These days, actors like Glee's Chris Colfer, Zachary Quinto (Star Trek) and Neil Patrick Harris live out, proud lives. Like many other young stars, they've seen no career backlash. Some have said that coming out actually enhanced their careers.
Not all that long ago, the picture wasn't so rosy. There was a time when coming out, or being found out, could mean career suicide.
Here are a few famous faces who remained in the closet until the end. And a few who eventually peeked out of the closet door.
Montgomery Clift (1920-1966)
Long ago, Montgomery Clift was considered the most beautiful man in the world. But he was more than just a pretty face.
Clift was a method actor. At a time when others were more interested in being stars, Clift studied the craft of acting and immersed himself in his roles. He would only accept parts, which he found challenging and artistically rewarding.
Clift co-starred with Elizabeth Taylor in A Place in the Sun, one of 1951's biggest hits. Their onscreen chemistry was sensational, and they became inseparable when the cameras stopped. Everyone assumed they were in love, and they were, as only sisters could be.
While the press falsely assumed that Liz and Monty were an item, Monty secretly dated TV's Jack Larson (Jimmy Olsen on Adventures of Superman). It's now believed that he had flings with James Dean and Marlon Brando, who was open about his bisexuality.
Clift suffered from severe bouts of depression and was a chronic alcoholic. After a 1956 auto accident ruined his looks, the drinking worsened. By the mid-1960s, he was unemployable. Liz used her influence to get him cast opposite herself in Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967), a then shocking drama about repressed homosexuality. When Clift died, shortly before filming was to commence, he looked far older than his 46 years.
Though the accident no doubt escalated his descent, many believe that Clift might not have hit the bottle at all had he been able to live an honest, authentic life.
Ramon Navarro (1899-1968)
Navarro was quite a hottie in his day. The Mexican born silent film superstar made ladies' and men's hearts flutter worldwide. His scanty attire in the biblical epic Ben Hur (1925) today remains an iconic male erotic image.
Navarro's star fell during the sound era, though he continued working in B films and on television. During his lifetime he was conflicted between his strict Catholic upbringing and his homosexuality, which led to difficulties with alcohol.
In 1968, Navarro was murdered in his home by two "guests.” A pair of brothers who worked together as hustlers were paid by Navarro for sex. Believing him to be hiding a cash stash in the house, the brothers tied Navarro up and tortured him for hours. The actor died from his wounds, and the brothers, who were caught, made off with a mere $20.
William Haines (1900-1973)
Haines was an athletic, all American guy who appeared in many successful "chick flicks,” military dramas, and sports themed films. As handsome as can be, he was a top five box office draw from 1928-1932. He co-starred alongside Joan Crawford several times, and the two remained lifelong friends.
In 1933, MGM studio boss gave Haines an ultimatum, leave his partner Jimmie Shields and marry a woman, or leave the studio. Haines chose Shields, and the two remained together until Haines' death from cancer in 1973. Though they never publicly said "the words,” they were accepted as a couple everywhere they went.
Haines and Shields started a successful interior design business, catering to Hollywood's biggest stars. Haines continued to receive film offers into the 1950s, but he refused them all.
Roddy McDowall (1928-1998)
Child star McDowall was another of the many gay men whom Elizabeth Taylor befriended. They worked together as kids at MGM and were still close when McDowall died fifty years later. A popular child star, he struggled to find work as an adult until his role as a talking chimp in Planet of the Apes (1968) revived his sagging fortunes. McDowall worked almost continuously in film and on TV until his death. He was also an accomplished photographer, and published five books of his photos.
His homosexuality was fairly well known within the industry and to the public, though McDowall remained "discreet" until the end.
Sal Mineo (1939-1976)
Like Montgomery Clift before him, Sal Mineo was a beautiful young man who took acting very seriously. He received Oscar nominations for his role opposite James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause (1955), and a second nomination for Exodus (1960) in which he gave a powerful performance as a Holocaust survivor who was raped by his Nazi captors.
Soon after, too old to play teenagers, but too boyish looking to be a leading man, Mineo's well ran dry. He struggled for years, reportedly camping outside the home of director Francis Ford Coppola, hoping to be cast as Fredo in The Godfather. He didn't get the job.
More than a decade after his star fell, having nothing to lose, Mineo came out. He began to find work in gay-themed theater pieces like the highly controversial Fortune and Men's Eyes.
In 1976, Mineo was stabbed to death in an alley. For years it was said that he was stabbed by a hustler he was trying to pick up, but it was actually a robbery gone horribly wrong. Mineo was only 37 years old.
Foster first gained fame as a child prostitute in Martin Scorcese's Taxi Driver (1976). Only 15 years old when she made the film, the gritty melodrama brought her a stalker. She appeared in family films for Disney during this period.
Foster, a superbly intense actress, easily transitioned into adult roles. She won Oscars for her work in the rape drama The Accused (1988), and again for the disturbing chiller The Silence of the Lambs (1991).
Mom to two children, Foster for years declined to discuss her personal life or admit who the father to her kids was. In 2013, Foster was awarded the Cecil B. Demille Award at the Golden Globes, where she publicly discussed her lesbianism for the first time.
Also a director, she called the shots for the film The Beaver (2011), co-starring her friend Mel Gibson, who she says isn't homophobic. She also directed an episode of Orange Is the New Black for Netflix.
Paul Lynde (1926-1982)
Loud and boisterous, funny man Lynde is primarily remembered for his role as Uncle Arthur on Bewitched, and for his many appearances on the game show Hollywood Squares. Uncle Arthur is a tribute to the actor's unforgettable personality: he only appeared on ten episodes of Bewitched, yet many people consider him one of the series' stars.
Lynde's persona was that of an effeminate, screaming queen, though he never discussed his personal life publicly. He had many film and TV credits, but always played versions of himself. An urban legend says that after Bewitched star Agnes Moorehead died, he referred to her as "Hollywood's greatest dyke" on Hollywood Squares, though no video of this incident has surfaced.
Lynde died of a heart attack at age 55, allegedly while in bed with a hustler as he sniffed poppers. This is possibly true, possibly not.
Baxter was a TV fixture for many years, co-starring with then husband David Birney in the early 70s sitcom Bridget Loves Birney. Though popular, the series was cancelled after one season due to the controversy surrounding it's subject: interfaith marriage between a Jew and a Catholic. She played the eldest daughter on the prime time soap opera Family, then enjoyed a long run as the mom on the 80s sitcom Family Ties.
Throughout her TV career, Baxter suffered through a series of bad marriages.
A cancer survivor and the mother of five, Baxter came out as a lesbian in a 2009 interview with NBC's Matt Lauer. She said she had no idea she was gay until 2002. Two years later, Baxter published Untied, her memoir. Promoting the book in an interview on The Oprah Winfrey Show, she discussed her abusive marriages and her coming out process. Partner Nancy Locke appeared with her.
On November 12, Huffington Post reported that the couple was planning to marry.
Popular as Agent Scully on The X Files, Anderson showed that she had acting chops when she starred in The House of Mirth (2000), a dark society drama set in New York City during the early 1900s. She has since moved to London, where she's appeared in a number of costume dramas that aired on PBS.
Married to several men, the mother of three came out as bisexual early in 2012. She said that she'd had a girlfriend while in high school.
Joel Crothers (1941-1985)
Joel Crothers was a New York actor who worked primarily on stage and in daytime soap operas. He played romantic leads on Dark Shadows (1966-1968), The Secret Storm (1969-1971) and Somerset (1972-1976). In 1977 he was cast as Dr. Miles Cavanaugh on the long running soap The Edge of Night, and stayed with the show until it's final episode in 1984.
Virile and handsome, Crothers had millions of male and female admirers. Though he was seen patronizing gay bars in New York, he never publicly came out.
Crothers played Ed, lead character Arnold's boyfriend in the original stage production of Harvey Fierstein's groundbreaking gay play Torch Song Trilogy. Crothers' soap opera popularity was credited with drawing attention to the play, which helped to made it OK for positive gay role models to appear on stage.
In 1985, Crothers signed to appear on the soap opera Santa Barbara. Soon after, he contracted AIDS related lymphoma and died a few months later, age 44.
At a Dark Shadows fan convention in 2008, DS co-star Kathryn Leigh Scott got a standing ovation when she expressed her sorrow that Crothers didn't live to see the show's enduring popularity. She said that she still missed him, and that he'd become a close friend.
Born Arthur Gelien, the popular 1950s heartthrob was given the name Tab Hunter by his first agent, Henry Willson. Willson was notorious for discovering (and attempting to seduce) closeted gay actors.
Startlingly handsome, Hunter was a huge star, appearing in over 40 major films. He was the top grossing earner at Warner Brothers from 1955-1959, and also had his own, short lived sitcom.
Throughout his career, he was subjected to innuendo laden rumors regarding his sexual orientation. He dated superstar Natalie Wood, but the relationship was a publicity stunt. "Natalie would, Tab wouldn't" whispered industry insiders.
After his Hollywood career fizzled, he lived in Europe and appeared in spaghetti westerns. In 1981 he agreed to co-star with drag star Divine in "trash" director John Water's Polyester. Accepting the film outed him once and for all. In 1984 he was reunited with Divine in Paul Bartel's Lust in the Dust.
In his well received 2007 memoir, Tab Hunter Confidential, the actor discussed his homosexuality openly, and wrote of his studio-manufactured affairs with women. A documentary film version on the book is now in development.
Hunter has been with his partner, Allan Glaser, for thirty years.