Langston Hughes, whose literary legacy is enormous and varied, was closeted, but homosexuality was an important influence on his literary imagination, and many of his poems may be read as gay texts.
The writers of the Beat Generation, many of whom were gay or bisexual, endorsed gay rights as a part of their rebellion against inhibition and self-censorship.
The Comedy of Manners, which flourished on the Restoration stage, has been particularly amenable to twentieth-century gay male writers as a vehicle for social satire in both dramatic and nondramatic works.
Using his and his family's experiences, particularly his childhood in Raleigh, North Carolina, and his own wacky perspective on life, David Sedaris has become a world-famous humorist, comedian, writer, playwright, and radio personality.
From the great modernist writers of the 1920s and 1930s to the pulp writers of the 1950s to the lesbian writers of today, lesbian novelists have had a powerful impact on the lesbian community.
From its beginning, the nineteenth century in England had a purposeful homosexual literature of considerable bulk, both male and female, though it was fettered by oppression.
Persecuted for his homosexuality by the Castro government he had once championed, Cuban novelist, essayist, and poet Reinaldo Arenas challenged all types of ideological dogmatism.
Baudelaire was among the first French poets to include lesbians as subjects.
As we celebrate the national holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we must also remember the contributions of Bayard Rustin to the civil rights movement. One of the key African-American civil rights activists of the twentieth century, Rustin and his legacy were long obscured because of embarrassment over his homosexuality and early involvement in the Communist Party.
Rustin became known as one of the most brilliant tacticians of the civil rights movement, but his openness as a homosexual, and an arrest in California in 1953 for "lewd conduct," as well as his early membership in the Communist Party, made many see him as a liability. Nevertheless, he eventually became one of Dr. Martin Luther King's closest advisors. Arguably, it was Rustin who most deeply influenced King's understanding and use of nonviolent civil disobedience.
Adversaries of Dr. King within the civil rights movement were prepared to use Rustin's homosexuality against him. For example, in 1960, as Rustin prepared to help King lead protests outside of the Democractic National Convention, Congressman Adam Clayton Powell pressured King to call off the protest, threatening to accuse Rustin and King of having a homosexual affair.
King gave in to Powell, and Rustin resigned from King's staff. He was devastated by Powell's ruthlessness and by what he saw as King's betrayal, though he continued to advise the civil rights leader.
In 1963, however, Rustin was asked to organize the highly visible 1963 Civil Rights March on Washington. It was at this venue that King gave his famous "I Have a Dream" speech.
Although segregationist Senator Strom Thurmond attempted to discredit the 1963 march because it was organized by a "communist, draft dodger, and homosexual," Rustin remained active in the movement. He worked tirelessly to organize a number of successful protests, actions, and demonstrations.
In spite of his successes, however, Rustin never quite overcame the damage that had been done to his reputation, and in the late 1970s he was marginalized by the militants who assumed control of the civil rights movement.
In the clip below from Jeff Dupre's 1998 documentary Out of the Past, Rustin's role in the civil rights movement is discussed by both historians and fellow participants such as Congressman John Lewis.