Who are the gay men who have made the world a better place?
Obviously, this isn’t an exhaustive list. But, each year, we induct a few of our heroes into the Hall of Fame of Means Happy’s Memorable Men.
We’ve consulted widely to determine which are the memorable men worthy of being inducted into the Hall of Fame, but ultimately the decision is ours to make.
The inductees are:
John Maynard Keynes
The gay man who founded macroeconomic theory.
Born: 5 June 1883
Died: 21 April 1946, aged 62. Keynes died of a heart attack.
Keynes went to school at Eton College, before studying mathematics at King’s College, Cambridge.
With the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, Keynes was appointed to a position in the Treasury. Recognised for the valuable work that he had contributed to management of the government’s finances during the war, Keynes was appointed financial representative for the Treasury to the 1919 Versailles peace conference.
During the post-war period, Keynes remained an influential voice on economic policy. In 1936, Keynes published what is probably his defining work — The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money. The General Theory is viewed as the foundation of modern macroeconomics.
Keynes was heavily involved in government policy during and after World War Two, helping to shape the establishment of both the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
A passionate supporter of the arts, Keynes was instrumental in establishing the Arts Council of Great Britain, becoming its founding chairman in 1946.
A key member of the collective of London intellectuals known as the Bloomsbury Group, Keynes didn’t conceal his sexuality. From 1901 to 1915, he kept diaries in which he recorded his numerous sexual encounters with men.
The gay man who fought for civil rights.
Born: 17 March 1912
Died: 24 August 1987, aged 75.
Rustin was raised by his maternal grandparents. His grandmother, Julia Rustin, was an active member of the NAACP. As a child, Rustin was involved in campaigns against the Jim Crow racial segregation laws.
In 1937, Rustin moved to Harlem where he was studying at City College of New York. During this period he became involved in efforts to defend and free the Scottsboro Boys — nine young black men in Alabama who were accused of raping two white women. Rustin subsequently became increasingly involved in campaigns focused on labour reform and segregation.
In 1942, as part of a campaign to desegregate interstate bus travel, Rustin boarded a bus in Louisville, bound for Nashville, and sat in the second row. Rustin refused to move to the back of the bus, as required by the laws of segregation. The bus was stopped by police and Rustin was arrested. Rustin was beaten by police but was released without any charges being laid.
Rustin became an early member of the newly formed Congress of Racial Equality — a pacifist organisation. In 1944, Rustin was convicted of violating the Selective Service Act — he refused to be conscripted into military service due to his pacifist beliefs. Rustin was imprisoned until 1946 in Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary. During his imprisonment, Rustin organised protests against the segregated dining facilities.
In 1947, Rustin and George Houser of the Congress of Racial Equality organised the first of the Freedom Rides to test the 1946 ruling of the US Supreme Court that banned racial discrimination in interstate travel as unconstitutional. During the journey, Rustin was arrested in North Carolina for violating racial segregation laws and served 22 days on a chain gang as punishment.
Rustin subsequently travelled to India to study the Ghandian movement’s techniques of non-violent civil resistance. He also met with leaders of independence movements in Ghana and Nigeria.
Rustin was arrested in Pasadena, California, in 1953 for sexual activity with another man in a parked car. Originally charged with vagrancy and lewd conduct, he pleaded guilty to a single, lesser charge of “sex perversion” as sodomy was officially referred to at that time in California. Rustin served 60 days in jail.
In 1956, Rustin began working with Martin Luther King Jr on the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which had been triggered by the arrest of Rosa Parks. Rustin advised King on non-violent civil resistance. Rustin and King worked together to establish the Southern Christian Leadership Conference — the SCLC. King was appointed president. Their goal was to form an organisation to coordinate and support non-violent direct action as a method of desegregating bus systems across the southern states of the US.
Rustin resigned from the SCLC in 1960, due to concerns raised about his conviction for homosexuality.
Rustin continued to be active in high profile civil rights campaigns — organising the March on Washington in 1963, and also the New York City School Boycott in 1964. Rustin remained active in a wide range of political campaigns throughout his life.
The gay man who changed the world with his words.
Born: 2 August 1924
Died: 1 December 1987, aged 63. The cause of death was stomach cancer.
Having grown up in Harlem, New York, Baldwin had shown an interest in writing from a young age. At the age of 24, he moved to France to live in Paris. One of his motivations for moving to Paris was to distance himself from the racial prejudice he experienced in America, but it was also an opportunity for him to explore his sexuality away from his family and the church.
As a writer and social commentator, Baldwin’s novels and plays explore personal dilemmas within the context of racial divides as well as the experience of gay men.
Baldwin remained in France for most of his life, building his reputation as an American writer but also an exile writer.
Baldwin’s second novel, Giovanni’s Room was written in 1956 and is perhaps his most-loved work. At the time of its publication, it was controversial because of its homoerotic content. Baldwin’s novel tells the story of David — a young American man whose girlfriend has gone to Spain to contemplate marriage. While alone in Paris, David begins an affair with an Italian man, Giovanni. The story is narrated by David during “the night which is leading me to the most terrible morning of my life…” when Giovanni will be executed. Giovanni’s Room is not just about the experience of gay men, but also explores themes of social alienation, identity, and questions of origin.
In the 1960s, Baldwin played an active role in the civil rights movement in America — appearing on television and delivering speeches on college campuses, as well as writing extensively.
Baldwin is widely recognised as one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. Beyond the power of his words, Baldwin fearlessly followed his own path changing the narrative of his own life, and then using his influence and reputation to help change the narrative in the lives of others.