16.-17. Cameron Esposito & Rhea Butcher
These stand-up comedians were married in late 2015, and they saw their careers jointly take off last year. Both released new albums—Esposito’s Marriage Material and Butcher’s Butcher—and they created and starred in the semi-autobiographical Seeso series Take My Wife. Separately, Esposito has done voice work on Adventure Time, and Butcher’s got a recurring role on Adam Ruins Everything. If 2016 was any indication, 2017 might just be the year of Camerhea. (We’re still working on the proper power couple name.) —M.K.
18. Amandla Stenberg
One of Hollywood’s most exciting young faces and queer voices is Amandla Stenberg. (Amandla means “power” in Zulu.) She came out as bisexual last year and is about to be in the films Everything, Everything and Darkest Minds. Both films promise to make her one of the year’s breakout actresses. She was also signed to a modeling agency and is considered a beauty role model for embracing her gorgeous, natural hair. —A.K.
19. Tarell Alvin McCraney
McCraney has written powerful works for the stage for many years now, but it is his drama school project In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue that thrust him into the spotlight. That play was the inspiration for the Golden Globe-winning film Moonlight that has captivated gay and straight audiences alike. He was just named the new chairman of the play-writing department at the Yale School of Drama. In an interview, he noted he feels “extreme responsibility” in taking on this new role. “We’ve seen the rise of more voices in theater and especially more voices that didn’t have access before,” he said. “But those voices aren’t centered. Those voices are still somehow marginalized.” —A.K.
20. Pedro Almodóvar
In 1980, Almodóvar’s first publicly acclaimed film, Pepi, Luci, Bom y Otras Chicas del Montón, premiered during the birth of the Spanish democracy. He went on to write and direct 21 other movies, including Todo Sobre Mi Madre and the very gay Los Amantes Pasajeros. He’s responsible for discovering star actors Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz, who won an Oscar nomination for her performance in Volver. Almodóvar was recently honored with a retrospective at MOMA in NYC, and his latest film, Julieta, will compete for an Oscar for Best Foreign Movie in February. Most of his films challenged conventional mores and transgressed sexual boundaries, though while he himself is openly gay, he does not see himself as a “gay filmmaker.” —C.M.
21. Ryan Raftery
Raftery made headlines in 2015 and 2016 when he famously embodied two beasts of pop culture—Vogue’s Anna Wintour and Bravo’s Andy Cohen—in separate comedic/biographic stage shows. While this New York-based talent is planning to revive his Wintour show at Philadelphia’s esteemed Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts next month, we’re most excited for the conclusion of his trilogy, The Rise and Fall (and Rise) of Martha Stewart, set for completion this year. Rumor has it that Gwyneth Paltrow and Snoop Dogg show up as supporting characters, and we can’t wait. —S.H.
22. Rafaela Silva
Silva had a big 2016: She won the gold medal for Brazil in Judo, and then publicly came out. Of course, her followers on social media already knew; she’d frequently posted photos with her partner of three years, Thamara Cezar. What’s next for the world champion? We don’t know for certain, but we’re pretty sure she can do whatever she wants. Who’s gonna stop her? —M.K.
23. Michael Henry
You’ve likely stumbled across one of this L.A.-based comedian/actor/writer’s videos on YouTube and nearly passed out from over-exhaustive hilarity. They’re typically the perfect blend of LOL humor and brilliant insight into what it means to be a gay man in our digital age. Expect a lot more of that in 2017, as Henry plans to launch a series called “The Journey of Being Likable.” And his subscribers need not fret: He’ll keep cranking out those gay YouTube vids, and (his words, not ours) “continue to beg men to kiss him on the lips.” Pucker up, guys. —S.H.
Comedian, author and now movie director, Oceanerosemarie is also a dedicated activist of LGBT rights. Her first show, La Lesbienne Invisible (The Invisible Lesbian) was an instant hit among the lesbian and gay community, and Oceanrosemarie was then invited on many radio shows. In the past she has raised some controversies among the LGBT community by taking a stand against Islamophobia and homonationalism, and in 2017 she will play a lesbian character in her first feature film, co-written and co-directed with Cyprien Vial, Embrasse Moi! —C.M.
25. Cakes da Killa
Following the trajectory from his early mixtapes to his official debut album, 2016’s Hedonism, this openly gay rapper is clearly on the rise. Between his clever lyrics and mainstream sound, Cakes da Killa is clearly one of the rising stars of the queer hip-hop scene. With his most recent video, “New Phone (Who Dis),” being hosted by [adult swim], Cakes da Killa is posed to become the first queer hip-hop superstar. —M.K.
26. Isaac Oliver
2017 is going to be an exciting year for Oliver—and his fans, too. He’ll be developing his (freakin’ hilarious) 2015 book of essays Intimacy Idiot into a television show, while also working on a second book. Earlier this month he wrote his very first piece for the New York Times—an 11-hour crawl of the city’s cultured New Year’s Eve offerings—and we’re hoping for more of that, too. Those in need of instant gratification, though, can catch Oliver in Manhattan next month, where he’ll be back at Joe’s Pub with Isaac Oliver Is Your Valentine. —S.H.
27. Kelly Mantle
Not slowed down by a first-episode elimination on the sixth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, following that cut, Mantle dove right back into acting, the profession this gender-fluid actor had been pursuing for years. Mantle’s latest achievement: securing a commitment from February’s Oscars that the annual awards would consider a nomination in both the female and male categories for a brilliant appearance in Confessions of a Womanizer. Here’s hoping Mantle serves up more acting for us in 2017. —M.B.
28. Ruby Rose
Everyone fell in love with Rose on the small screen in Orange is the New Black, but the androgynous actress has two major roles coming up in 2017 that will confirm she has the acting chops to take on bigger projects. She’ll play Adele Wolff in the Vin Diesel/Donnie Yen action movie xXx: Return of Xander Cage and assassin Ares in John Wick: Chapter 2. —A.K.
29. Nico Tortorella
He plays Josh on the TV Land series Younger, but most interviews conducted with Tortorella late last year were centered around how the 28-year-old actor defines his sexuality. Six months after coming out as “sexually fluid,” he claimed to identify as bisexual. “I’ve been so hesitant about using the word [bisexual] for so long, because it does have a negative connotation in our generation,” he told Vulture. “People fought for so long for that ‘B’ in LGBT, and I refuse to be the person that’s going to throw that away because I think I have a more colorful word.” 2017 will see him continue his podcast The Love Bomb, and word on the street is that he’s at work on a TV series tackling the themes of love, sex and relationships. We can’t wait. —S.H.
30. Mykki Blanco
The child of a paralegal and a psychic, Blanco started out as a character performed as a teen girl for YouTube. As fame grew, though, Blanco branched out with queercore and riot grrrl music, and Blanco recently came out as HIV-positive to spread awareness and wipe away stigma. Now the performer is considering branching out even further, toying with the idea of becoming an investigative journalist. —M.B.
31. Stephen Guarino
Our huge crush on Guarino is only going to be magnified in 2017, when we’ll be able to watch him on more than one channel. Look for him on the second season of ABC’s Dr. Ken, in a guest spot on Two Broke Girls next month and—what we’re most excited about—as zany stand-up comedian Sully Patterson on the Jim Carrey-produced I’m Dying Up Here, set to premiere June 4 on Showtime. Fans of The Big Gay Sketch Show—the Logo sketch comedy series that boosted the careers of Guarino, Kate McKinnon, Jonny McGovern and Julie Goldman, among others—will be excited to hear that Guarino is also eyeing a live tour showcasing his favorite characters from that series. Swoon. —S.H.
32. Orlando Cruz
The first professional boxer to come out while still working at the top of his field, Cruz represented Puerto Rico in the 2000 Sydney Olympics. That was the same year he debuted, and it would be another nine years before anyone was able to defeat him in the ring. When the National Gay and Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame was looking for their first round of inductees in 2013, he was at the top of their list, and here’s hoping he continues to fight—in the ring and for queer visibility in professional sports—throughout 2017. —M.B.
33. Chuck Tingle
Little is known about Tingle, the author of such classic works of homoerotica as Space Raptor Butt Invasion and My Ass is Haunted by the Gay Unicorn Colonel. Even more mysterious, his official author photo is most likely a stock image. His biography (“Tae Kwon Do grandmaster, PhD from DeVry University in holistic massage”) is probably fake, too. But what we do know is that this mysterious weirdo is wholly devoted to fighting void-monster Trump and proving that love is real, and we can’t wait to see what kind of surreal hijinks he gets into in 2017. —R.S. Benedict
34. Alexandra Grey
You might recognize Grey from her role as Elizah, the suicidal trans teenager in the groundbreaking Amazon drama series Transparent, but this 26-year-old transgender actress and singer also appeared last year in the CBS medical drama Code Black and played trans queer rights pioneer Marsha P. Johnson in the Stonewall episode of Drunk History. “I love playing trans characters, because I get to help share narratives that can bring an awareness about trans lives,” she once told GLAAD, adding that she’d also like to tackle some non-trans roles, too. In the coming year, you’ll see her appear in Dustin Lance Black’s LGBTQ rights miniseries When We Rise, and also Doubt, a CBS legal series starring Laverne Cox (number 40 on our list) as a featured character. —Daniel Villarreal
35. Juan Pablo Jaramillo
One of the most famous LGBT YouTubers in Latin America, Jaramillo’s coming out story back in 2014 helped many people and changed the atmosphere around queer subjects in many countries. This Colombian guy currently has more than 3 million subscribers, plus a book titled The Age of Truth (La Era de la Verdad). A big supporter of LGBT rights and marriage equality, we’re looking forward to what Jaramillo brings us in this new year. —R.P.
36. Sina Grace
X-Men fans are anxiously awaiting what’s in store for Bobby Drake, one of the team’s original superheroes (code name: Iceman) who we found out in 2015 is gay! Well, his comic book future couldn’t be in safer hands than those of Sina Grace, who will be writing the character’s ongoing solo title starting this spring. In addition to the X-title, Grace will be releasing a second season of his web series Self-Obsessed around March, plus a new graphic novel, Nothing Lasts Forever, that will be released by Image Comics. “It’s the happiest I’ve been with my work in a long time,” Grace tells us, and we can’t wait to wholeheartedly agree. —S.H.
37. Perfume Genius
While in some ways it’s great to see an album review discuss the art outside of the artist’s identity—making the work more appealing to the broader masses—to call Perfume Genius’ last album, Too Bright, anything but queer art is to strip the album of its core. From his music video for “Hood,” featuring the late Arpad Miklos—which was banned from YouTube for showing two men hugging (quelle horreur!)—to the cooing, sashaying, badassery of his latest string of music videos, Mike Hadreas is not hiding his sexuality. If there’s any way to sum up the beauty in the weirdness of the gay community, it’s through the work of Perfume Genius, and we look forward to a potential album drop this year. —Danny Addice
38. Christopher Rice
A bestselling author since the release of his debut, A Density of Souls, in 2000, Rice has quite an exciting 2017 in store for us. In mere days he’ll be announcing a top-secret project he’s been teasing on social media for a year, something he’ll only describe to us as “a novel I wrote with a top-secret collaborator with whom I have many, many, many things in common.” (He’s been using the clue #mumstheword. We wonder, who could it be?) In addition to his literary career, Rice will be continuing his popular podcast-turned-YouTube channel The Dinner Party Show with his best friend Eric Shaw Quinn, and we all squealed at the announcement late last year that he and mother Anne Rice would be developing a pilot script for a TV series based on her Vampire Chronicles. So much for sleep in the new year, huh? —S.H.
39. Rebecca Sugar
Rebecca Sugar, creator of our favorite cartoon ever, Steven Universe, came out as bi last year, so it shouldn’t be surprising that Steven Universe is actively fighting for queer acceptance. Between the recent episode “Last One Out of Beach City” where Pearl gets a girl’s number and The Answer, the faux-Little Golden Book about Ruby and Sapphire’s relationship, the most progressive cartoon on TV just got even better. —M.K.
40. Laverne Cox
There’s not much to say about Cox that hasn’t been said already. She’s achieved transgender icon status. She’s easily one of the most prominent trans women in America, let alone the world. From Rocky Horror to Orange Is the New Black, Cox dominated 2016. But what we’re really looking forward to in 2017 is her new CBS drama Doubt, which will be the first television series to ever feature a transgender series regular portraying a transgender character. —D.A.
41. Randy Rainbow
This election cycle has had a lot of breakout stars, and Rainbow is one of the viral sensations leading that pack. Election season may have given us Donald Trump in the Oval Office, but it also gave Rainbow a perfect platform. We hear he’s been in talks with various production companies and may have a book coming out this year, too, which means this Rainbow is here to stay. —A.K.
42. Naomi Nero
Brazilian writer-director Anna Muylaert’s new movie Don’t Call Me Son features Nero in the staring role, and Nero has been praised for his portrayal of “Pierre, a shaggy-haired bass player in a pop band who slips into casual, club-going hook-ups.” Out magazine writes, “In these ‘found’ moments, Muylaert gives insight into non-conformist behavior and society’s inevitable acceptance, while capturing changing cultural styles. Like the statuesque Naomi Nero, the social flux in Don’t Call Me Son cannot be ignored. This portrait of how human beings adapt makes Don’t Call Me Son altogether queer and trans and humanist.” — A.K.
43. Chris Mosier
Even if you just looked at his athletic achievements, Chris Mosier is impressive: He is, after all, a three-time Ironman Triathlete. But he’s not just a top-tier athlete; he’s also an educator, coach and trans activist who founded TransAthlete.com, a resource for including transgender people in sports. He’s also the first openly trans man to join a U.S. National team, and he got the International Olympic Committee to include transgender athletes. In short, he’s a true hero. —M.K.
44.-45. Lana & Lilly Wachowski
Lana and Lilly Wachowski most spring to mind for the Matrix trilogy, but that’s far from the only notable thing they’ve done. Bound, Sense8, Jupiter Ascending—the list goes on and on. Even flops like Speed Racer are visually inventive and astounding. Lilly Wachowski came out as trans last year—just like her sister—and while we love that she did, we hate that she was goaded into it by the Daily Mail. But honestly, after its Christmas special, we’re just super excited for Season 2 of Sense8, due May 5.—M.K.
46. Steve Grand
Grand’s last album came out in March 2015, and this year he plans to release his sophomore album, one that he has been working on for quite a while. “I think there is a lot of anger and tension within our society right now for a lot of reasons,” he told OutClique. “I think people are looking for something with a stillness to it. That is what I am working on right now, and I can’t wait to share it.” Neither can we! —A.K.
47. Alex Anwandter
Before 2016, this Chilean-born musician was best known for his 2011 solo track “¿Cómo Puedes Vivir Contigo Mismo?” (“How Can You Live With Yourself?”), a sassy pop anthem whose video showed real-life trans people and drag queens from Santiago slaying a local club. Then in 2016 he received two Latin Grammy nominations for Best New Artist for the album Amiga and Best Short Form Music Video for “Siempre Es Viernes En Mi Corazón” (“It’s Always Friday in My Heart”), a nightmarish liberation fantasy he directed. Anwandter continued exploring his passion for directing in You’ll Never Be Alone, a feature-length drama about a father dealing with his child’s gay-bashing that received rave reviews as well as the Teddy Award for best LGBT film at the Berlin International Film Festival. —D.V.
48. Young M.A
Young M.A’s “OOOUUU” was the brashly lesbian summer hit we all needed. While hip-hop has never had a shortage of sexually fluid females who can spit bars and run circles around their male counterparts, none have challenged gender as aggressively as Young M.A. If you don’t believe us, just check the thousands of fragile men commenting under her videos, who—for some reason—feel the need to ‘solve’ her gender. Young M.A also had one of the best freestyles at the 2016 BET Awards, and that was on top of BET cutting her cypher short. We’re hoping to see her debut album drop sometime in 2017 with even more savage, queer lyrics.—D.A.
49. Nicola Adams
At the end of last year, the news was all about how Orlando Cruz lost his bout to be the first openly gay world boxing champion. While that’s technically true—he was fighting for the World Boxing Organization—there is a gay world champion: Nicola Adams, who won the gold medal for the United Kingdom in Rio last year. Not just that, but she won both of her matches 3-0, and it wasn’t even the first time she got the gold. (That was London 2012.) She’s the only female boxer to have won every major title in women’s boxing, and she’s not done yet. —M.K.
50. Eliot Glazer
He may have a famous sister (Ilana Glazer of Broad City fame), but Eliot Glazer continues to make a name for himself outside of her shadow. His bi-coastal cabaret Haunting Renditions Live plays packed houses in New York City and Los Angeles, and as a classically trained vocalist-turned-comedian, Glazer takes some of pop music’s most infamous songs and turns them into highbrow, sweeping ballads. He will be back on Broad City later this year, with more solo projects not yet ready to be announced happening in tandem. —A.K.