cruised the Miracle Mile and bought my first gay book, I took a class in "The American Renaissance," the burst of creative energy in the mid-1800s: Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, Whitman, Melville.
Our professor (not the one who taught the execrable class in Modern American Literature) admitted that Melville was "a little light in the loafers," but he tried to heterosexualize the texts as much as possible, so he merely claimed that Billy Budd (1888) was about a Christ figure destroyed by the world's evil.
Billy forgives the Captain; his last words are "God bless Captain Vere." But carrying out the sentence destroys Vere; his dying words are "Billy Budd." I couldn't help but think of Aschenbach, destroyed by his obsession for the beautiful Tadzio in Death in Venice.
There's also a 1962 feature film, with Billy played by Terence Stamp (later in Meetings with Remarkable Men and Priscilla Queen of the Desert).
Recent productions feature a shirtless, muscular Billy, such as those performed by Nathan Gunn (above) and Simon Keenlyside (left).
Also see his gay-subtext filled Benito Cereno.