As anyone paying attention is likely to know, the LGBTQ+ community has been integral to the performing arts for all of history, even the members of the entertainment industry were at times reluctant to admit it. Back in the days of the Hays Code from the 1930s to the ’60s, movies that depicted same-sex love interests were censored by studios. Even today, movies that feature gay sex or LGBTQ+ characters are typically rated more strictly than movies with straight characters.
Given the stigma around showing LGBTQ+ content on the silver screen, it makes sense that celebrities who identify as being LGBTQ+ haven’t always been able to speak freely about their status. It wasn’t too long ago that the entertainment industry took every conceivable measure to keep the sexual orientation of its foremost stars under wraps. Look no further than Old Hollywood actor Rock Hudson, whose homosexuality remained a tightly guarded secret during the height of his fame.
Thankfully, many of today’s LGBTQ+ celebrities aren’t overly pressured into keeping their status a secret. Likewise, both the entertainment industry and society have made strides since the heyday of Rock Hudson, at least in terms of how both those entities approach and accept one’s sexual identity. This increased visibility of LGBTQ+ celebrities matters. Celebrities speaking openly about their identity and experiences can help destigmatize LGBTQ+ identities and boost the self-esteem of LGBTQ+ people by allowing them to see that there are successful people out there who are like them.
Although there is still quite a way for civilization to go when it comes to inclusion of LGBTQ+ individuals, it’s becoming more and more apparent that a celebrity’s sexual orientation is not necessarily the career detriment it may have been in the past—in fact, now more than ever celebrities are speaking up for LGBTQ+ communities and becoming celebrated advocates for them. Just look at Billy Eichner vying for more overtly gay characters in TV and film. Or Lil Nas X, who has become an LGBTQ+ icon, even though just two years ago he was completely closeted with no plans to ever change that.
Stacker is highlighting 50 celebrities—in no particular order—and their contributions to the entertainment industry.
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