But a new generation of vocal artists has more courage.
As an out gay writer, I find that one of the most rewarding developments of the last decade is the emergence of proud and out artists around the world and the amazing indie art scene they have created. No longer do greedy or timid publishers stymie individual artistic talent. Authors always had it easier, because we are ultimately recluses who do not seek the limelight. Having your book rubbished by a conservative reviewer is easier to stomach than attacks on a person, unless, of course, your name is Rushdie.
To me, the most intriguing group of artists to come out are pop singers. Songs never have to be explicitly gay; singers can always hide behind an adored "you." Why bother with all the politics, then, and risk alienating your bigoted fans (still the majority, unfortunately)?
I am not talking about the old guard here. Elton John, George Michael, and boyband members Mark Feehily and Lance Bass came out after they had raked in millions. That doesn't count! In fact, I dislike people who, 10 years after they made it big, suddenly decide they are rich enough to come out and reveal their sexuality -- typically in a publicity stunt intended to kick-start their fading careers. But fine, I won't argue. It's a personal journey, and you are ready when you are ready, I guess.
Ricky Martin may have lost half his market value when he came out, but he is an inspiration to countless singers around the world. Out gay singers are far more popular than you would imagine. Here are a few you may not have heard of, and some who are definitely worth listening to.
First, an honorary mention: Adam Lambert apparently is the first openly gay singer to have become famous through the excruciatingly tacky selection process of American Idol (though he wasn't technically out on the show). And he is still going strong.
More in my line is Frank Ocean. He came out before he released his first album. That's the way to go.
If you like your men hairy and their voices dark, check out Barbzul. The music is... well, I'll stick to my Schubert for now. But it's nice to see the bear community handling a microphone well.
I totally approve of this message by Matt Zarley about honesty. I don't think America is ready for a gay president, but who knows? I also approve of underwater blowjobs, especially by hunks like the one in the video.
But enough about chest hair. There are up-and-coming twink singers, too. Being gay seems to be the latest Jewish fashion craze. Alex Shane Krilov might not be your cup of tea, but seriously, who can say no to Harel Skaat? His Hebrew rendition of "Ne me quitte pas" (on the site) is marvelous. It reminds me of a young Charles Aznavour.
Israel has also given us the laryngeally talented Yehonathan, no less appealing in voice and timbre, but with a little more facial and, I assume, chest hair. His songs are lyrical and very inspiring.
I discovered that there are porn stars who were singers before they whipped out their equipment in front of the camera. German twink Carsten Andersson thinks he can make it as a pop star even after all that lustful groaning. I have my doubts, but here he is in all his glory.
Some are more subdued in their sexuality, but no less attractive. And they are keenly aware of the role the male body plays in the promotion of their art. Angelo has no problem with sexual objectification. He told me in an interview, "Any artist who tells you that they are appreciated solely for their artistic merit is lying. Everyone has something that they lean on that helps build an identifying mark of separation. Having unique or inimitable talent is one thing, but this is a business, and like any other business, both the artist and the art become a commodity." Here is his video statement.
We spoke about sexuality and the sex object in pop music. "When you are trying to communicate urban mythology by way of NYC street pop, your shirt comes off, the tattoos are out, and you are flexing muscles you never even knew you had!" he told me. "I had the confidence to make a record that I believed in and music that I love. If people discount that effort because I have my shirt off in a photograph, they are welcome to download someone else." Being gay and gorgeous as a career builder? What do you think? I'll be talking to him some more in the next weeks.
I have left out quite a few gay singers (and all the lesbians, I am afraid), and I sincerely hope that there are many more you can point out to me. There is something very rewarding in supporting people outside the deafeningly boring mainstream. Anybody can be a little monster and scream "I was born this way," but what ultimately makes the world a better place are not the sound effects and flashy costumes, or millions of dollars lining the pockets of studio executives, but our support for young and struggling talent, for individuals who go their own way and sing with pride and honesty about their dreams and motivations. I am not urging you to only support out gay singers, but try listening to creative people who are not handed to you on the platter of deadbeat commercialism.
And now I'm going back to cuddling Harel Skaat... only aurally, of course.