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.
On November 6, 2012, Tammy Baldwin made history by becoming the first openly gay person elected to the United States Senate. In addition, a record six openly glbtq candidates were elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.
By defeating former Governor Tommy Thompson to win election to the U.S. Senate, Tammy Baldwin became the first openly gay person to be elected to the Senate. In addition, the seven-term Congresswoman became the first woman to serve as U.S. Senator from Wisconsin.
Six other glbtq candidates were elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, doubling the number of openly gay members of Congress.
Representative Jared Polis of Colorado easily won re-election to the seat he won in 2008, when he became the first openly gay man elected to Congress as a freshman. When he and his partner Marlon Reis announced the birth of their son in 2011, Polis became the first openly gay father to serve in Congress.
In a somewhat more difficult race, David Cicilline of Rhode Island won re-election to the seat he won in 2010.
Targeted by Republicans who believed they had their best shot in two decades at winning a U.S. House seat from the heavily Democratic state, Cicilline was repeatedly smeared by attack ads in an ugly three-way contest. However, he defeated his chief opponent, Brendan Doherty, by a 52-42 margin to win re-election.
As expected, Mark Pocan, a seven-term member of the Wisconsin Assembly, won election to the U.S. House of Representatives from the state's Second U.S. Congressional District. He succeeds Tammy Baldwin in the seat she vacated to run for the U.S. Senate.
In a highly competitive race, Sean Patrick Maloney defeated incumbent U.S. Representative Nan Hayworth to win New York's 18th Congressional District in the Lower Hudson Valley. He becomes the first openly gay Congressman from New York.
Maloney, an attorney who served as a top aide to President Bill Clinton and former New York governors Eliot Spitzer and David Paterson, ran for New York state attorney general in 2006, the first openly gay man to make such a bid. He was endorsed by the Human Rights Campaign and the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, while his opponent was endorsed by the Log Cabin Republicans.
Maloney is raising three children with his partner of 20 years, designer Randy Florke.
Mark Takano, a progressive Democrat supported by a broad coalition of diverse groups, will be the first openly glbtq person of color to serve in Congress. He defeated his Republican rival, Riverside County Supervisor John Tavaglione, to win California's newly created 41st Congressional District.
The Japanese-American teacher who has served as an advisor to his school's gay-straight alliance also becomes the first out member of California's Congressional delegation.
In an extremely close and bitter race, Krysten Sinema, a former state lawmaker, leads by a narrow margin over Vernon Parker, a former Paradise Valley mayor, in Arizona's 9th Congressional District.
If Sinema's margin holds up, she will become the first openly bisexual member of Congress.
In a Congressional race that gained national attention, openly gay Republican Richard Tisei lost his bid to unseat Massachusetts Representative John Tierney, a Democrat with an impeccable pro-gay voting record.
Representative Barney Frank, who is retiring from Congress, sharply criticized the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund for its endorsement of Tisei, describing the organization's strategy of "blanket support" for gay candidates a "cultural lag."
In another race that attracted national attention, San Diego City Councilman Carl DeMaio lost his bid to become the first openly gay Republican mayor of a large city. He was defeated by a pro-gay Democrat, Bob Filner, for Mayor of San Diego. Many members of San Diego's sizable gay community supported Filner and criticized DeMaio because of his support by major donors to Proposition 8, the 2008 initiative that banned same-sex marriage in California.
In the video below, Senator-elect Tammy Baldwin addresses her supporters after her victory became apparent on Tuesday night.