The works of García Lorca, internationally recognized as Spain's most prominent lyric poet and dramatist of the twentieth century, are filled with thinly veiled homosexual motifs and themes.
There has always been homosexual involvement in American musical theatre and a homosexual sensibility even in straight musicals, and recently the Broadway musical has welcomed openly homosexual themes and situations.
Best known for his genius in art and architecture, Michelangelo was also an accomplished author of homoerotic poetry.
The African-American gay male literary tradition consists of a substantial body of texts and includes some of the most gifted writers of the twentieth century.
Combining elements of incongruity, theatricality, and exaggeration, camp is a form of humor that helps homosexuals cope with a hostile environment.
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.
James Baldwin, a pioneering figure in twentieth-century literature, wrote sustained and articulate challenges to American racism and mandatory heterosexuality.
Oscar Wilde is important both as an accomplished writer and as a symbolic figure who exemplified a way of being homosexual at a pivotal moment in the emergence of gay consciousness.
Nelson Mandela. Photograph by South Africa The Good News (CC BY 2.0).
On December 10, 2013, President Obama spoke at the memorial service for his great South African hero Nelson Mandela. Lauding Mandela as a "giant of history" who emerged as the "last great liberator of the twentieth century," Obama compared Mandela to Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. and presented him as both a man of action and a man of ideas. The President also used the occasion as a teachable moment, reminding the world-wide audience that "we still see children suffering from hunger, and disease; run-down schools, and few prospects for the future. Around the world today, men and women are still imprisoned for their political beliefs; and are still persecuted for what they look like, or how they worship, or who they love."
The speech was, as Scott Wilson of the Washington Post described it, "a celebration and a scolding."
The most moving part of the speech was when Obama celebrated Mandela's understanding of the ties that bind the human spirit. "There is a word in South Africa--Ubuntu--a word that captures Mandela's greatest gift: his recognition that we are all bound together in ways that are invisible to the eye; that there is a oneness to humanity; that we achieve ourselves by sharing ourselves with others, and caring for those around us."
The scolding came when the President observed that "There are too many people who happily embrace Madiba's legacy of racial reconciliation, but passionately resist even modest reforms that would challenge chronic poverty and growing inequality. There are too many leaders who claim solidarity with Madiba's struggle for freedom, but do not tolerate dissent from their own people. And there are too many of us on the sidelines, comfortable in complacency or cynicism when our voices must be heard."
One cannot read this scolding without thinking of how, despite the examples of President Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who have been great voices for tolerance and acceptance, Africa has become one of the most intolerant places in the world for glbtq people.
Hence, it is important to remember the contributions to gay rights made by President Mandela and other South African heroes.
As Tina Gianoulis observes in her glbtq.com entry on South Africa, the new South Africa that emerged under the leadership of Mandela owed much to the work of strong gay activists--including Tseko Simon Nkoli (1957-1998)--among the anti-apartheid freedom fighters. "This new Republic of South Africa, comprising nearly 50 million citizens, became the first nation in the world to be founded on a constitution that includes sexual orientation as a protected freedom."
Mandela was President of the African National Congress when it added a gay rights plank to its platform in 1993. Moreover, as Gianoulis notes, in his victory speech after his election as President of South Africa in 1994, Mandela "denounced prejudice and discrimination against gay men and lesbians."
Soon after becoming President, he appointed Edwin Cameron, an openly gay judge, to South Africa's High Court of Appeal.
In 2005, South Africa's Constitutional Court found that the denial of the rights of marriage to same-sex couples violated the country's constitution, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The Court did not specify a remedy, but gave Parliament until December 2006 to adopt legislation rectifying the injustice.
Despite opposition from church groups and traditional leaders, the Parliament adopted legislation that both created civil unions and legalized same-sex marriage. On December 1, 2006, South Africa became the fifth nation to legalize same-sex marriage.
A transcript of the President's speech may be found here.
Below is a video of President Obama's remarkable speech eulogizing Nelson Mandela.