Although few gay actors have been permitted the luxury of openness, many of them have challenged and helped reconfigure notions of masculinity and, to a lesser extent, of homosexuality.
Considering the unique set of problems facing lesbians who want to produce erotic art for the enjoyment of other lesbians, it is remarkable that so much lesbian erotica has been produced in so brief a time.
Lesbian actresses have played a significant role in Hollywood, but their contributions have rarely been recognized or spoken of openly; the "lavender marriage" is by no means a relic of the past.
Although American gay film icon Brad Davis has been described as "the first heterosexual actor to die of AIDS," he was widely known as bisexual within the entertainment community.
Long-distance swimmer and respected sports commentator has in more recent years spoken out on issues of glbtq rights.
The greatest dancer of his time, Rudolf Nureyev also gave the world a new and glamorous image of a sexually active gay man.
While nude depictions of women appear in most cultures, on both sides of the equator, and in rich variety, lesbian artists have been particularly resourceful in their use of the female nude.
Handsome, athletic, graceful, and charismatic, actor Errol Flynn was widely rumored to enjoy sexual relations with men as well as women.
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.