Azis

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Vasil Trayanov Boyanov, who goes by the stage name Azis, is a gay Bulgarian Roma pop-folk singer who performs in a drag-ish hodgepodge of outfits. Azis boasts an impressive discography including dozens of singles, and his concerts sell out quickly. His atypically-gendered modeling and open homosexuality have been sources of controversy, as when billboards featuring him kissing his then-husband while shirtless were censored for being too graphic. Outside of music and scandal Azis was narrowly defeated in a run for parliament as a member of the Eurorama party. For his accomplishments Azis was declared the 21st most important Bulgarian of all time in 2006 by the television program Velikite Balgari.

 

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Clive Barker

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Prolific artist, filmmaker, and author Clive Barker has been leaving his mark on he horror genre since the 1980s when he debuted his short story collections Books of Blood. He directed his most notable work, Hellraiser, out of a fear that his original story would be treated poorly in the wrong hands, as he had seen happen to another adaptation. Since his early forays into fiction he has branched out into other genres, including – of all things – young adult literature. For the positive portrayal of homosexuality in his novel Sacrament he was honored with a GLAAD Media Award in 2003.

Barker’s website is available here; his Twitter feed, here; and his Facebook page, here.

Rock Hudson

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Roy Harold Scherer, Jr., dubbed “Rock Hudson” by his image-crafting manager, was an American leading man and sex symbol of the mid-20th century, starring in both melodramas and fluffy comedies, along with a smattering of other genres, television, and live theater. Before moving to Hollywood Scherer had been an aircraft mechanic. Although he had no acting training he was able to break into the business on the strength of his good looks and persistence; later tutoring from Universal Pictures solved his inexperience problem, and he went on to be nominated for an Oscar. Scherer publicly announced that he was gay and HIV positive before passing away from AIDS-related complications in 1985, which became a pivotal event in drawing attention to the disease and humanizing homosexuality.

John Waters

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A multitalented gay cult film creator, John Waters was the creative mind behind notorious Dreamlander productions like Pink Flamingos and the tamer Hairspray, which was later adapted as a Broadway musical. To all of his productions he has brought his trademark sense of offbeat, taboo humor, the kind that involves feces more often than not. Outside of his shock films, Waters is also a fine artist and writer. His humorous concept art installations have been featured in prominent galleries, including a photograph of flowers that squirts passers by with water. His adventures hitchhiking across the United States are documented in a memoir called Carsick, which contains comical fictional accounts of his journey along with the real one.

Onir

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Openly gay Bollywood director and producer Onir is a small minority in a suppressive industry. His feature length film debut, My Brother…Nikhil, was based on the life of Dominic d’Souza, who was quarantined in a tuberculosis ward after being diagnosed with AIDS; due to careful avoidance of same-sex physical affection (among other deviations from d’Souza’s life), it received a warm welcome with India’s mainstream audiences. Onir has since directed several more films, including I Am, an award-winning collection of four short films, each of which explores a controversial theme through a single human subject. He has started a production company aimed at elevating new acting talent.

 

Hänschen Rilow and Ernst Röbel

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Hänschen Rilow and Ernst Röbel, two characters in Frühlings Erwachen, an 1891 German play by Frank Wedekind translated in English as Spring Awakening (or variations, such as The Awakening of Spring), are a same-sex teenage couple who – in a reversal of later conventions – have the most optimistic storyline in the production. Röbel is a mediocre student on the verge of failing his classes; Rilow, the more apt and sexually forward pupil who seduces him. (Rilow may also be read as bisexual given a scene in which he masturbates to an image of a woman.) The final scene in which they appear takes place in a vineyard and concludes with a declaration of love; remarkable, given that two of the other children end up dead and one on the run after breaking out of a reformatory.

For its frank discussion of sexuality Frühlings Erwachen has been repeatedly censored, including an incident in New York where an injunction had to be sought in order to put on a single matinee performance. (Ironically, Frühlings Erwachen was adapted as a Broadway musical in 2006.)

Anthony Perkins

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Anthony Perkins’ role of “Norman Bates” in Psycho (and its sequels) was among the most iconic to come out of thriller director Alfred Hitchcock’s canon and an overwhelming presence in the actor’s life. Perkins had already been a theater actor and won awards for both stage and screen, like the part of a young Quaker man in Friendly Persuasion, a movie President Reagan later offered to Mikhail Gorbachev as a model of conflict resolution. Perkins also had a respectable singing voice, acting in several musicals and releasing three pop albums, though he never managed a career from it.

Perkins’ sexual orientation is subject to some interpretation. Although he allegedly had affairs with a number of male celebrities, he did marry and had at least one encounter with a different woman earlier in his life. He is popularly referred to as both homosexual and bisexual though he never openly called himself either; in fact, he suggested in one interview that psychotherapy had enabled him to have relationships with women.