Sailors on board

The text is illustrated by the art of Charles Demuth (1883-1935) one of the earliest American artists to expose his gay identity through forthright, positive depictions of homosexual desire. As a leader of the American Modernist movement, Demuth was best known as a pioneer of the Precisionist style and as a master watercolorist. 


Three sailors on the beach - 1930

The sailor as a queer icon aims to evoke the lives of men living in isolation but at close quarters and whose intimate lives were once clandestine out of necessity because homosexuality was and, and in many places still is, considered both a sin and a capital offence.

Two sailors urinating - 1930

Sea queens were how gay men who worked aboard mainly merchant vessels were described before the 1960s. They were predominantly gay men who worked either in entertainment or as waiters on cruise ships, satisfying heterosexual sailors for the duration of voyages. They could also be found within the Navy as the nonfiction historical monograph Hello Sailor! The Hidden History of Gay Life at Sea by Paul Baker and Jo Stanley describes through the stories and experiences of sea queens from the Navy.

Distinguished Air - 1930

During the decades a large percentage of gay men began joining the Navy. In the Navy, gay men could be truthful about their sexuality. They used it as an outlet of freedom where they could express themselves, whether that was through different clothing or other traits and were able to do this without the fear of being discriminated against.

Three Sailors Urinating - 1930

Gay men may have used Polari to communicate during these times. Polari was a coded language used by gay men that used metaphors and coded or made up words to talk about the topic of homosexuality without others around them knowing.


See you next time :)

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