National Coming Out Week: Five great American gays

Gay people are good at lots of things: getting a party on, for instance, or being stylish. But besides having a reputation for enthusiasm and panache, those good folks who favor their own gender are accomplished in a number of less well known areas as well, such as writing some of the world's greatest poetry and inventing the American dream. Incredulous? You would be, you little scamp. But it's true, and just to prove it, in honor of National Coming Out Week this week, we give you five great gays who redefined the American paradigm.

National Coming Out Week: Five great American gays

5. Rock Hudson Just look at that guy. He's about as all-American as a cannon that shoots fireworks and hot dogs. A marble pillar of manliness, if that's not too phallic a metaphor, Rock Hudson epitomized wholesome, American beefcakery as the leading man of some 70 feature films in the '50s and for a good chunk of the '60s. Though he never publicly came out, the fact of his sexuality was fairly well known by the decline of his career in the mid-'70s, and by then, he wasn't doing much to hide it, either.

National Coming Out Week: Five great American gays

4. Tennessee Williams Without question one of the greatest American playwrights, the author of A Streetcar Named Desire and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof was somewhat unusual in that his outing as a gay man by Time magazine in the '50s -- not exactly the most sexually tolerant era -- did not mark the end of his career. In fact, even in spite of the stigma, Tennessee Williams went ahead and won two Pulitzers and, later, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Tennessee Williams: fuck yeah.

National Coming Out Week: Five great American gays

3. Walt Whitman Though historians disagree as to whether or not Walt Whitman ever actually had sex with a man, there are definite homoerotic themes in his work -- which is pretty ballsy for the 19th century; sadly, it became a focus in critical analyses of his work at the time. Nevertheless, his seminal and colossal Leaves of Grass is now regarded as one of the most important poems of all time, and Whitman is often referred to as the father of free-verse poetry. Let's just repeat that: the fucking father of free-verse poetry. That's a big deal, kids.



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