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.
Astronaut Sally Ride, the first American woman to fly in space, died on July 23, 2012 at her home in San Diego of complications from pancreatic cancer. A physicist who flew on the shuttle Challenger in 1983 and on a second flight in 1984, Ride was fiercely protective of her private life and was not publicly out as a lesbian, but her relationship with her partner of 27 years, Tam O'Shaugnessy, was well known to friends and colleagues. She is survived by O'Shaughnessy, as well as by her mother, Joyce; a sister, Bear; and a niece and a nephew.
As Denise Grady reports in the New York Times, Dr. Ride was not only the first American woman to fly in space, but, at age 32, also the youngest American to do so. She was also the only person to sit on both panels investigating the catastrophic shuttle accidents of the Challenger in 1986 and the Columbia in 2003.
As a young woman Dr. Ride was a nationally ranked amateur tennis player who was advised by Billy Jean King to pursue a career as a professional. She did not accept that advice, choosing instead to pursue her interest in science. She earned a Ph.D. in astrophysics from Stanford University in 1978.
After retiring from NASA, she became a professor of physics and director of the California Space Institute at the University of California, San Diego.
She also worked tirelessly to interest young people, especially girls, in science, math and technology.
In 2001, she founded a company, Sally Ride Science, to "make science and engineering cool again" by providing science-oriented school programs, materials, and teacher training. Her partner Tam O'Shaughnessy, with whom she co-authored several books, is Professor Emerita of School Psychology at San Diego State University and serves as chief operating officer of Sally Ride Science.
Ride's sister Bear issued a statement regarding her public "outing" via her obituary, "I hope it makes it easier for kids growing up gay that they know that another one of their heroes was like them."
President Obama has issued a statement describing Dr. Ride as "a national hero and a powerful role model. She inspired generations of young girls to reach for the stars and later fought tirelessly to help them get there by advocating for a greater focus on science and math in our schools," he said. "Sally's life showed us that there are no limits to what we can achieve."
The video below profiles Sally Ride.