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.
Alan Sues. Video still courtesy Todd Lampe.
Comic actor Alan Sues died in Los Angeles on December 1, 2011, apparently as the result of a heart attack.
Sues gained fame as a member of the cast of the seminal comedy-sketch television show Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In. He joined the cast in 1968, its second season, and remained with the show until 1972, the year before it went off the air.
Laugh-In launched the careers of such television stars as Lily Tomlin, Goldie Hawn, Ruth Buzzi, Jo Anne Worley, and Flip Wilson.
On the show, Sues played a number of flamboyant characters, most of whom displayed stereotypically gay mannerisms. They included a hung-over children's entertainer; an effeminate sportscaster; and a drag impersonator of Jo Anne Worley.
Sues never officially came out during his period of fame, fearing that doing so would have ended his career. "It wasn't because he was ashamed of being gay; it was because he was surviving as a performer," his friend Michael Michaud told the New York Times.
Michaud added that Sues was an inspiration to many gay viewers. "Many gay men came up to him and said how important he was when they were young because he was the only gay man they could see on television," he said.
Sues, who had been trained as a dramatic actor, found himself typecast as an over-the-top comedian as a result of the success of Laugh-In.