As the gay-rights movement forged ahead in the U.S. through the 1970s, there were still many questions in Americans’ minds about homosexuality. TIME’s cover story, “How Gay Is Gay?” — published just six months after the assassination of Harvey Milk, the San Francisco city supervisor who helped enact sweeping gay-rights reforms — focused on gay populations across the U.S. and their contributions to the nation’s economic and cultural fabric.
The males are also far more visible than the females in performing one of the most fascinating roles of the gay rights movement: influencing straight culture. Male homosexuals have long been particularly active in the world of the arts, where they often can work openly with no fear of losing their livelihood if they have the talent; Novelist Truman Capote and Playwright Tennessee Williams are two notable examples. But the new influence of homosexuals is something quite different: their dress, tastes and speech are being adopted by many straights who would be stunned if they knew the origins of the latest fashions or fads.