Although few gay actors have been permitted the luxury of openness, many of them have challenged and helped reconfigure notions of masculinity and, to a lesser extent, of homosexuality.
Considering the unique set of problems facing lesbians who want to produce erotic art for the enjoyment of other lesbians, it is remarkable that so much lesbian erotica has been produced in so brief a time.
Lesbian actresses have played a significant role in Hollywood, but their contributions have rarely been recognized or spoken of openly; the "lavender marriage" is by no means a relic of the past.
Although American gay film icon Brad Davis has been described as "the first heterosexual actor to die of AIDS," he was widely known as bisexual within the entertainment community.
Long-distance swimmer and respected sports commentator has in more recent years spoken out on issues of glbtq rights.
The greatest dancer of his time, Rudolf Nureyev also gave the world a new and glamorous image of a sexually active gay man.
While nude depictions of women appear in most cultures, on both sides of the equator, and in rich variety, lesbian artists have been particularly resourceful in their use of the female nude.
Handsome, athletic, graceful, and charismatic, actor Errol Flynn was widely rumored to enjoy sexual relations with men as well as women.
In an email to Andrew Sullivan, published on July 1, 2012, Anderson Cooper has confirmed the rumors. Although his homosexuality has been an open secret for many years, he has now come out officially. "The fact is, I'm gay, always have been, always will be, and I couldn't be any more happy, comfortable with myself, and proud."
Sullivan and Cooper are long-time friends. In his Daily Dish column, Sullivan says that he was moved to write Cooper after reading a story in Entertainment Weekly last week about gay people in public life who come out in a matter-of-fact way.
"In many ways, it's a great development: we're evolved enough not to be gob-smacked when we find out someone's gay," Sullivan observes. "But it does matter nonetheless, it seems to me, that this is on the record. We still have pastors calling for the death of gay people, bullying incidents and suicides among gay kids, and one major political party dedicated to ending the basic civil right to marry the person you love."
When Sullivan asked him for his feedback on the subject, Cooper responded in a long email and gave Sullivan permission to publish it.
Cooper begins by explaining that he has attempted to maintain some level of privacy for both personal and professional reasons.
He says, "Since I started as a reporter in war zones 20 years ago, I've often found myself in some very dangerous places. For my safety and the safety of those I work with, I try to blend in as much as possible, and prefer to stick to my job of telling other people's stories, and not my own. I have found that sometimes the less an interview subject knows about me, the better I can safely and effectively do my job as a journalist."
He says a journalist's private issues should not affect his reporting. "As long as a journalist shows fairness and honesty in his or her work, their private life shouldn't matter. I've stuck to those principles for my entire professional career, even when I've been directly asked 'the gay question,' which happens occasionally. I did not address my sexual orientation in the memoir I wrote several years ago because it was a book focused on war, disasters, loss and survival. I didn't set out to write about other aspects of my life."
But, Cooper continues, "I've begun to consider whether the unintended outcomes of maintaining my privacy outweigh personal and professional principle. It's become clear to me that by remaining silent on certain aspects of my personal life for so long, I have given some the mistaken impression that I am trying to hide something--something that makes me uncomfortable, ashamed or even afraid. This is distressing because it is simply not true."
"I've also been reminded recently that while as a society we are moving toward greater inclusion and equality for all people, the tide of history only advances when people make themselves fully visible. There continue to be far too many incidences of bullying of young people, as well as discrimination and violence against people of all ages, based on their sexual orientation, and I believe there is value in making clear where I stand.
After disavowing any intention of becoming an activist, he declares forthrightly that he is gay, happy, proud, and that "I love, and I am loved."
He concludes by saying "I still consider myself a reserved person and I hope this doesn't mean an end to a small amount of personal space. But I do think visibility is important, more important than preserving my reporter's shield of privacy."
Cooper thus joins a handful of openly gay national television news anchors, commentators, and reporters. Among them are Thomas Roberts (MSNBC), Don Lemon (CNN), Rachel Maddow (MSNBC), Jason Bellini (CBS), Jonathan Capehart (MSNBC), John Yang (NBC), Jeffrey Kofman (ABC), Miguel Marquez (ABC), Manuel Gallegus (CBS), Steve Kmetko (E!), Richard Rodriguez (PBS), Jane Velez-Mitchell (CNN), and Dan Kloeffler (ABC), to say nothing of Pete Williams (NBC), who was outed in 1991 by Michelangelo Signorile, when Williams was a Pentagon spokesman charged with defending the ban on gays in the military. In addition, commentators such as Richard Socarides, Keith Boykin, David Mixner, Andrew Sullivan, Hillary Rosen, Wayne Besen, Dan Savage, and John Aravosis also frequently appear on various news channels.
The proliferation of openly gay journalists in newsrooms of the country has contributed palpably to the recent improvement in the representation of glbtq people by American news channels. News of the struggle for equal rights is now generally, if not invariably, presented straightforwardly and even sympathetically, sometimes by reporters and anchors who themselves identify as gay or lesbian and is often contextualized by gay commentators.
Welcome to the fold, Anderson Cooper!
In the video below, Cooper interviews a member of the congregation of a bigoted pastor.