IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

12 queer icons to channel this Halloween

From a legendary rock star to an iconic trans activist and a newly out cartoon character, here are a dozen unapologetically queer ideas for Halloween.
Freddie Mercury, Marlene Dietrich and RuPaul.
Freddie Mercury, Marlene Dietrich and RuPaul.Getty Images

Broadly speaking, there are two types of people in this world: those who plan their Halloween costume months in advance and those who throw on a pair of black ears every year and go as a “sexy cat.” And while we’re not passing judgment on those in the sexy animal camp, we wanted to offer a few last-minute costume options for those looking to expand their Halloween horizons.

However, please keep in mind that not every queer icon is the appropriate choice for every Halloween reveler, so consider what's respectful and use good judgment when choosing a costume — especially when it's inspired by a real person.

Without further ado, here is a selection of queer icons and pop culture favorites — in no particular order — whom you can channel for Halloween (a.k.a. "gay Christmas") without an excessive amount of preparation.

Freddie Mercury 

Freddie Mercury of Queen performs at Live Aid in 1985.
Freddie Mercury of Queen performs at Live Aid in 1985.Pete Still / Redferns

The late Queen frontman astounded audiences not only with his voice, but also with his fierce onstage looks. If you’re thinking about channeling this music legend on Halloween, you have a couple of options. If you’re in a pinch, you can simply throw on a pair of light-blue jeans, a white tank top, a fake mustache and a studded armband and matching belt. However, if you want to go for one of his more labor-intensive looks, may we suggest his iconic drag moment in the “I Want to Break Free” music video?

Greta from ‘A League of Their Own’

D'Arcy Carden in "A League of Their Own."
D'Arcy Carden in "A League of Their Own."Anne Marie Fox / Prime Video

Drama? Sports? Comedy? Romance? We are here for the (very queer) made-for-TV reboot of the classic 1992 film “A League of Their Own.” Deciding which Rockford Peach to dress up as for Halloween may seem like an impossible choice, but we’ve made the difficult decision for you: Greta. While her internal struggles may be complicated, her distinctive look doesn’t have to be: To execute the perfect Greta, red lipstick is a nonnegotiable, and then you’ll just need a red baseball cap, a white A-line midi dress, a red belt and matching knee socks. Oh, and don’t forget the 1940s curls (red, if possible)! Bonus points if you add a baseball bat or glove to the ensemble.

Marlene Dietrich 

Marlene Dietrich as Amy Jolly in the "Morocco."
Marlene Dietrich as Amy Jolly in "Morocco."Eugene Robert Richee / Getty Images

One of the original “bi-cons,” this German American actor took the film and fashion worlds by storm when she first appeared on the scene in the late 1920s and the early ‘30s. During her lengthy career, which spanned much of the 20th century, Dietrich was known for challenging gender norms during her on-screen and on-stage performances, where she could don a glamorous gown as easily as a tuxedo and top hat. For a relatively stress-free Halloween ensemble, throw on a tux, top hat, a pocket square and some fierce red lipstick.

RuPaul Charles

RuPaul hosts "Saturday Night Live" in 2020.
RuPaul hosts "Saturday Night Live" in 2020.Will Heath / NBC

Who better to dress up as for Halloween than the queen of costumes herself? You can go a couple of different routes with this — from full-on Glamazon drag, sporting a gown and a fabulous wig that reaches the high heavens to a more subdued look, with a colorful suit, bald cap, chunky glasses and an icy stare. Or (and this is our personal favorite) have a costume change in the middle of your Halloween escapades and "slay the house down boots" with a wicked Ru-veal. Because why not do both? It’s Halloween, after all!

Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde
Oscar Wilde (1854 - 1900). W. and D. Downey / Getty Images

Halloween could be an ideal opportunity to finally put your undergrad English major to work and show off your knowledge of 19th century literary figures. If this sounds like your cup of tea (pun intended), we humbly suggest Irish poet and playwright Oscar Wilde. Pulling off this look entails a dapper suit (bonus points if you can find one inspired by the late Victorian era) and a green carnation for your lapel. For the opening night of his play “Lady Windermere’s Fan” in 1892, Wilde and a group of his gay friends all sported green carnations. From then on, the green carnation became a subtle signal of male homosexuality. We love an accessory with meaning! And if it’s cold where you are, throw on a fur-collared coat. Mr. Wilde would most certainly approve.

Marsha P. Johnson

A photo of Marsha P. Johnson on display at the Young Vic in London in 2020.
A photo of Marsha P. Johnson on display at the Young Vic in London in 2020. John Phillips / Getty Images

If you feel inspired to take to the streets this Halloween and use your costume as an opportunity to honor one of the most iconic trans icons of the 20th century, look no further than Marsha P. Johnson. Known for her larger-than-life personality and smile, as well as her fierce devotion to the LGBTQ community, Johnson — who died in 1992 under suspicious circumstances — is best known for her contributions to the 1969 Stonewall uprising and co-founding (alongside fellow trans pioneer Sylvia Rivera) the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, a political collective that provided housing for queer youth and sex workers in lower Manhattan. To channel this absolute legend, we suggest a massive flower crown, bright red lipstick and a long gown of your choosing (preferably in pink, if you have one).

Velma from ‘Scooby Doo’  

Coco Diablo and Velma Dinkley in "Trick or Treat Scooby-Doo!"
Coco Diablo and Velma Dinkley in "Trick or Treat Scooby-Doo!"Warner Bros. Animation

It may have long been obvious to many close observers that Velma Dinkley, everyone’s favorite nerd-turned-sleuth, is a lesbian, but the most recent movie from the “Scooby-Doo” franchise, “Trick or Treat Scooby-Do!” left zero room for speculation. In a viral clip from the animated film, Dinkley is overcome with emotions when she meets eyes with costume designer Coco Diablo. As she blushes and trails off midsentence, Dinkley only has one word to say: “Jinkies!” To do Velma the justice she deserves, all you’ll need is an orange turtleneck, marching orange knee-high socks, a red miniskirt and her signature black coke-bottle glasses! Jeepers!

JoJo Siwa 

Nickelodeon's 2019 Kids' Choice Awards - Red Carpet
JoJo Siwa attends Nickelodeon's 2019 Kids' Choice Awards. Matt Winkelmeyer / Getty Images

When most people think of pop icons, usually Britney Spears and Madonna come to mind. And don’t get us wrong, they’re great, but do you really want to be one of eight Britney-inspired schoolgirls at the Halloween party again? This is where Ms. Siwa comes in. All you need are some neon clothes, glitter, anything rainbow and, of course, a giant bow for her signature high-side ponytail. But if girly JoJo isn’t your thing, you could also go for some of her more recent looks with her very cool-girl undercut, a pair of sweats and a muscle tee. The versatility!

Frida Kahlo 

Frida Kahlo
Frida Kahlo.Bettmann / Bettmann Archive

Like Marlene Dietrich, Frida Kahlo is another 20th century “bi-con.” The world-renowned Mexican painter worked from the 1920s to ‘50s and is best known for her self-portraits, which often included themes of nature and her Mexican and Indigenous heritage. To channel Ms. Kahlo this Halloween, you’ll need her signature unibrow (eyeliner or an eyebrow pencil should do the trick), a flower crown, red lipstick, a colorful blouse and a floor-length skirt. Bonus points if you affix a stuffed monkey to your shoulder!

Elton John

Elton John File Photos 1970's
Elton John performs in 1975 at Dodger Stadium. Chris Walter / WireImage

Now, this couldn’t be a list of queer icons without Elton John. We shouldn’t have to spell out who he is, and we’d assume if you’re reading this article, you’re probably familiar with gay iconography. But for those who somehow don’t know of him, he is a British singer-songwriter who has cranked out quite a few gay anthems. Ever heard of  “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart?” or “Rocket Man”? Or maybe you’re more familiar with “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” from “The Lion King. To execute this legend’s look, you’ll need oversized bedazzled sunglasses, white pants, a white jacket, a white top and, of course, white feathers to adorn your shoulders. However, if you happen to have a Dodger’s uniform lying around, throw some rhinestones on there, and you’ll be good to go.

Ryan Evans from 'High School Musical’

"High School Musical" In Concert - December 28, 2006
Ashley Tisdale and Lucas Grabeel perform in "High School Musical: The Concert" in 2006.Michael Tran Archive / FilmMagic

Even though Ryan Evans never officially came out over the course of the “High School Musical” franchise, his love of musical theater, impromptu dance numbers and color coordination make him at least an honorary member of the community. For this costume, you’ll need a fedora, a (preferably pastel) dress shirt, a tie matching the hat and, if you’re really feeling the fantasy, a color-coordinated sweater vest. Bonus points if you have a friend who dresses up as Sharpey.

Sally Ride

American astronaut Sally Ride at the Johnson Space Center in1983.
American astronaut Sally Ride at the Johnson Space Center in 1983. Interim Archives / Getty Images

A STEMinist and a queer icon? Yes, please! Sally Ride was the first American woman in space and helped pave the way for future female astronauts. She also, however, had to deal with a lot of ignorance along the way, like her male colleagues at NASA asking if they should send her with 100 tampons for a 14-day space voyage. (These were literal rocket scientists!) To honor this space pioneer on Halloween, you need either a blue jumpsuit with long sleeves or a blue long-sleeve button-down to tuck into a pair of blue pants. Once you have that situated, you can order fake NASA patches to iron on or make them yourself if you’re craftsy!

If you dress up as any of these queer icons and pop culture favorites for Halloween, tag @NBCOut on Twitter or Instagram in a costume photo!

Follow NBC Out on TwitterFacebook & Instagram.