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Congratulations to actress-director Jodie Foster, who on January 13, 2013 received the Cecil B. DeMille lifetime achievement award at the Foreign Press Association's Golden Globes Awards show. Foster used the occasion to announce an evolution in her career and also to discuss her personal life, her famous love of privacy, and the complexities of coming out.
As Diane Anderson-Minshall observes in The Advocate, "The speech began a bit like a light-hearted comic interlude but was actually a serious and thoughtful combination of a coming out speech and a retirement goodbye."
After joking about her famous reluctance to discuss her personal life and coming out as . . . "single," Foster talks seriously about the nuances of coming out and her need for privacy. In doing so, she obliquely acknowledges the criticism she has received from some activists for her reticence.
"I hope you're not disappointed that there won't be a big coming-out speech tonight, because I already did my coming out about a thousand years ago back in the stone age in those very quaint days when a fragile young girl would open up to trusted friends and family, and co-workers and then gradually, proudly to everyone who knew her, to everyone she actually met."
Like many celebrities who come out these days, Foster emphasized that she has not spent her life in the closet, that in fact in "real life" she has been out for a very long time. The point seems to be that she made a decision to separate her personal life and her professional life, choosing to be out in real life but not in her professional life.
"But now," she continued, "apparently I'm told that every celebrity is expected to honor the details of their private life with a press conference, a fragrance, and a prime-time reality show. You guys might be surprised, but I am not Honey Boo Boo child. No, I'm sorry that's just not me, never was, and it never will be. . . . But seriously, if you had been a public figure from the time that you were a toddler. If you had to fight for a life that felt real and honest and normal against all odds, then maybe then you too would value privacy above all else--privacy. . . . I have given everything up there from the time I was 3 years old. That's reality show enough, don't you think?"
She went on to acknowledge Cydney Bernard, her former partner with whom she co-parents two sons: "There is no way I could ever stand here without acknowledging one of the deepest loves of my life, my heroic co-parent, my ex-partner in love but righteous soul sister in life, my confessor, chief buddy, consigliere, [and] most beloved BFF of 20 years, Cydney Bernard. Thank you Cyd."
She added, "I am so proud of our modern family, our amazing sons Charlie and Kit, who are my reason to breathe and to evolve, my blood and soul. And boys in case you didn't know it, this song, all of this, this song is for you."
She also paid tribute to her 84-year-old mother, Evelyn Almond, who suffers from dementia.
She concluded by hinting that her career as an actress may be over, but "from now on I may be holding a different talking stick... maybe it won't open on 3,000 screens, maybe it'll be so quiet and delicate that only dogs can hear it whistle, but it will be my writing on the wall: Jodie Foster was here. I still am. And I want to be seen, to be understood deeply, and to be not so very lonely."
While her speech was first interpreted to mean that she was retiring, she clarified later in an interview with Seth Abramovitch of the Hollywood Reporter that she meant to indicate only that her career was evolving and that she may spend more time directing.
Michelangelo Signorile reacted to Foster's "coming out" in the Huffington Post by saying, "if she'd done it 20 years ago, 10 years ago, even five years ago, it would have had a much greater impact."
Reacting to the implicit criticism in her speech of activists who pressure celebrities to come out, Signorile added, "I don't care if people like Jodie Foster are bitter or annoyed at activists. It's the job of activists to challenge people and, yes, to annoy people. What I care about is that the repressive and suffocating gay closet not be seen as a good place even if it is still the only safe choice for many. The only reason that millions are still in the closet is that society forces them there under threat of punishment. But things get easier for all those millions of closeted individuals when Hollywood celebrities and media figures come out. And more and more, it appears that it's becoming their responsibility, as privileged members of society, to do so."
Less seriously but nevertheless pointedly, Hamilton Nolan at Gawker pointed out the absurdity of a celebrity asking for privacy from the stage of the Golden Globes: "The quickest way to privacy is silence. And that is the one thing no Golden Globes acceptance speech has ever achieved."
Although her homosexuality had been an open secret in Hollywood for years, Foster first spoke publicly about her relationship with Bernard in December 2007, at Hollywood Reporter's "Women in Entertainment" event, after accepting the Sherry Lansing Leadership Award, which recognized her prominence in the film industry. Then she paid tribute to her partner of fifteen years, "my beautiful Cydney who sticks with me through the rotten and the bliss."
However, in May 2008 it was reported that Foster and Bernard had ended their relationship.
Foster has been a major contributor to The Trevor Project, a telephone counseling service for glbtq young people founded by Foster's close friend, the late Randy Stone, who served as executive producer of the Foster-directed film Little Man Tate in 1991.
Foster's acceptance speech at the 2013 Golden Globes Awards is below.