most unimpeachable filmographies of any living American director, queer or otherwise. The man made Velvet Goldmine, Far From Heaven and Carol!

78. Lady Bunny

Occupation: Drag queen, DJ, actor, comedian
Years active: Met RuPaul Charles in Atlanta in the early 1980s when they were both go-go dancers for a band called Now Explosion. They soon became fixtures in that city's gay scene before moving to New York City together.
Why so iconic: In 1984, she spontaneously helped create Wigstock (the most legendary outdoor drag festival of all time) when she was drunk with a group of fellow drag queens after a night out. They decided they wanted to put on a show in New York City's Tompkins Square Park, so they did. And they brought it back every year until 2005 (it was also briefly revived in 2018):

77. Sandra Bernhard

Occupation: Actress, comedian
Years active: Got her start doing stand-up in the 1970s, which eventually got the attention of Martin Scorsese, who cast her in his 1983 film The King of Comedy opposite Robert DeNiro and Jerry Lewis (both of whom Bernhard outshines in what is truly a star-making performance).
Why so iconic: Whether it's her 28 appearances on Late Night With David Letterman, her history-making role as Nancy on Roseanne or the several years in which she and Madonna were very publicly best friends (and rumoured lovers), pretty much everything Bernhard has done has been iconic.

75. & 76. Lilly and Lana Wachowski

Occupations: Filmmakers
Years active: The sibling duo made their directorial debut with the 1996 cult classic Bound
Why so iconic: For following up Bound with one of the most financially and critically successful films of the 1990s, The Matrix, which Lilly later said was an allegory for trans identity. Lana and Lilly themselves came out as trans in 2008 and 2016, respectively, which has made The Matrix the most famous contemporary art created by trans people — and universalized the trans experience for so many in the process.

74. Nathan Lane

Occupation: Actor, writer
Years active: Began a career that spans over 40 years on stage screen with the 1982 revival of Noël Coward's Present Laughter on Broadway. Was described by The New York Times in 2010 as "the greatest stage entertainer of the decade," though they really could have been talking about several decades.
Why so iconic: For being the heart and soul of one of the greatest, gayest mainstream comedies ever made:

73. Laverne Cox

Occupation: Actress, activist
Years active: Became one of the most famous trans actresses in the world when she began her run as Sophia Burset on Netflix's Orange is the New Black in 2013. The following year, she became the first transgender person on the cover of Time magazine and the first transgender person to be nominated for an acting Emmy.
Why so iconic: When Cox became one of Hollywood's first A-list trans celebrities, she immediately also had to become a pioneering spokesperson for trans rights. And she took on this responsibility with unparalleled grace, intelligence and conviction, helping drastically change how her industry treats and represents trans people (even though there is still a long way to go).

72. Omar Little

Occupation: Legendary Baltimore stick-up man
Years active: Played by the late great Michael K. Williams over five seasons of HBO's The Wire from 2002 to 2008. In the world of the show, he was very much a gay Robin Hood figure, making his living holding up drug dealers and staying alive "one day at a time."
Why so iconic: Because he was the king, and when you come at him, you best not miss:

71. Sir John Gielgud

Occupation: Actor, director
Years active: Born in 1904, Gielgud had a career spanning eight decades on stage and screen. He made his first film in 1924 (Walter Summers's silent film Who is the Man?) and his last in 1998 (as Pope Pius V in Shekhar Kapur's Elizabeth). He passed away at the age of 96 in 2000.
Why so iconic: Though Gielgud once said of awards, "I really detest all the mutual congratulation baloney and the invidious comparisons which they evoke," and rarely showed up to accept them, in 1991, he became the fourth ever person to EGOT. He remains one of only two LGBTQ people to have that distinction (unfortunately, the other one is Scott Rudin).

70. Jackie Shane

Occupation: Singer
Years active: Born in Nashville, the trailblazing R&B singer joined forces with Frank Motley in the early '60s and moved with Motley's band to Toronto, where Jackie, who was trans, soon established herself as a musical force and a beacon of queer visibility.
Why so iconic: For a commanding stage presence and routinely donned flamboyant getups and elaborate makeup, never seeking to conform — even in an era when homosexuality was illegal in Canada.

69. Tallulah Bankhead

Occupation: Actress, socialite
Years active: Born into a prominent political family in Alabama in 1902, Bankhead moved to New York City as a teenager in the late 1910s to pursue acting. She quickly became a "sensation" at the Algonquin Hotel — a hotspot for the artistic and literary elite. Describing her social life at the time, Bankhead famously said that while her father had warned her to avoid alcohol and men, "he didn't say anything about women and cocaine." 
Why so iconic: Bankhead was one of the most quotable cultural figures ever ("If I were well behaved, I'd die of boredom" is a personal favourite). She preferred the term "ambisextrous" to describe her fluid sexuality, which she was very public about, conducting affairs with people of any gender, including Billie Holiday, Hattie McDaniel and Marlene Dietrich. Extraordinarily ahead of her time, we must forever bow down to her queendom.

Actress Tallulah Bankhead in 1930. (Getty Images)

67. & 68. Bert and Ernie

Occupations: Muppets, "roommates"
Years active: Made their first appearance on Sesame Street on July 21, 1969, and have been the source of gay speculation ever since (which representatives for the show have repeatedly denied).
Why so iconic: For coming out on the cover of The New Yorker, which no one else on this list has ever been high-brow enough to do.

66. Ellen DeGeneres

Occupation: Comedian, actress, talk show host
Years active: After spending the 1980s building a career in stand-up, DeGeneres was given her own sitcom in 1994. Initially titled These Friends of Mine, the show ran for an entire season under the name before it was changed to Ellen to avoid confusion with a new little series called Friends. It would go on to create the watershed moment that was "The Puppy Episode," in which DeGeneres's character came out as a lesbian. This was the first instance of a main character on an American sitcom being openly gay, and while it created a media frenzy, the show was cancelled the following season. 
Why so iconic: DeGeneres bounced back from her sitcom with a massively successful daytime talk show that was largely built on the idea of her being the nicest person ever — a facade that was spectacularly destroyed over the last few years. But just because it is now clear Ellen is a George W. Bush-befriending, Dakota Johnson-birthday-missing absolute nightmare to work with ... is she not still iconic? Especially considering it's highly likely half the people on this list are nightmares to work with. And none of them did this:

65. Boy George

Occupation: Singer, songwriter, DJ, fashion designer
Years active: After being discovered at London's famed Blitz nightclub (and briefly going by the name Lieutenant Lush), Boy George co-formed one of the most popular new wave bands of the 1980s, Culture Club. The group took their name from the fact that they had an Irish gay man (George) as a lead singer, a Black Briton on bass (Mikey Craig), a blond Englishman on guitar and keyboards (Roy Hay) and a Jewish drummer (Jon Moss). Culture Club instantly received a ton of attention from the media because of Boy George's androgynous style.
Why so iconic: Other than selling over 50 million albums and offering us the queer pop classics "Karma Chameleon" and "Do You Really Want To Hurt Me"? For coming out to Queen Joan Rivers on The Tonight Show in 1983.

64. Pier Paolo Pasolini 

Occupation: Filmmaker, poet, writer, intellectual
Years active: An exceptionally prolific, highly controversial figure in European literature and film from the 1940s until his murder in 1975.
Why so iconic: His final film Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom was released three weeks after his death and proved to be a most iconic mic drop. Loosely based on the similarly-titled Marquis de Sade novel, the film's depictions of graphic violence and sexuality led it to be banned all over the world (including Canada). Pasolini later became an obsession of John Waters, who has said that if there were one piece of any media or art he wished he made, it would be Salò.

63. Christine Jorgensen

Occupation: Activist, author, World War II veteran
Years active: After serving in the U.S. army in World War II, she became an international celebrity during the 1950s when she was one of the first people in the United States to undergo a successful sex reassignment operation.
Why so iconic: The O.G. American trans celebrity, Jorgensen used her fame to advocate for trans people, tirelessly lecturing on trans issues and pleading for understanding from a grossly uneducated public:

61. & 62. Alexander McQueen and Gianni Versace

Occupations: Fashion designers
Years active: McQueen started his own label in 1992 at the age of 23, and by 1996, had been hired as chief designer of Givenchy and named British Designer of Year. Versace opened a boutique in Milan and launched his own collection for women in 1978 at the age 32, and by the 1990s, he had been credited with inventing the supermodel vogue of the era
Why so iconic: Both died tragically at the ages of 40 and 50, respectively, leaving behind legacies as two of the most iconic fashion designers of all time.

60. Elliot Page

Occupation: Actor, producer, activist
Years active: Got his start at the age of 10, starring in the CBC television movie Pit Pony. By 19, Page was nominated for an Oscar for his breakthrough role in Juno. He came out as a trans man in 2020, a watershed moment for transmasculine representation.
Why so iconic: It was genuinely pioneering for a celebrity of Page's stature to candidly discuss trans male identity and issues with Oprah Winfrey and document his physical transition on Instagram. In the process, he surely offered much needed hope to trans folks in an increasingly transphobic world.

59. Frank Ocean

Occupation: Singer, songwriter, rapper
Years active: Established himself as a songwriter (under the name Lonny Breaux) for artists like Justin Bieber and Brandy in the late 2000s before joining hip hop collective Odd Future in 2010.
Why so iconic: On July 4, 2012, Ocean published an open letter on his Tumblr that addressed the queer themes in his lyrics, saying, "I don't know what happens now, and that's alright. I don't have any secrets I need kept anymore ... I feel like a free man." His coming out was a game-changing moment for the hip hop industry, with Jay-Z, Russell Simmons and Tyler, the Creator all immediately announcing their support for Ocean. A week later, he released Channel Orange — an immaculate collection of songs about unrequited love, queer sex and existential longing regarded as one of the most critically acclaimed albums of the 21st century.

58. Tony Kushner

Occupation: Playwright, screenwriter
Years active: Started writing plays in the early 1980s, including La Fin de la Baleine: An Opera for the Apocalypse (1983) and A Bright Room Called Day (1985). Got into film largely via Steven Spielberg, who brought him on to write the screenplays for Munich (2005), Lincoln (2012) and West Side Story (2021) — all three of which were nominated for best picture Oscars.
Why so iconic: Oh, I don't know, maybe for writing the Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning two-part, seven-hour, era-defining masterpiece that is Angels in America?

57. k.d. lang

Occupation: Singer, songwriter
Years active: In 1988, she rose to prominence performing as "the Alberta Rose" at the Calgary Winter Olympics, which led Canadian women's magazine Chatelaine to name her "Woman of the Year." Four years later, she simultaneously came out of the closet and broke into the mainstream, which was not always the easiest thing for her to digest.
Why so iconic: For an unwavering commitment to being her authentic self, and definitely also for this 1993 Vanity Fair photo shoot with Cindy Crawford — one of the most iconically queer things ever done on the cover of a popular magazine.

56. André Leon Tally

Occupation: Fashion journalist, stylist, creative director
Years active: Became the fashion news director at Vogue in 1983, then its editor-at-large from 1998 to 2013. He served as the stylist for the Obamas during their time in the White House, and was known for his advocacy for diversity in the fashion industry. We sadly lost him earlier this year.
Why so iconic: For literally everything he's ever said, done or worn, especially all the capes, maxicoats and kaftans.

55. Harvey Fierstein

Occupation: Actor, playwright, screenwriter
Years active: Made an exceptional contribution to the queer canon with his breakout play Torch Song Trilogy, which debuted at an off-off-Broadway theatre in 1978. Written by and starring Fierstein, it would open on Broadway in 1982, running for 1,222 performances and winning Fierstein two Tony Awards. In 1988, he adapted it into a critically acclaimed movie, starring himself, Anne Bancroft and Matthew Broderick.
Why so iconic: For gently making an entire generation of kids aware that gay people exist and that they are extremely hilarious and talented: 

54. Josephine Baker

Occupation: Entertainer, civil right activist, French Resistance agent
Years active: Born in St. Louis, Mo., in 1906, Baker headed to New York City at the age of 13 and began performing at the Plantation Club during the Harlem Renaissance. At 19, she sailed to Paris and became an instant sensation for her erotic dancing.
Why so iconic: Where does one even begin? Perhaps when she became the first Black woman to ever star in a motion picture (the 1927 silent film Siren of the Tropics)? Or when she worked as a spy for the French Resistance during World War II? Or when Ernest Hemingway called her "the most sensational woman anyone ever saw"? Or maybe how she was often accompanied on stage in Paris by her pet cheetah, who was adorned with a diamond collar and often escaped into the orchestra to terrorize the musicians?

53. Rock Hudson

Occupation: Actor
Years active: Arrived in California as a 21-year-old truck driver named Roy Scherer Jr. in 1946. After being discovered by agent Henry Willson (himself a complicated queer cultural figure), he soon became Rock Hudson. According to Hollywood lore, Willson named him after the Rock of Gibraltar and the Hudson River. By the mid-1950s, he was one of Hollywood's most famous romantic male leads — and one of its most legendary closet cases
Why so iconic: Sadly, Hudson's death from AIDS in 1985 will forever get top billing with regard to his legacy. But it's important to remember how much good he did in the months leading up to his death by publicly coming out and forcing society to recognize that just because AIDS was predominantly happening to gay men, that did not mean it could be ignored.

51. & 52. Derek Jarman and Tilda Swinton

Occupation: Filmmaker, stage designer, activist, gardener (Jarman); actress, activist, magical film festival organizer (Swinton)
Years active: In 1978, Jarman made his first feature film, Sebastiane, a portrait of the life of Saint Sebastian. It was controversial for its depiction of queer sexuality between soldiers and for having dialogue that was entirely in Latin, and launched Jarman as a true force in queer cinema. Meanwhile, Swinton made her screen debut in Jarman's 1986 film Caravaggio and would go on to star in all of the subsequent feature films he would make until he passed from an AIDS-related illness on February 19, 1994. She has continued to be a beacon of transgressive queerness in cinema ever since.
Why so iconic: For their extraordinary friendship, for all the exceptional work they produced together and separately and for spreading queerness around a world that continues to be in desperate need of it.

Tilda Swinton in front of the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia in 2013. (Sandro Kopp)

The series will conclude next Thursday with the top 50 queers. You can read #200-151 here and #150-101 here.


Peter Knegt (he/him) has worked for CBC Arts since 2016, writing the LGBTQ-culture column Queeries (winner of the 2019 Digital Publishing Award for best digital column in Canada and nominated again this year) and hosting the video interview series Here & Queer. He's also spearheaded the launch and production of series Canada's a Drag, variety special Queer Pride Inside, and interactive projects Superqueeroes and The 2010s: The Decade Canadian Artists Stopped Saying Sorry. Collectively, these projects have won Knegt four Canadian Screen Awards. Beyond CBC, Knegt is also the filmmaker of numerous short films, the author of the book About Canada: Queer Rights and the host of the monthly film series Queer Cinema Club at Toronto's Paradise Theatre. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter with the same obvious handle: @peterknegt.

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