Female impersonation need say nothing about sexual identity, but it has for a long time been almost an institutionalized aspect of gay male culture.
Although sparse in images documenting the gay community, pre-Stonewall gay male photography blurs the boundaries between art, erotica, and social history.
Given the historic stigma around making, circulating, and possessing overtly homoerotic images, the visual arts have been especially important for providing a socially sanctioned arena for depicting the naked male body and suggesting homoerotic desire.
Independent films that aggressively assert homosexual identity and queer culture, the New Queer Cinema can be seen as the culmination of several developments in American cinema.
Renowned photographer, teacher, critic, editor, and curator, Minor White created some of the most interesting photographs of male nudes of the second half of the twentieth century, but did not exhibit them for fear of scandal.
The first international fashion superstar, Halston dressed and befriended some of America's most glamorous women.
An artistic movement that grew out of Dadaism and flourished in Europe shortly after World War I, Surrealism embraced the idea that art was an expression of the subconscious.
Film, stage, and television actor Paul Winfield was openly gay in his private life, but maintained public silence about his homosexuality.
The extraordinary response to Steve Grand's "All-American Boy" on YouTube, where it received more than 1,000,000 views within a week of its debut, calls attention to the persistent attraction of country music for glbtq people. As Tina Gianoulis observes in her glbtq.com entry on Country Music the genre "celebrates the trials and triumphs, loves and losses in the lives of small town, rural, and, more recently, urban, mostly white, working people."
Although country music has often been associated with bigotry, intolerance, and jingoistic patriotism, it has also been open to a wider range of topics than other types of popular music. As Gianoulis contends, "Gay and lesbian audiences are attracted to the country scene for several reasons. First, the sincerity of country's exploration of the emotions and experiences of working people draws many disenfranchised Americans to country. . . . Many gay men, unable to resist a pageant, are drawn to the campy side of country, even as they also appreciate the directness of the music's emotional appeal. The adulation of gay men has been particularly important to the legends of such larger-than-life country music performers as Patsy Cline and Dolly Parton."
Gay performers and songwriters have made important contributions to country music. That contribution was acknowledged in 2000, when the 1973 album Lavender Country by the band of the same name, founded by songwriter Patrick Haggerty, was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Inspired by the emergent gay liberation movement, the album includes songs like "Back in the Closet Again" and "Singing These Cocksucking Blues," which added a new dimension to country's traditional themes of heartbreak and hope.
Other out country singers and songwriters include Doug Stevens, Sid Spencer, Mark Weigle, Jeff Miller, and David Alan Mors, who have found a welcoming venue at events sponsored by the International Gay Rodeo Association, founded in 1985 to unite more than twenty gay rodeo organizations in the United States and Canada. In 1998, the Lesbian and Gay Country Music Association was formed to support gay country musicians and to promote country music within the gay community.
Although she has since become primarily a pop singer, probably the best known lesbian country singer remains k.d. lang, whose rich, sophisticated voice practically forced the country world to take her in.
Many of the lesbian singers associated with women's music, such as Ferron, Alix Dobkin, Teresa Trull, and Indigo Girls, also have roots in country music as well.
One of the most important contemporary country music songwriters is Shane McAnally, an openly gay man who is co-parenting twin toddlers with his husband in Nashville, Tennessee. McAnally, who was the subject of a New York Times profile by Jody Rosen in May 2013, is a commercial force in country music, "a songwriter with a unique melodic and lyrical touch, and an uncommon knack for hits. Since November 2010, he's helped write seven No. 1 country singles, and numerous other fine songs, for some of the genre's leading stars (Kenny Chesney, Luke Bryan, Lady Antebellum), legacy acts (Reba McEntire, Lee Ann Womack), and upstarts (Kacey Musgraves, the Band Perry)."
As Rosen reports, although country remains American music's bastion of cultural conservatism, "McAnally presents a paradox: a Nashville powerhouse who is also an out gay man--a songwriter who cooks up chart-topping country songs at the home he shares with his husband and their 5-month-old twins."
McAnally told Rosen that he is a successful songwriter not despite his being gay, but because he is open about his life. "My career really took off when I came out," he said. "When I stopped hiding who I am, I started writing hits."
McAnally credits his experience as a gay man with contributing to his songwriting. "I think gay men by nature are more sensitive," Mr. McAnally said. "I think I'm able to tell a story in a way that relates to both men and women. Guys don't usually sing about the shame or the sadness of sex. But men do have those emotions, those experiences."
The following videos illustrate the variety of gay and lesbian country singers and songwriters.
Steve Grand sings "All-American Boy," his touching song of unrequited love.
The remarkable Mary Gautier, whose music incorporates many American musical idioms, including most prominently, country, pleads for "Mercy Now."
Tom Goss, who also incorporates many musical idioms in his work, draws on country traditions in "Lover," his poignant song about loving a servicemember before the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.
Drake Jensen sings "When It Hurts Like That" from his second studio album, OUTlaw.
Chely Wright performs "Damn Liar" at the 2010 Capital Pride celebration.
Doug Strahm sings "Leaving It Behind" from his album Everything Is Changed.
In the video below, Miranda Lambert sings "Mama's Broken Heart," which she wrote with Shane McAnally.
Will Hopkins sings "Different."