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.
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.
Liberace was for many the epitome of flamboyant camp, yet he was also a gay man who steadfastly refused to acknowledge publicly his sexual identity.
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.
Although sparse in images documenting the gay community, pre-Stonewall gay male photography blurs the boundaries between art, erotica, and social history.
Many gay and lesbian artists who have defied the legal and social prohibitions against explicit or sympathetic depictions of homosexuality have seen their art censored or suppressed.
Handsome, athletic, graceful, and charismatic, actor Errol Flynn was widely rumored to enjoy sexual relations with men as well as women.
Kirk Murphy as a boy.
The family of Kirk Murphy, who as a four-year-old effeminate boy was subjected to reparative therapy at UCLA in the early 1970s and who later committed suicide, has issued a statement thanking Governor Jerry Brown and the California legislature for banning sexual orientation conversion therapy for minors in the golden state.
Maris Ehlers, the younger sister of Kirk Murphy, worked with Jim Burroway of BoxTurtleBulletin on bringing to light the tragic story of her brother in his investigation into the "Sissy Boy Experiments" conducted at UCLA in the 1970s.
Published in June 2011, Burroway's investigation, entitled "What Are Little Boys Made Of?", excavates the real story of Murphy, who committed suicide in 2003 at the age of 38. Far from having been "cured" of homosexuality as reparative therapists claimed, Murphy was tormented by the treatment he received as a child. A homosexual who was never able to form a lasting relationship with anyone, Murphy suffered depression and anxiety as a result of his experience.
In her statement issued on October 1, 2012, which may be found here, Ehlers writes: "I'm sure so many of you have wondered why we would have come forward and share such a painful story about our family in such a public way. It wasn't fun, it wasn't pleasant and it wasn't easy. It was gut wrenching, life-changing and terrifying to feel so vulnerable and exposed, and to put ourselves and those we love out in public to be judged."
"However, once we knew what had actually happened to our brother in those therapy rooms so long ago at UCLA, what had actually been done to the core of his soul, it was worse than when we actually lost him to suicide in 2003. It was far worse, because once we knew, we realized why, and that was almost more than we could bear. We knew his story had to be told, even at the expense of our own 'comfortable' lives, in the hopes that people would wake up and realize that the soul crushing things that had been done to him are still being done to children today, and he deserved to have us acknowledge what he endured, what was done, and how it affected his entire life."
"Our dream was that reparative therapy would be banned, but it seemed impossible. Today, however, that dream became a reality, even if only in California, and it means that youth that identify as LGBT have a layer of protection, in a world where they often have very little. Our goal must be that this law spread to every state in the union and beyond."
"Thank you to Governor Jerry Brown, for signing the law and making it official. Thank you to Senator Ted Lieu for authoring the bill, and for telling Kirk's story to the California senate."
Elhlers concludes, "Today is truly a day in which I feel that Kirk's life not only lives on, but that his life has now been used for good, to help save the lives of kids 'just like him,' instead of being used to torture, hurt and harm kids 'just like him.'"
The story of Kirk Murphy not only exposes the fraudulent claims of quacks who profess to cure homosexuality, but it also illustrates the lasting damage done by such therapy.
Burroway's investigation was the inspiration for a three-segment story featured on Anderson Cooper 360, called "Sissy Boy Experiments." Fittingly, both Burroway's investigative reporting and Cooper's broadcast were honored earlier this year with awards from the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association.
In the videos below Cooper reports on the "Sissy Boy Experiments."
In the following video, Jim Burroway discusses the case of Kirk Murphy and the reparative therapy movement with Anderson Cooper.