1904 - 1986

It seems to me that the real clue to your sex orientation lies in your romantic feelings rather than in your sexual feelings. If you are really gay, you are able to fall in love with a man, not just enjoy having sex with him."

- Christopher Isherwood

Born the son of landed English gentry in 1904, Isherwood lost his father in WWI.  After prep school and college, he wrote the novel All the Conspirators (1928).  Unsure of his path he began studying medicine but took a break from school and headed to Berlin.  The sexual freedom for homosexuals and general avant-garde sensibility of Weimar Republic Germany proved very attractive, and it was there that he found his first boyfriend.  He completed the novel The Memorial (1932) and remained in Berlin until 1933 when the Nazis came to power.  Isherwood’s next two books, Mr. Norris Changes Trains and Goodbye to Berlin, reflected his experiences while in Germany.  The latter provided the basis for the play ‘I Am a Camera’ and its musical adaptation, the Tony- and Oscar-winning ‘Cabaret’.  A pacifist throughout the war, Isherwood migrated to the U.S. where he became a citizen in 1946.  Known for writing primarily about incidents in his own life with a lucid style, Isherwood was unique in an era when most gay writers were still shuffling pronouns.  Outspoken in the campaign to end discrimination against homosexuals, he made it the centerpiece of several of his books including Christopher and His Kind (1976) and A Single Man (1964) – the bittersweet story of a gay man coping with the loss of his partner in a world where his relationship and thus his grief are unrecognized.  Isherwood was interested in Hindu teachings – eventually collaborating with Swami Prabhavananda on a version of ‘Bhagavad-Gita’ – and remained a spiritual journeyman his entire life.  He met famed portrait artist Don Bachardy in 1953 and they began a life partnership that lasted for 33 years until Isherwood’s death from cancer at the age of 82.


Gender Male

Sexual Orientation Gay

Gender Identity Cisgender

Ethnicity Caucasian/White

Faith Construct Hindi

Nations Affiliated United States United Kingdom Germany

Era/Epoch Cold War (1945-1991) Information Age (1970-present) Interwar Period (1918-1939) Post-Stonewall Era (1974-1980) World War II (1939-1945)

Field(s) of Contribution


Social Justice

Commemorations & Honors

Memorial Plaque Affixed to Isherwood's House in Berlin's Schöneberg District


Original Biography Author
Victor Salvo
Biography Edited By
Owen Keehnen
Resources Coordination
Carrie Maxwell