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.
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.
Olympian Brian Orser, known for both his athleticism and artistry, led a resurgence of Canada as a force to be reckoned with in men's figure skating; after being outed in a palimony suit, he has become an advocate for glbtq rights.
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.
Handsome, athletic, graceful, and charismatic, actor Errol Flynn was widely rumored to enjoy sexual relations with men as well as women.
In nineteenth-century America men who loved other men often suffered from guilt, but artists such as Winslow Homer and Thomas Eakins celebrated male camaraderie and affection, while expatriate John Singer Sargent depicted the dandy, and photographs documented male friendships.
An artistic movement that grew out of Dadaism and flourished in Europe shortly after World War I, Surrealism embraced the idea that art was an expression of the subconscious.
The progress of the glbtq equal rights movement continues to be measured largely, though by no means exclusively, in terms of achieving marriage equality. Thus, it is not surprising that the biggest glbtq news stories of 2012 revolved around the question of equal marriage rights.
The number one glbtq news story of the year is President Obama's endorsement of same-sex marriage.
On May 9, 2012 the President evolved. The day after North Carolina voters enshrined anti-gay discrimination in their constitution and after Colorado Republican legislators killed a civil unions bill, the President of the United States endorsed marriage equality and immediately altered the momentum.
President Obama told Robin Roberts in a hastily arranged interview, "It is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married."
He said that although he has "stood on the side of broader equality I hesitated on gay marriage in part because I thought civil unions would be sufficient. But I have to tell you that over the course of several years, as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together, when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that 'don't ask, don't tell' is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point I've just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married."
From the President's evolution flowed a number of other important related news stories, including the endorsement of marriage equality by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the inclusion of a marriage equality plank in the 2012 Democratic Party Platform. Indeed, the Democratic National Convention not only adopted a platform that includes support for marriage equality and other glbtq-friendly policies, but the delegates and the speakers at the Convention again and again indicated their support for gay people and gay issues.
Marriage equality played a crucial element in the historic election of 2012 in which President Obama swept to victory partly as a result of his evolution on the issue, which energized his progressive base and stimulated record donations from the glbtq community.
The election of 2012 is the number two glbtq news story of 2012.
On November 6, 2012, voters in Maine, Maryland, and Washington state voted in favor of marriage equality, while voters in Minnesota rejected a ban on same-sex marriage, and voters in Iowa refused to recall a member of the state's supreme court because he joined the opinion that established marriage equality in the state. In addition to re-electing the first American President to endorse marriage equality while in office, voters also validated the equal love of gay and lesbian couples by reversing the long string of defeats at the ballot box.
In addition, Tammy Baldwin made history by becoming the first openly gay person elected to the United States Senate. She defeated former governor Tommy Thompson to win an open senate seat from Wisconsin. Moreover, six 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. David Cicilline of Rhode Island won re-election to the seat he won in 2010. 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, succeeding Tammy Baldwin in the seat she vacated to run for the U.S. Senate. Sean Patrick Maloney defeated incumbent U.S. Representative Nan Hayworth to win New York's 18th Congressional District in the Lower Hudson Valley. 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 won in California's newly created 41st Congressional District. Krysten Sinema, who was elected in Arizona's 9th Congressional District, will become the first openly bisexual member of Congress.
The election also brought unprecedented victories at the state level as well. A significant number of state legislatures will welcome their first openly glbtq lawmakers ever, including North Dakota, West Virginia, Florida, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, and Texas.
The number three glbtq news story of the year is the Appellate Court victories in which the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California's Proposition 8 were declared unconstitutional.
On December 7, 2012, the Supreme Court of the United States announced that it will consider cases challenging DOMA and Proposition 8. The Court is expected to hear oral arguments on the cases in March and issue decisions in June 2013. A sweeping decision by the Court could not only invalidate DOMA and Proposition 8, but also lead to marriage equality throughout the United States.
The number four glbtq news story of the year is the international movement toward marriage equality.
During the year Denmark became the eleventh country to legalize same-sex marriage nationally, and major steps were taken toward marriage equality in France, the United Kingdom, Mexico, Brazil, New Zealand, and Uruguay.
The number five glbtq news story of 2012 is the emergence of glbtq rights as an international human rights issue.
This story is epitomized by the historic speech delivered at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on March 7 by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who has eagerly signed on to the position recently articulated in the UN Human Rights Council by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that gay rights are human rights. The Secretary-General implored countries around the world to decriminalize same-sex relationships and end discrimination against glbtq people.
During the year a number of Western countries, including Canada, the United Kingdom, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and the Netherlands announced that respect for the human rights of glbtq people will be a factor in their decisions regarding foreign aid.
The number six glbtq news story of 2012 is the forceful condemnation of reparative or "conversion" therapy by the Pan-American Health Organization on May 17, 2012.
Also during the year, Dr. Robert Spitzer, the author of an influential 2001 study that lent some credibility to the reparative therapy movement formally renounced the study and apologized to the glbtq community. In addition, legislation that prohibits reparative therapy for minors in California was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown, who said, "This bill bans non-scientific 'therapies' that have driven young people to depression and suicide. These practices have no basis in science or medicine and they will now be relegated to the dustbin of quackery." The law was scheduled to go into effect in January, but it has been stayed pending a constitutional challenge.
The number seven glbtq news story of 2012 is the casual coming out of celebrities.
In 2012, a number of celebrities acknowledged their homosexuality in a notably low-key manner, often making clear that they were not closeted in their personal lives, just not out professionally.
Among those who came out this year were television news anchor Anderson Cooper, Good Morning America weather anchor Sam Champion, actors Matt Bomer and Jim Parsons, Olympian Megan Rapinoe, professional boxer Orlando Cruz, hip-hop artist Frank Ocean, and former owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates and media mogul Kevin McClatchy.
Perhaps the most important coming out of the year, however, was the posthumous coming out via her obituary of astronaut Sally Ride, the first American woman to fly in space, who 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.
The number eight glbtq news story of 2012 is the increasing pressure on the Boy Scouts of America to change its discriminatory policy regarding gay scouts and scoutmasters.
Despite a recent history of haphazard enforcement of its policy in a manner similar to the way the military enforced the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy in its last couple of years, the organization concluded in July that its ban "is absolutely the best policy for the organization." In response to the affirmation of the ban and some well-publicized incidents in which leaders were ousted and scouts denied their Eagle scout pins, hundreds of thousands of people signed petitions to end the discrimination. Perhaps more bitingly, a number of high-profile donors, including Intel and UPS, ended their support for the national organization while continuing to provide funding to local and regional scouting groups willing to adopt an inclusive policy.
The number nine glbtq news story of 2012 is the new leadership at two of the most prominent glbtq organizations, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).
In March Chad Griffin, Los Angeles-based political strategist and founder of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, which sponsors the legal challenge in federal court to California's Proposition 8, was tapped to lead the HRC. In April, Herndon Graddick, who had served as GLAAD's vice president of programs and communications, was elected president of the organization. Both Griffin and Graddick are expected to bring a more aggressive leadership to the groups, which have been criticized as having grown too cozy with the political and media establishments they are supposed to lobby and pressure.
To return to where we began, the number ten glbtq story of 2012 is same-sex marriage itself.
Perhaps the new marriage equality era was most concretely embodied by a number of high-profile weddings that took place in 2012. Among the gay and lesbian couples whose weddings made news in 2012 are the following: Daniel O'Donnell & John Banta; Stephany Lee & Brigg McDonald; Christine Quinn & Kim Catullo; Cynthia Nixon & Christine Marinoni; Joan Snyder & Margaret Cammer; Chris Hughes & Sean Eldridge; Jason Goldberg & Christian Schoenherr; Rosie O'Donnell & Michelle Rounds; Thomas Roberts & Patrick Abner; Paris Prince & Dr. Ravi Perry; Dan Savage & Terry Miller; Major Margaret Witt & Laurie Johnson; Colonel Margarethe Cammermeyer & Diane Divelbess; and Sam Champion & Rubem Robierb.
In the video below, Matt Baume of the American Foundation for Equal Rights recaps the year in marriage equality.