Profiles of LGBT people, from the past and today – and celebrating their birthdays! All Birthdays →
Born in Brighton, England, Carpenter was raised in an upper-class naval family and educated at Brighton College and Cambridge. At first a lecturer and deacon for the Anglican Church, growing disillusionment led him to flee his privilege for a small country house to make sandals and write poetry and prose, much of it inspired by his idol Walt Whitman. An early visionary of socialism and gay liberation, Carpenter is best known for The Intermediate Sex (1908), a milestone collection of essays that was the first to portray homosexuality in a positive light, not as a medical or moral problem. The book inspired generations of same-sex loving individuals, including Harry Hay, who used the book’s perspective as inspiration to form the Mattachine Society in Los Angeles in 1950. Carpenter himself lived a remarkably open gay life with his lover George Merrill, who died in 1928, one year before Carpenter. The devoted couple was buried side by side.