Celebrities are notorious for trying to avoid the spotlight, a seemingly impossible task when some paparazzi can make their entire fortune on a single well-timed photo.
But what if your life in the fishbowl is further complicated by your sexuality? Many actors and musicians have hidden their real lives and spent an inordinate amount of energy living in the shadows, some very successfully.
Rock Hudson, Liberace, Anthony Perkins, Montgomery Clift, Roddy McDowell and even Freddy Mercury never officially found their way out of the shadows and they died at least partly “in the closet”. They sometimes led sheltered, reclusive lives often communicating through third parties. Some close relatives and devoted fans only found out about their real lives after their deaths.
There are some who have found relative freedom by stepping into the spotlight offstage and were surprised to find it did not preclude or significantly affect their lives onstage.
Some are the contemporaries of those listed above. Rip Taylor, Ian McKellen, and Lily Tomlin expertly lived with their secrets while in show business throughout the toughest years of bigotry and homophobia-the sixties and seventies when the Stonewall Riots (in which several staff members and some customers of The Stonewall Inn, a known gay patronized establishment, were arrested without cause starting a riot in New York City) and the Christopher Street Liberations started the gay pride movement. These celebrities have only recently come out to the public to find that people of all persuasions have positively recognized their contributions to our culture.
Many gay celebrities find it necessary to hide their sexuality long enough to become established in the business but come out willingly when they feel it is safe. These have included musicians Elton John, Janice Ian, Melissa Etheridge, George Michael, Michael Stipe of REM, Pete Townsend of the Who; and actors Alan Cumming, Ellen Degeneres, Portia De Rossi, Andy Dick, Rupert Everett, Sandra Bernhard, Rosie O’Donnell, and George Takai.
Some celebrities whose sexuality was never hidden include Boy George, Ani DiFranco, Martina Navratilova, KD Lang and Nathan Lane.
Then there are those whose sexuality would never have been suspected but chose to come out anyway. Drew Barrymore and Angelina Jolie claimed bisexuality openly and without consequence.
Although it is commonly more accepted in these days of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, Capote and Brokeback Mountain, many gay celebrities still hide in the shadows as more begin their careers out of the closet. We will no doubt be surprised by revelations to come.