Many heads of state throughout the ancient world were openly LGBTQ. Ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, China, India, Asia Minor, and what’s now Italy all had LGBTQ leaders. But here are the first 5 openly LGBTQ heads of state in the modern world in chronological order:
The world’s very first LGBTQ head of state also happened to be the first female Prime Minister of Iceland.
Born in 1942, Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir served as Head of State from 2009-2012. She was also Iceland’s longest serving member of Parliament.
Surprisingly, she got her start as a flight attendant for Icelandic Airlines. In that role she became active in the trade union movement. Then in 1978 she was elected to parliament with the Social Democratic Party.
In 2010 under her leadership, Iceland was the first Western democratic government to ban strip clubs and employers profiting from employees’ nudity. She stated, “The Nordic countries are leading the way on women’s equality, recognizing women as equal citizens rather than commodities for sale.”
The move was widely praised as an important way to halt exploitation of workers. The most important gender issue, in Sigurðardóttir’s view is “to fight the pay gap between men and women.”
Sigurðardóttir was previously married to a man and is the mother of two sons. She is now married to a woman.
Elio Di Rupo
From 2011-2014, Elio Di Rupo served as Prime Minister of Belgium. His political affiliation is Socialist. Born in 1951, he’s the only person in his family to be born in Belgium. Italian by heritage, he is also the first non-ethnically Belgian to serve as head of state.
Like Sigurðardóttir, Di Rupo did not start out a politician, but came to politics after a stint as a chemistry professor.
In 1996, a major scandal broke in which Di Rupo’s fortunes were nearly ruined by accusations of hiring an underage male prostitute, but he was found not guilty.Find LGBTQ-Friendly Resources
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The Prime Minister of Luxembourg is Xavier Bettel. He was born on March 3, 1973. He has served since 2013, succeeding Jean-Claude Juncker, who went on to head the EU. Bettel belongs to the Democratic Party.
Following his re-election in 2018, he came out. Bettel has stated that in Luxembourg “people do not consider the fact of whether someone is gay or not.”
Previously, Bettel was Mayor of Luxembourg City. A lawyer by training, he hosted a weekly TV talk show for four years in the early 2000s.
An interesting footnote: Bettel’s mother is French of Russian descent, and he is a grand-niece of composer Sergei Rachmaninoff.
Leo Eric Varadkar
Leo Varadkar was born January 18, 1979. In 2017, he became Taoiseach (Prime Minister) of Ireland at age 38. Nonetheless, he is the 3rd youngest Taoiseach of Ireland. The youngest was only 31!
When he came out during the 2015 same-sex marriage referendum, he was the first Minister in Irish history to do so. Plus he is the first such Irish leader of Indian heritage.
His tenure in government has not been without controversy. Notably, as Minister for Health, he cut the mental health budget by a third. What’s more, as Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport he declared, “I don’t play sport.” He was also part of the government during the Garda whistle-blower scandal, which revealed police corruption. The scandal nearly collapsed his government while he was head of state.
However, he is not a career politician. Varadkar is a doctor by training.
On being gay, Varadkar has said, “It’s not something that defines me. I’m not a half-Indian politician, or a doctor politician or a gay politician for that matter. It’s just part of who I am, it doesn’t define me, it is part of my character I suppose.”
In 2017, Ana Brnabic became the first woman and the first openly LGBTQ person to hold the office of President of Serbia.
Born in 1975, she has an MBA and also served as Finance Minister of Serbia.
Notably, she is only the second female LGBTQ head of state ever.
In addition, in 2017, she became the first head of state of any Balkan country to attend a Gay Pride march.
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Last modified: September 13, 2019