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.
Los Angeles-based photographer Jeff Sheng came to prominence for his photographs of gay, lesbian, and bisexual American military servicemembers who served under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," which were exhibited during the DADT debate and collected into a stunning book. He is now bringing to fruition a project he began in 2003 of photographing high school and college athletes who are openly glbtq. He has made a remarkable video (embedded below) to accompany an exhibit of the photographs of "Fearless" at Pride House 2012 at the London Olympics.
Sheng's project of photographing out athletes is highly personal for him. In high school he was a closeted tennis player who thought it would be impossible for him to be both out and a collegiate athlete. Out of fear, he failed to pursue his athletic dreams. Hence, he entitled the project "Fearless" as a reminder "to myself and to others of the true meaning behind the bravery of what these young people are able to do: be themselves in the face of homophobia in competitive sports--something rarely ever seen at the professional level."
He notes that when he began the project in 2003, it was very difficult to find willing athletes for the project, but over the years it became easier.
He hopes to commemorate his tenth year working on the project by publishing a large photography book that details the lives and journey "Fearless" has entailed, including all of the photo shoots from the series. His hope, he says, "is that this book can serve as further inspiration to countless young people who happen to be LGBTQ and suffer from bullying or harassment and live in fear about being who they are."
To learn more about the project and to support it, visit this website.
To learn more about Jeff Sheng and his photography, visit his website.
Enjoy the video slide-show of "Fearless," narrated by Jeff Sheng
A slideshow of some of the photographs of Sheng's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" project may be found here.