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.
A promotional image for "Barbara Hammer: The Fearless Frame."
In February 2012, London's Tate Modern presents a major survey of the films of Barbara Hammer. "Barbara Hammer: The Fearless Frame" will include screenings of early, rarely seen Super-8 films, an evening of free expanded cinema performances in the Turbine Hall, an event in response to Hammer's work by artist Emily Roysdon, and several events featuring artists and speakers drawn from across Europe and North America, who testify to the powerful creative community Hammer has inspired.
The survey will be launched with a premiere of Hammer's new short film, Maya Deren's Sink (2011), a tribute to Deren's longstanding influence on the artist.
"Barbara Hammer: The Fearless Frame" opens on February 3, 2012 and concludes on February 26.
Hammer, who was born in Hollywood, California, in 1939, is the most prolific lesbian feminist filmmaker in the history of cinema.
She created her first film in 1967, Schizy, about her own coming-out process. She is best known for her experimental, nonlinear narratives, which are often lyrical and erotic.
As Gary Morris has noted in his glbtq.com entry on her, Hammer "can be said to have constructed, in what she has called her 'alternative autobiographies,' an alternative lesbian gaze."
Her most famous work is probably Nitrate Kisses (1992), which may be seen as an attempt to restore a lost queer history by intermingling images of lesbian and gay male lovemaking with aural and visual collages of concentration camps, the Hollywood Hays Code that banned "perversion," and snippets from what is often regarded as the first queer film made in the United States, Lot in Sodom (1933) by James Watson and Melville Weber.
Here is a brief clip from Nitrate Kisses.
Hammer's films are of crucial importance to a new generation of artists exploring new modes of experimenting with the moving image.