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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.
Jin Xing, one of the first people to have sex-change surgery in China, has become a Chinese cultural icon. A film star, talk show host, and celebrated dancer, she also serves the Chinese government as an unofficial ambassador of the arts. Her remarkable story will be featured on NBC's Rock Center with Brian Williams on April 4, 2012.
As Jessica Hopper and Meghan Frank explain on the Rock Center website, Jin, now 44, danced in New York 20 years ago and has now returned with her company, Jin Xing Dance Theatre. The difference is that now she is a woman.
"When I left New York, I said, 'I only come back [to] New York with my own dance company. I don't even come back [to] visit," Jin told Rock Center's Kate Snow in an interview airing Wednesday, April 4 at 10:00 p.m. Eastern time.
By the age of 18, Jin had won acclaim as the best male dancer in the People's Liberation Army. He was selected to come to America to study modern dance in New York City, where he trained with leading dance companies and emerging choreographers.
Jin found his time in New York liberating but confusing. He began to date men but continued to question his sexuality and his identity as male. He ultimately came to the conclusion that he was transgender and decided to pursue sex-change surgery.
Seventeen years after her transition, Jin Xing is an established film and television star in China. She is also a wife and mother.
While the Chinese government was initially leery of her transition from a leading male dancer to a leading female dancer, they have become more comfortable with her.
"They give me the space to become who I am in China as an independent artist and [at the] same time, I'm getting a lot of positive image [for China] as an artist, as a cultural ambassador for China," Jin said.
She acknowledges that some people come to see her perform because of her personal transformation, but that does not bother her.
"If my personal story can bring [the] public into the theater, I'm already successful," she told Snow. "Because after one and a half hour, they're talking about my dancing, they're not talking about my sex change."
Below is the trailer for the Rock Center episode.