Throughout history gays and lesbians have influenced our lives to a certain extent, depending on the era of their existence.
Certainly, we have read about the likes of Alexander the Great, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Oscar Wilde and countless others. However, in today’s world, the influence of sports and entertainment figures has changed the tides considerably, especially when it concerns our young gays and lesbians.
When it was revealed that actor Rock Hudson was gay people were aghast and wondered how a handsome Hollywood leading man could possibly be gay. Many were sceptical until Hudson’s biography by one of his best friends assured the movie going public that the truth had been told. Pianist and entertainer, Liberace had his share of controversy over the years, even after his many lovers told their stories he remained adamant he was not gay. Of course, finally the answer was revealed.
Both Hudson and Liberace died due to complications from AIDS.
Actors Montgomery Clift, Clifton Webb and Charles Laughton were gay. Then during the fifties and 60s Sal Mineo and the popular actor James Dean were part of the Hollywood gay scene.
In more recent times we learned about the sexual orientation of Canadian swimmer Mark Tewkesbury, American basketball player Jason Collins, tennis player Billie Jean King and soccer player Megin Rapinoe.
The list goes on with positive results. During the past few years there are those who really have influenced our young LGBTQ folks.
On the big screen, television and social media, a great number of gays and lesbians have revealed their sexual orientation in a huge way. By doing so are really saying that it’s okay to reveal your true sexual orientation.
People such as, Sir Elton John, Ellen DeGeneres, Rosy O’Donnell, Neil Patrick Harris, (remember Doogie Houser), Jim Parsons, Sir Ian McKellan and numerous others have an enormous impact on our youngsters in a positive way. We are exposed to their open and successful lives, regardless of sexual orientation.
History has taught us that we are constantly changing our attitudes, though not always in a positive manner. We have witnessed many changes in the LGBTQ community. The influences of the entertainment and sport worlds, if projected in a positive way, will have a profound effect on youngster who need to deal with their true sexual orientation.
In the last three columns I have placed emphasis on past influential gays and lesbians who certainly took their places in the world of literature and the arts and by doing so had a positive outcome on the older generation, which I am a part of and I am experiencing the benefits, along with many others with profound appreciation.
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Gerard Veldhoven is a former Amherst resident who is a long time activist for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. His column appears weekly in The Amherst News.