18 More Classic Literature Characters Who Will Bamboozle You With Their Gay Gayness

I can’t say I’ve ever time traveled to Prince Edward Island circa 1908 to ask Lucy Maud Montgomery if Anne Shirley is bisexual. Neither have I used a Literatec to transport myself into the fictional realm of Green Gables. And while I have stood in front of Jane Austen’s former home in Bath — 25 Gay St., in fact — I have not had the distinct pleasure of sitting down with her over tea to make sport of our neighbors and discuss the evolution of the word “queer” and Charlotte Lucas’ place within that conceptual flowering. There’s probably some super straight-person reason Harper Lee never married, and Daphne du Maurier definitely wrote those love letters to Gertrude Lawrence and Ellen Doubleday to practice her penmanship. What can any of us know, really, about anything, what with time being finite and language shifting beneath our feet like some kind of jargon earthquake. What’s a kiss, you know?

Anyway, here are 18 more classic literary characters who are queer, whatever that means.


Charlotte Lucas, Pride and Prejudice

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Without thinking highly either of men or of matrimony, marriage had always been her object; it was the only honourable provision for well-educated young women of small fortune, and however uncertain of giving happiness, must be their pleasantest preservative from want.

“I am not romantic, you know; I never was. I ask only a comfortable home; and considering Mr. Collins’s character, connections, and situation in life, I am convinced that my chance of happiness with him is as fair as most people can boast on entering the marriage state.”


Corporal Fife, The Thin Red Line

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What could a guy do? Nothing, that was what … Unless guys helped each other out now and then. It was either that, or find yourself a queer cook or baker someplace, or it was nothing. Guys could help each other out, Bead supposed.

“Well, what do you say?” he said cheerfully. “Shall we help each other out?” I’ll do it to you if you’ll do it to me.”

Bead, finding that he was not rebuffed, now became more confident in his voice and in his salesmanship. Apparently it made no difference to him and did not worry him that he was suggesting something homosexual … As he started to crawl over to Fife’s side of the little tent he stopped and said: “I just dont want you to think I’m no queer, or nothing like that.”


Scout Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird

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Aunt Alexandra was fanatical on the subject of my attire. I could not possibly hope to be a lady if I wore breeches; when I said I could do nothing in a dress, she said I wasn’t supposed to be doing things that required pants. Aunt Alexandra’s vision of my deportment involved playing with small stoves, tea sets, and wearing the Add-A-Pearl necklace she gave me when I was born; furthermore, I should be a ray of sunshine in my father’s lonely life.


Frankie Addams, The Member of the Wedding

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“She was afraid of these things that made her suddenly wonder who she was, and what she was going to be in the world, and why she was standing at that minute, seeing a light, or listening, or staring up into the sky: alone.”


Jane Eyre, Jane Eyre

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The refreshing meal, the brilliant fire, the presence and kindness of her beloved instructress, or, perhaps, more than all these, something in her own unique mind, had roused her powers within her … [Helen] suddenly acquired a beauty more singular than that of Miss Temple’s—a beauty neither of fine color nor long eyelash, nor pencilled brow, but of meaning, of movement, of radiance.


Paul Varjak, Breakfast at Tiffany’s

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Breakfast at Tiffany’s screenwriter George Axelrod:

“Nothing really happened in the book. All we had was this glorious girl—a perfect part for Audrey Hepburn. What we had to do was devise a story, get a central romantic relationship, and make the hero a red-blooded heterosexual.”


Ruth and Idgie, Fried Green Tomatoes

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“It’s funny, most people can be around someone and they gradually begin to love them and never know exactly when it happened; but Ruth knew the very second it happened to her. When Idgie had grinned at her and tried to hand her that jar of honey, all these feelings that she had been trying to hold back came flooding through her, and it was at that second in time that she knew she loved Idgie with all her heart.”


Mrs. Danvers, Rebecca

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“Sometimes, when I walk along the corridor here, I fancy I hear her just behind me. That quick, light footstep. I could not mistake it anywhere…It’s almost as though I catch the sound of her dress sweeping the stairs as she comes down to dinner. Do you think she can see us, talking to one another now? Do you think the dead come back and watch the living?”

She took the nightdress from the case and held it before me. “Feel it, hold it,” she said, “how soft and light it is, isn’t it? I haven’t washed it since she wore it for the last time. I put it out like this, and the dressing gown and slippers, just as I put them out for her the night she never came back, the night she was drowned.” She folded up the nightgown and put it back in the case. “I did everything for her, you know,” she said, taking my arm again, leading me to the dressing gown and slippers. “We tried maid after maid but not one of them suited. ‘You maid me better than anyone, Danny,’ she used to say, ‘I won’t have anyone but you.'”


Jo March, Little Women

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Don’t laugh at the spinsters, dear girls, for often very tender, tragic romances are hidden away in the hearts that beat so quietly under the sober gowns, and many silent sacrifices of youth, health, ambition, love itself, make the faded faces beautiful in God’s sight. Even the sad, sour sisters should be kindly dealt with, because they have missed the sweetest part of life, if for no other reason.


Alice, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through The Looking-Glass

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Come, hearken then, ere voice of dread, With bitter tidings laden,
Shall summon to unwelcome bed
A melancholy maiden!


Colin, The Secret Garden

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“Am I queer? I don’t want to be queer.”

“He’s a sort of animal charmer and I am a boy animal.”


Ruth and Naomi, The Book of Ruth, of the Bible

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But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.”


David and Jonathan, also of the Bible

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It came to pass, when he [David] had made an end of speaking with Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul …Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul.

Very pleasant hast thou been unto me: thy love to me
was wonderful, passing the love of women.


Nick Carraway, The Great Gatsby

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He smiled understandingly — much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you might come across four or five times in your life. It faced — or seemed to face — the whole external world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself, and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey.

Holden Caulfield, The Catcher in the Rye

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Holden on ladies:

“I know you’re supposed to feel pretty sexy when somebody gets up and pulls their dress over their head, but I didn’t.”

Holden on dudes:

“He always walked around in his bare torso because he thought he had a damn good build. He did, too. I have to admit it … I was only horsing around, naturally. That stuff gives me a bang sometimes.”

Heather Hogan is an Autostraddle managing editor who lives in New York City with her partner, Stacy, and their cackle of rescued pets. She's a member of the Television Critics Association, the Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer critic. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Heather has written 902 articles for us.

117 Comments

  1. Honestly couldn’t stop laughing from joy. You rock, AS.

    Also, I just directed a high school queer interpretation of the play Little Women and cast Bhaer as a woman. It was stunning.

  2. I love that you included The Secret Garden. It was one of my favorite books in fourth grade and the first time I remember hearing the word ‘queer’. It sounded like such a wonderful thing, me taking the meaning to mean “strange and beautiful in your own way”. It wasn’t until seventh grade that I overheard one kid explaining to another that it meant you were gay, like homosexual gay, and them proceeding to call each other queer back and forth as they walked down the stairs teasing each other. It was definitely friendly teasing but they also definitely intended ‘queer’ to be an insult. I was very confused and indignant. Anyway, I loved The Secret Garden.

    • I just posted an excerpt from “An Old-Fashioned Girl”, and then scrolled up and saw your comment! You’re way ahead 🙂 ~ glad to know I’m not alone in having day-dreamed about that scene.

    • YES. Tacy Kelly. In one of the high school books Betsy asks her why she doesn’t like flirting with guys, and Tacy says she does like guys but she’s shy so she never knows what to say to them. It stuck with me because that was the only moment I didn’t identify with her. All that quote means to me though is that Tacy’s disinterest in guys was notable enough that Lovelace felt she needed to address it.

      Haven’t read the other two, but now I’ll have to 🙂

  3. Heather I swear, one of these days I’m gonna write you a sonnet.

    Also the fact that Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhal can never play Jonathan and David is the greatest tragedy of all my days.

  4. Oh wow, this is the kind of quality content I am here for. I am always 100% reporting for duty on the good ship “Everyone Is Queer, Yes Everyone, Yup That One Too, EVERYONE.” 😀

    I knew this article would fill me with utter joy, and it really did — I actually cackled with glee when I came to the pic of Clark and Lexa.

  5. It never occurred to me that Ruth and Idgie were not queer. Kinda ambiguous with a veneer of plausible deniability, but definitely went in thinking it was a Gay TM book and was not disappointed.

    • Although I love the actors in the film adaptation, I hope they remake it again with the true nature of Ruth and Idgie’s relationship at the centre of it. How can it not be? It’s such a beautiful love story.

  6. This little queer girl grew up in libraries and bookstores and buried in the scholastic book order. I read at the table. I read in the grocery store. I read in bed on Sunday mornings until my parents stuck their head in to make sure I was all right.

    I was an only child. My friends and idols and siblings were Ramona Quimby and Kristy Thomas and kit Tyler and Harriet the spy and Anne Shirley and Jo March and Elizabeth Bennett and Dicey Tillerman and Jane Eyre and a host of other women who got shit done, who were themselves in the faces of every force telling them not to be, who had deep and enduring friendships more powerful than any bond with potential husbands. They were all queer. They are all queer. They were my mothers and my first loves. They were as brave as I ever wanted to be, some day, when I was ready.

    This is what reading does for us. This is why no silly straight person can take these women away from us. These women are my coven, my squad, and yeah, they’re all queer as fuck. ???

  7. Also, from “An Old-Fashioned Girl” by Louisa May Alcott:

    “Becky and she live together and take care of one another in true Damon and Pythias style. This studio is their home,- they work, eat, sleep and live here, going halves in everything. They are all alone in the world, but as happy and independent as birds; real friends, whom nothing will part.”
    “Let a lover come between them, and their friendship won’t last long,” said Fanny.
    “I think it will. Take a look at them, and you’ll change your mind,” answered Polly…”

    I love the fact that she even put in a troll rebuttal!

    It continues with the sculptor, Becky, deciding what symbol to add to her strong female sculpture, and saying no to a man’s hand, a baby, and a sceptre (because …”the kingdom given them isn’t worth ruling”), but settling on a ballot box.

    And then “Bess and Becky hugged one another”, possibly with their legs.

  8. Also, I know it’s not technically “classic literature” yet (BUT IT WILL BE)

    But……

    *Spoiler alert for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child*

    Albus and Scorpius really should be added to this list. Because come ON.

    • I spent that entire book being so confused about whether the Albus/Scorpius dynamic was written as homophobia or average straight kids who are friends or just teenagers awkwardly figuring out their attraction to each other! I really wanted them to just be in love but I was also VERY annoyed with JK Rowling for still not having the guts to explicitly make a character (or two) gay if that is what she intended, you know? I’m mad at JK Rowling for a lot of reasons right now though so I will stop now.

      • I’ve not read it, but my mum has, and she was really annoyed at that. She felt like it was weirdly incomprehensibly unnecessary gaybaiting. Like–declaring Dumbledore is gay, after the fact, with no textual indications, then setting up this attraction between two boys before summarily dismissing it. Not cool.

        • Yeah. Although, I do think Dumbledore was written as subtly gay. In the US “translation”, one of the first times if not THE first time he’s described, the word “flamboyant” is used, which is usually code for gay. He is also described wearing high heels and purple. His relationship with Grindelwald can be read as a tragic love story. My problem there is that the contextual evidence for a gay reading of Dumbledore is too subtle. Wearing high heels and wearing purple don’t have to mean gay; that can be read as just further evidence of Dumbledore’s eccentricity, for example. If JK Rowling wanted Dumbledore to be gay, she should have explicitly written it as such. Stating it after the fact doesn’t make it official canon.

    • Yes! I used to buy them at the local thrift store for like a quarter each. I absolutely ship Trixie/ Honey (I tend to ship a lot of these smart girl / pretty girl friendships – Anne/Diana, Betty/Veronica etc).

      Trixie also dated Honey’s brother Jim, which some would say is proof she’s not queer, but I see as a classic queer teenage girl move. Maybe because I was involved in a similar love triangle in high school. My brother dated a friend of mine that I had a huge secret crush on (it was so secret that 15 yo me had no idea that it was actually a crush). Years later, she and I both came out (independently) as bi. And it turns out she legit was into my brother but she also had a crush on me too.

    • YES. I loved Honey and Trixie so much. I was just thinking back not that long ago on how gay their friendship (and my love for it) was. Some of my earliest attempts at fiction writing were essentially thinly disguised fanfiction about them lmao.

  9. Now I should be working but I’m trapped in a reverie, visiting worlds I haven’t thought about in a long time. READING IS RAD. And there is NOTHING like reading when you’re a kid, and the words can fill you up, how real it all is, how vividly you can connect to those people, that magic.

  10. Famous Five – George
    Malory Towers – Darryl

    Enid Blyton herself was not straight (an affair with another woman was cited as a reason for her divorce).

    Not that I would recommend her work though, due to the blatant racism etc. But they were characters I grew up with and was fascinated by.

  11. In high school I once spent an afternoon with a friend trying to determine Holden’s orientation(s). Despite limited information we eventually settled on demiheteroromantic homosexual!

  12. Mrs. Dalloway!
    “But this question of love…this falling in love with women. Take Sally Seton; her relation in the old days with Sally Seton. Had not that, after all, been love?”
    …”She and Sally fell a little behind. Then came the most exquisite moment of her whole life passing a stone urn with flowers in it. Sally stopped; picked a flower; kissed her on the lips. The whole world might have turned upside down! The others disappeared; there she was alone with Sally.”

  13. But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.”

    aaaahhhhhhhhhhh can these just be my future gay wedding vows

  14. Mind blown.

    I read To Kill a Mockingbird, The Great Gatsby and Catcher in the Rye in school and COMPLETELY missed the queer subtext – possibly because if 15 yo me consciously noticed the queer subtext in the books I was reading, I might have noticed the queer subtext in my life, and I was not ready for that.


  15. “The Color Purple”
    <3
    The Jane Eyre quote really made my heart grow wide and it ached for Mrs.Danvers, as it always does.
    Very well chosen quotes and characters!
    I did put "A Fine Line" onto my reading list!

    P.S.:Anyone familiar with "Giovanni's Room"?
    I love that book so much!

    • Right? I remember the first time reading The Great Gatsby and thinking Jordan was gay. I was all excited because I thought there was going to be an actual lesbian character in a book. It was the 80’s. I was crushed when I read through the book in anticipation just to be let down.

    • So technically, Naomi was Ruth’s mother-in-law…when Naomi’s husband and two sons died, she told her daughters-in-law to go back to their families. Ruth decided to stay with her (hence the “Your people will be my people and your God my God” speech). She’s considered the first convert to Judaism. Whether she was also a convert to lesbianism is a matter of interpretation 🙂

      • Some time ago, a friend told me I should take a look at the language used on Genesis 2:24 and Ruth 1:14, particularly at one Hebrew word: “dabaq” (clung/hold). The same word is used in both verses and we all know that Adam wasn’t talking friendship on Genesis.

        Genesis 2:24: Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

        Ruth 1:14: At this they wept aloud again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, but Ruth clung to her.

    • I’m pretty sure Ruth was married to Naomi’s son, who died, so Naomi was her mother-in-law. My problem with them as a gay couple is that Naomi practically pimps Ruth out to Boaz, who eventually marries her.

      • Ruth’s Marriage to Boaz was a matter of survival. As widows, Ruth and Naomi could neither earn wages nor own land. The only source of food they had were meagre scraps they could glean from crop fields after the farmers had already picked the land clean whilst bringing in the harvest. They were living on the streets and starving to death– a common fate for widows during this time who did not have any sons or birth family to live with after the death of her husband. This is why caring for widows is a value expressed commonly throughout the bible.

        The only way to save their own lives would be by gaining a husband (i.e. food, shelter, income, safety). It would have been much less likely for Naomi to have gained a husband as she was probably no longer of child bearing age and would not be able to provide any heirs– a real deal breaker back then. Ruth on the other hand was much younger and fertile. So it was either get Ruth married or starve to death in the streets.
        So yes, while Naomi did push Ruth onto Boaz, and while, yes, Ruth did go on to marry Boaz, It doesn’t really hold up that this marriage disproves Ruth and Naomi’s queerness. Infact, when Ruth Married Boaz she stipulated that they care and provide for Ruth as a member of the family. It also seems pretty obvious that the relationship was recognized in their village as something deeper than friendship once you consider that when Ruth gave birth to her first child by Boaz, a son, he was not thought of amongst the villagers as “Son of Boaz” but instead referred to as “Son of Naomi.” That right there speaks volumes.

  16. I’m not sure about this one because maybe I’m basing my fellings on the 1959 movie, but what about Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (Lee Wallace, 1880). The last time I read it it was totally gay.

    And yes, Charlton Heston, you did played a gay man; for that little detail I’m eternally grateful to Gore Vidal.

  17. This makes me wonder if AS should make everyone pay a quarter or something before being allowed to comment for the first time… nothing prohibitive but it would probably reduce the trolling.

  18. I was always soooo confused about why Elizabeth and Charlotte didn’t just marry each other. I guess then the story would have been like “they read a lot of books and drank a lot of tea and maybe opened a school so they could get money” and that wouldn’t have been as exciting . . .

  19. The Ruth quote was one of the readings at my grandfather’s funeral to describe my grandfathers’ deeply codependent, Jewish/Christian marriage, so at least one member of the religious establishment agrees it’s very, very gay.

    • My great-grandparents had it on their marriage license, she moved from Germany to marry him after his first wife died. They had gotten to know each other during a previous visit since he was the minister of the Lutheran church she attended during the visit. When he wrote her to ask her to come marry him, she responded with that quote. They named their first child, my grandmother, Ruth. That was 1913. So it must have been considered a statement of real love and devotion for a long time…but I doubt they considered it gay.

      My wife also used it when she proposed to me. I think she did consider it gay 😉

  20. Have you read The Count of Monte-Cristo? Eugenie Danglars is awesome.

    For more obscure examples of French Classic literature, try Paul Feval’s Blackcoats series and observe Echolat and Simolor raising a baby together and being repeatedly compared to Orestes an Plyades.

    As far as Feval’s Bel Demonio goes (an abridged English translation exists called “Woman of Mystery” there is something potential Queer there, but is probably still problematic.

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