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38 LGBT+ role models we can learn about in school

Updated: Nov 22, 2023

In education, selecting role models for students holds a profound responsibility and the potential to inspire young minds in powerful ways, as well as making them feel represented and included in our society. The figures we introduce into the classroom can inspire, educate, and serve as beacons of achievement, but their selection requires careful consideration. As we explore the lives of historical figures, such as the brilliant mathematician and computer scientist Alan Turing, it becomes increasingly evident that we must tread with caution. Turing's story is one of extraordinary accomplishment, but it is also marred by the deeply troubling societal prejudices he faced – leading to his unjust chemical castration and the tragic possibility of suicide.

As educators, we must ask ourselves a crucial question: is this the message we want to convey about what it means to be LGBT, or unique in any way, to the young, impressionable minds we nurture? When considering role models, we need to be mindful of role model selection in schools and consider the potential harm in focusing only on individuals with tragic lives or perpetuating stereotypes.

This is not to say that we should not learn about historical figures such as Alan Turing, but can the image also be balanced with those role models who have a more positive life story? Particularly when looking at social media role models, are those people reinforcing stereotypes about that group? It's a discussion that underscores the importance of equipping students with positive, diverse, and inclusive role models to cultivate understanding and compassion rather than perpetuate harmful stereotypes. By also discussing a more contemporary role model such as Tim Cook (Apple's CEO), we can discuss the difficulties that minority groups faced in the past, and the potential challenges today, but also give a beacon of hope to LGBT+ young people.

When we want to include role models in our curriculum this needs to be in the planning stage, rather than a bolt-on lesson. In Primary Schools, inclusion of role models should happen when planning the topic; this ensures that they are embedded in the planning and tenuous links aren't created; there shouldn't be a 'gay' lesson, we just need to show that LGBT+ people exist, but that the focus of the lesson remains the topic.

In Secondary, it is usually more helpful to look at the phase or the year group overview and identify where we look at people in society and history. Where can we replace individuals so that we are giving a true view of society, not just a straight, white, male view of the world? Britain is a wonderfully multicultural society and our education needs to reflect that.

When you are ready to start to include more diverse role models in your curriculum, although the following list is about LGBT+ individuals, it's important that we look at wider diversity; the protected characteristics in the Equality Act can be useful for this. But we all need to start somewhere. Here's some ideas for LGBT+ individuals that we could look at in various areas of the curriculum:

If you are interested in further supporting LGBT+ pupils in your school check out our What the LGBTQIA+? and More Then Flags and Rainbows training and development programs, or contact us using the form below.

Entertainment and the Arts:

  • Russell T Davies: A television screenwriter and producer known for his work on LGBTQ+ inclusive series like "Queer as Folk" and "Doctor Who."

  • Sandra Birgitte Toksvig: The Danish-British writer, comedian and broadcaster on British radio, stage and television is also a political activist, having co-founded the Women's Equality Party and came out as Lesbian in 2014.

  • Stephen Fry: A comedian, actor, and writer known for his LGBTQ+ advocacy and openness about his own experiences.

  • Sir Ian McKellen: A renowned actor and LGBTQ+ advocate, known for his iconic roles in film and theatre.

  • Fiona Shaw: The actress known for playing Aunt Petunia in the Harry Potter films has openly talked about the struggles she had coming to terms with being a Lesbian

  • Ben Whishaw: An openly gay talented actor who has won acclaim for his roles in films and television, including being the voice of Paddington.


  • Emeli Sandé: The award winning Scottish singer has spoken in interviews about her sexuality and not using labels and in 2019 stated, 'I just feel like I should fall in love with whoever I fall in love with.' Sis currently in a relationship with Yoana Karemova.

  • Mykki Blanco: A highly political and vocal artist fighting against racism, transphobia and any other form of discrimination, Mykki is one of today’s most radical artists, who openly talks about living with HIV and her transition.

  • Elton John: A legendary musician, singer, and LGBTQ+ advocate, known for his hit songs and philanthropic efforts.

  • Boy George: A singer, songwriter, and fashion icon who identifies as gay and has been a prominent figure in the music industry.

  • Sam Smith: A Grammy-winning singer-songwriter who identifies as non-binary and uses they/them pronouns.

  • Olly Alexander: Lead singer of the band Years & Years and an advocate for LGBTQ+ rights.


  • Casey Stoney: A former footballer and current football manager who has been open about her LGBTQ+ identity.

  • Tom Bosworth: A racewalker who is openly gay and has been an advocate for LGBTQ+ visibility in sports.

  • Nicola Adams: A former professional boxer who is openly Lesbian and has advocated for LGBTQ+ acceptance in sports. After she was publicly described as bisexual in the media, Nicola Adams clarified that she is a lesbian.

  • Megan Rapinoe: Although American, Megan Rapinoe has a strong connection to British football and is a vocal advocate for LGBTQ+ acceptance in sports.

  • Lee Pearson: A14-times Paralympic Games gold medallist, having represented British para-equestrianism in Sydney, Athens, Beijing, London, Rio, and Tokyo. Lee is openly gay and fostered a 14 year old son.

  • Keegan Hirst: The first openly gay professional rugby league player, coming out in 2015.


  • Chris Smith: The first openly gay MP in the UK, who served in various political roles and is living with HIV.

  • Angela Eagle: A prominent MP who came out as lesbian and has been an advocate for LGBTQ+ rights.

  • Ruth Davidson: A Scottish lesbian politician who openly talks about the struggles she had with her mental health as a teenager.

  • Lord Waheed Alli: A member of the House of Lords who is openly gay and an advocate for LGBTQ+ rights. He is one of the few openly gay, Muslim politicians in the world

Literature and Writing:

  • Alan Hollinghurst: A renowned author known for his LGBTQ+ themed novels, including "The Line of Beauty."

  • Jeanette Winterson: A critically acclaimed author and professor who identifies as lesbian and writes on LGBTQ+ themes.

  • Sarah Waters: A historical fiction author known for her lesbian-themed novels, including "Tipping the Velvet."

  • Neil Gaiman: A popular author known for LGBTQ+ representation in his works.

  • Alan Bennett: A renowned British playwright, author, and actor, Alan Bennett is openly gay and has used his platform to advocate for LGBTQ+ rights and visibility. His works often touch on social and political issues, including those related to the LGBTQ+ community.

Fashion and Design:

  • Stella McCartney: A prominent fashion designer who is an advocate for LGBTQ+ rights and has released a unisex line of clothing, which challenges gendered clothing.

  • Christopher Bailey: Former CEO and creative director of Burberry, who is openly gay and a supporter of LGBTQ+ causes. In May 2014 Bailey became the first openly gay executive among FTSE 100 corporations.

  • Edward Enninful: The first black, openly gay editor-in-chief of British Vogue, a pioneer in the fashion industry. He worked with local schools and communities to challenge the preconceptions of who should work at British Vogue

  • David Furnish: A Canadian-British filmmaker, former advertising executive, and husband of Elton John, known for his LGBTQ+ philanthropy.

Science and Technology

  • Lynn Conway: A pioneering transgender computer scientist and electrical engineer known for her groundbreaking work in microelectronics and the development of the VLSI (Very Large Scale Integration) chip design. She has been an advocate for transgender rights and visibility in the tech industry.

  • Alan Turing: A legendary British mathematician, logician, and computer scientist who played a key role in breaking the Enigma code during World War II. Turing was openly gay, and his work laid the foundation for modern computer science.

  • Ben Haggerty (Macklemore): Though primarily known as a musician, Macklemore has also used technology and data to address social issues, particularly in his song "Same Love," which advocates for LGBTQ+ rights.

Throughout History

  • Oscar Wilde: A famous Irish-born playwright, poet, and novelist, Oscar Wilde was a flamboyant figure in late 19th-century British society. He was known for his wit and literary works, but his homosexuality led to his downfall and imprisonment, making him a symbol of the historical persecution of LGBTQ+ individuals.

  • Radclyffe Hall: British author Radclyffe Hall is known for her novel "The Well of Loneliness," which openly explored lesbian relationships in the early 20th century. The novel faced legal challenges but also played a role in advancing LGBTQ+ literature.

  • Virginia Woolf: Virginia Woolf, a celebrated British author, had a same-sex relationship with Vita Sackville-West and explored themes of gender and sexuality in her writing, contributing to LGBTQ+ literature and discussions about identity.

  • Quentin Crisp: An openly gay British writer, actor, and social commentator, Quentin Crisp was an unapologetic advocate for LGBTQ+ rights and visibility. His autobiography, "The Naked Civil Servant," and his unique persona challenged societal norms and prejudices.

I hope that this list helps you identify role models that will fit in your curriculum. Obviously, we need to ensure that all work is age appropriate and that we continue to challenge stereotypes, but seeing these role models can make a difference to all of our young people.

I'd love to keep adding to this list, so if you have any role models you think are important to learn about in school, or facts about the people featured please let me know and I will add them!

If you are interested in further supporting LGBT+ pupils in your school check out our What the LGBTQIA+? and More Then Flags and Rainbows training and development programs, or contact us using the form below.

Thank you Mr Strawbs for the additional recommendations



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