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.
Openly gay Congressman Jared Polis of Colorado speaks at the Democratic Convention.
Whereas the Republican National Convention tried to deny the presence of glbtq people, except for a few snide references to "real marriage" and the defense of "traditional marriage," on its opening night the Democratic National Convention made a point of showcasing glbtq people and issues.
In a column published on September 1, 2012 in the New York Times, entitled "Excluded from Inclusion," Frank Bruni noted how the Republicans pretended that they were a "big tent" party by featuring women and minorities in photo-ops and speaking roles, but conspicuously avoided any mention or sight of gay people.
"You certainly didn't see anyone openly gay on the stage in Tampa," he wrote. "More to the point, you didn't hear mention of gays and lesbians. Scratch that: Mike Huckabee, who has completed a ratings-minded transformation from genial pol to dyspeptic pundit, made a derisive reference to President Obama's support for same-sex marriage. We were thus allowed a fleeting moment inside the tent, only to be flogged and sent back out into the cold."
Bruni found this deliberate excluding of gay people and issues from the Republican Convention striking "because the Republicans went so emphatically far, in terms of stagecraft and storytelling, to profess inclusiveness, and because we gays have been in the news rather a lot over the last year or so, as the march toward marriage equality picked up considerable velocity."
He attributed the exclusion to Romney and his party's cowardice, "its continued deference to the religious extremists who get king-size beds and down-stuffed duvets in the tent" and who dictated the party's repugnant platform, which is discussed here.
In contrast, gay people and gay issues are very much part of the Democratic Party Convention's big tent.
Not only did the Democratic National Convention adopt a platform that includes support for marriage equality and other glbtq-friendly policies, but the delegates and the speakers at the party have again and again indicated their support for gay people and gay issues.
Indeed, within 30 minutes after the Convention opened, glbtq issues came to the fore when openly gay Democratic Party Treasurer Andrew Tobias declared, "The Democratic Party under the leadership of Barack Obama has dramatically improved the lives of millions of lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual Americans and at no cost to anyone else. In college, I thought I was the only guy in the world who liked other guys. Later I found there was someone else like me, our 26-year-old resident tutor. He and I never talked about it at the time. No one talked about being gay back then. People killed themselves over being gay. Tragically, some kids still do."
"But," Tobias continued, "the progress we have made. Eight weeks ago, I attended that young tutor's wedding! To a guy! He and I never talked about it at the time. Love that had been unspeakable 46 years ago was celebrated by hundreds of people--straight and gay, surfers and senators. In a way, it was a wedding that married my two topics--money and equality--because that young tutor had grown up to become the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, Barney Frank."
Gay issues, especially marriage equality, were mentioned in every major speech delivered on Tuesday night, including the speeches by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, keynoter San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro, and First Lady Michelle Obama.
Jeremy Hooper, who is blogging from Charlotte for his Good As You blog, reflected movingly on the experience of the Democratic Convention's embrace of gay people.
"I happened to catch out New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn on MSNBC, talking about the chills she felt while watching the First Lady and others mention her family values in their speeches. As a New York City resident who sees Quinn on my tele-box quite regularly, the moment struck me for both its sincerity and specificity. For that moment, Quinn was not speaking as a pundit on "Hardball" who has been briefed within an inch of her life. She was speaking as a woman who is legally married to a woman. The powerful politico (and potential candidate for NYC mayor) was speaking as a child of an America that offered her all kinds of promises but an America that, for people like her, has taken a circuitous--and still quite incomplete--route towards getting there."
"I get it," Hooper continued. "I was in the hall last night, hearing all kinds of specific mentions about my life, my right to serve, my marriage, and my general sense of acceptance. For most of the five hours that I was in that arena, I was all business, taking in all that my physicality would allow, tweeting out bon mots, and bemoaning the dying digital batteries threatening my productivity. But in those moments, when I heard the Democratic party, at long last, lending full-throated, impassioned credence to me and my seat at the table? Not gonna lie--I got mushy."
"But it wasn't just the mentions, which the cynical could write off as being (at least) partly motivated by pandering. The even bigger takeaway for me was the reception in the hall whenever LGBT stuff came up. The applause was THUNDEROUS whenever inclusion was put on voice. Every. Single. Time."
Hooper concludes by making a significant contrast: "For those of us who grew annoyed during the Bush years, when LGBT rights were being battered by the right and the Democrats who should've been our strongest allies took either meek or silent postures, it's pretty darn cool to see where we have come."
Perhaps the contrast between the two parties is most evident in the snide reference Ann Romney made in her speech to the Republican National Convention to her "real marriage" and First Lady Michelle Obama's unqualified support for marriage equality in her amazing speech to the Democratic National Convention.
Rather than sneering at the quest for marriage equality as Mrs. Romney did, the First Lady brought her speech to a close by placing the struggle for equal rights for glbtq people in a long line of American struggles for a more just society.
"If farmers and blacksmiths could win independence from an empire . . . if immigrants could leave behind everything they knew for a better life on our shores . . . if women could be dragged to jail for seeking the vote . . . if a generation could defeat a depression, and define greatness for all time . . . if a young preacher could lift us to the mountaintop with his righteous dream . . . and if proud Americans can be who they are and boldly stand at the altar with who they love . . . then surely, surely we can give everyone in this country a fair chance at that great American Dream."
In addition to repeated expressions of support for glbtq rights from prominent straight politicians, a number of gay and lesbian speakers unapologetically acknowledged their identity. Congressman Jared Polis, for example, opened his speech by saying, "I am Jewish, Gay, and a father."
Among speakers scheduled for Wednesday night are Congressman Barney Frank and Zach Wahls, the articulate son of two mothers. Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, who is a candidate for the U.S. Senate from Wisconsin, will speak on Thursday night.
Congressman Jared Polis speaks at the 2012 Democratic National Convention.
First Lady Michelle Obama addresses the 2012 Democratic National Convention.