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.
As we celebrate the national holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we must also remember the contributions of Bayard Rustin to the civil rights movement. One of the key African-American civil rights activists of the twentieth century, Rustin and his legacy were long obscured because of embarrassment over his homosexuality and early involvement in the Communist Party.
Rustin became known as one of the most brilliant tacticians of the civil rights movement, but his openness as a homosexual, and an arrest in California in 1953 for "lewd conduct," as well as his early membership in the Communist Party, made many see him as a liability. Nevertheless, he eventually became one of Dr. Martin Luther King's closest advisors. Arguably, it was Rustin who most deeply influenced King's understanding and use of nonviolent civil disobedience.
Adversaries of Dr. King within the civil rights movement were prepared to use Rustin's homosexuality against him. For example, in 1960, as Rustin prepared to help King lead protests outside of the Democractic National Convention, Congressman Adam Clayton Powell pressured King to call off the protest, threatening to accuse Rustin and King of having a homosexual affair.
King gave in to Powell, and Rustin resigned from King's staff. He was devastated by Powell's ruthlessness and by what he saw as King's betrayal, though he continued to advise the civil rights leader.
In 1963, however, Rustin was asked to organize the highly visible 1963 Civil Rights March on Washington. It was at this venue that King gave his famous "I Have a Dream" speech.
Although segregationist Senator Strom Thurmond attempted to discredit the 1963 march because it was organized by a "communist, draft dodger, and homosexual," Rustin remained active in the movement. He worked tirelessly to organize a number of successful protests, actions, and demonstrations.
In spite of his successes, however, Rustin never quite overcame the damage that had been done to his reputation, and in the late 1970s he was marginalized by the militants who assumed control of the civil rights movement.
In the clip below from Jeff Dupre's 1998 documentary Out of the Past, Rustin's role in the civil rights movement is discussed by both historians and fellow participants such as Congressman John Lewis.