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THEORETICAL POLITICS, LOCAL COMMUNITIES
The Making of U.S. LGBT Historiography
Sexual Politics, Sexual Communities: The Making of a Homosexual Minority in the United States, 1940–1970 John D’Emilio Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983. x + 257 pp. 2nd edition: Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998. xvi + 269 pp. Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold: The History of a Lesbian Community Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy and Madeline D. Davis New York: Routledge, 1993. xvii + 434 pp. Cherry Grove, Fire Island: Sixty Years in America’s First Gay and Lesbian Town Esther Newton Boston: Beacon, 1993. xiii + 378 pp. Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890–1940 George Chauncey New York: Basic, 1994. xi + 478 pp. Men Like That: A Southern Queer History John Howard Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999. xxiii + 395 pp.
GLQ, Vol. GLQ 11:4 1, pp. 000–000 997 Paul EeNam Park Hagland pp. 605–625 © Duke University Press Copyright © 2005 by Duke University Press
GLQ: A JOURNAL OF LESBIAN AND GAY STUDIES
City of Sisterly and Brotherly Loves: Lesbian and Gay Philadelphia, 1945–1972 Marc Stein Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000. xv + 457 pp. 2nd edition: Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2004. xv + 461 pp. Same-Sex Affairs: Constructing and Controlling Homosexuality in the Paciﬁc Northwest Peter Boag Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003. xiv + 321 pp. Wide-Open Town: A History of Queer San Francisco to 1965 Nan Alamilla Boyd Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003. xii + 321 pp.
More than twenty years have passed since John D’Emilio turned his PhD
dissertation into Sexual Politics, Sexual Communities, the ﬁ rst scholarly monograph in what is now generally called U.S. lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) history. D’Emilio was not working in isolation in the 1970s and 1980s; researchers inside and outside U.S. college and university history departments shaped the ﬁeld’s development.1 D’Emilio’s 1982 dissertation was not the ﬁ rst of its kind: Salvatore Licata produced “Gay Power: A History of the American Gay Movement, 1908–1974” in 1978, and Ramón Gutiérrez ﬁnished “Marriage, Sex, and the Family: Social Change in Colonial New Mexico, 1690–1846” in 1980. Outside the discipline of history, Toby Marotta’s Politics of Homosexuality, which was based on his 1978 dissertation and covers some of the same ground as D’Emilio’s book, was published in 1981. From outside the university, Jonathan Ned Katz’s Gay American History (1976) featured not only an extraordinary collection of primary documents but also inﬂuential interpretive commentary.2 Nevertheless, D’Emilio’s book, more than any other, established the framework in which most U.S. LGBT historians have operated for more than two decades. Working in the aftermath of the 1969 Stonewall riots, D’Emilio challenged the myth that homosexual life before Stonewall was marked invariably by “silence, invisibility, and isolation” (1).3 This view was popular not only in straight society but also among post-Stonewall gay liberationists and lesbian feminists, whose generational hubris discouraged respectful recognition of predecessors. Inﬂuenced by the new social history, which focused on ordinary people, everyday life, and the worlds of workers, women, and ethnoracial minorities, Sexual Politics, Sexual Communities concentrated on the “homosexual emancipation movement” of
4 Of central importance was the rise of homosexual “consciousness. this pattern.S. sharing an identity that subjected them to systematic injustice” (4–5). which allows for a national narrative to be tested. Thompson. LGBT historical scholarship (meaning scholarship that shares the discipline’s interest in the dynamics of continuity and change) has developed in multiple directions. when. D’Emilio developed a form of Marxist feminist social constructionism that highlighted the effects of industrialization and urbanization on household economies. Since 1983 U. To explain the emergence of what he meaningfully called a homosexual “class” (11). cohesive minority. history. of a much longer historical process through which a group of men and women came into existence as a self-conscious. that process had to be far enough along so that at least some gay women and men could perceive themselves as members of an oppressed minority. and the subsequent Cold War campaigns against homosexuals inspired the creation of the Mattachine Society. and the development of organized LGBT activism after World War II. D’Emilio wrote: “The [homosexual emancipation] movement constitutes a phase. In an often-cited passage. D’Emilio argued that mass mobilization during World War II led to “a nationwide coming out experience” (24).” and for those inﬂuenced by E. One. but much of it has taken the form of local studies that respond to D’Emilio’s national narrative. Local history has been particularly appealing for those interested in resisting the hegemony of the nation-state.” a critical term in the 1970s for feminists. and those . This. is not surprising. albeit a decisive one. qualiﬁed. The Making of a Homosexual Minority. East Coast activists adopted “civil rights” strategies (149) and “the movement and the subculture converge[d]” in San Francisco (176). Before a movement could take shape.THE MAKING OF U. D’Emilio’s periodization emphasized the movement’s leftist origins in the early 1950s. and the Daughters of Bilitis. argued D’Emilio. its subsequent “retreat to respectability” (75). those connected with community-based history projects.S. and developed. inﬂuenced by other protest movements.5 As for LGBT activism. whose title The Making of the English Working Class provided a template for D’Emilio’s subtitle. family dynamics. but it established a broader framework that emphasized the existence of same-sex sexual desires and acts across U. LGBT HISTORIOGRAPHY 607 the 1950s and 1960s. set the stage for Stonewall and the transformative mass movement of the 1970s. who valued “consciousness-raising. the emergence of homosexual identities and communities in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. P. which conceptualized relationships between politics and communities.S. rejected. and then its turn to militancy in the mid-1960s. For those familiar with historical scholarship on other subjects. and relations between the sexes.
Moreover. the myth was that pre-Stonewall working-class butches and femmes were “pathetic imitators of heterosexuality” (2) who had succumbed to oppression. queer researchers). geography. about half can be classiﬁed as subnational in focus. professional pressures to demonstrate national signiﬁcance have encouraged premature pronouncements about the typical. Davis’s book on Buffalo lesbian history. for twenty years local history has been the ﬁeld’s dominant genre. they argued that butches and femmes. Challenging this view. the new cultural history (which emphasized Geertzian thick description. but bore others. Local boosterism and competitive rivalries have led to hyperbolic claims about which were the queerest places and which the most challenging for queers (and. in their case. with intersections of class. especially in bars and house parties. and elite and popular cultural studies). atypical. these books also integrated elements of the new social history. Cherry Grove. of the roughly ﬁfty PhD dissertations produced since D’Emilio’s on U. According to the Committee on Lesbian and Gay History (an afﬁ liated society of the American Historical Association). concentrated on community consciousness and cultural resistance in contexts that mostly did not include LGBT political groups. Kennedy and Davis took this to be one of the “signs . Microhistorical details may fascinate those who know the region. Kennedy and Davis were reacting against a popular myth. Like much historical scholarship produced in this period.8 Buffalo. LGBT historical topics. Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy and Madeline D.6 Local LGBT history has been marked by some of the common problems of local history. women’s. which had moved through stages focusing on oppression. and the new political history (which examined power in multiple forms and spheres). and black history.S. Foucauldian discourse analysis. and ethnicity/race receiving increased attention over time. “forged a culture for survival and resistance” (1) from the 1930s to the 1960s. 1993–1994 Three early local studies. arguing that D’Emilio’s framework has held up remarkably well. sex/gender. or prototypical aspects of local phenomena. and public history. responded to D’Emilio’s work in several respects. Like D’Emilio.608 GLQ: A JOURNAL OF LESBIAN AND GAY STUDIES inﬂuenced by microhistory. These works developed D’Emilio’s framework by picking up on trends seen in working-class. and later everyday resistance. then organized movement resistance.7 This essay reviews several works (including my own) in three waves of local historical scholarship. Boots of Leather. ethnography. Bakhtinian language criticism. Slippers of Gold. each examining a region of New York state. and New York City. by extension. Nevertheless.
white. Like D’Emilio. LGBT HISTORIOGRAPHY 609 of a movement in its pre-political stage” (2). industrial cities” (10). Kennedy and Davis departed from D’Emilio in some ways but joined him in searching for the antecedents of post-Stonewall mass mobilization. sex/gender. identifying World War II and Stonewall as turning points.S. they historicized the construction of community consciousness. and attributing importance to relationships between politics and communities. these “strong and forceful participants in the growth of gay and lesbian consciousness and pride” were empowered feminists and “necessary predecessors of the gay and lesbian liberation movements” (2). viewing consciousness as critical. According to Kennedy and Davis. saw themselves as part of a sexual community. which identiﬁed both butches and femmes as lesbian (326). They. and envisions a society where sexuality is not polarized into ﬁxed homo/hetero identities” (387). devoted more attention to sex. except for ethnoracial differences. Observing that “D’Emilio’s work suggests. In dialogue with D’Emilio. and became more deﬁant after the war. resisted anti-LGBT oppression. But they. focused on resist- . the local culture was “probably similar to that of other thriving. but their claims about the signiﬁcance of working-class lesbian resistance extended beyond such places. or participated in organized LGBT movements. middle-class. But they provided more in-depth discussion of semiautonomous workingclass. to a dominant homosexual “object choice” model. and gave more credit to multiracial workingclass bar patrons than to mostly middle-class and white homophile activists. and intimate relationships. attributing the concept of prepolitical resistance to the British historian Eric Hobsbawm. and black communities. but does not itself explore. but Kennedy and Davis concluded on a partially deconstructive note. too.S. were interested in dynamics of change. Like D’Emilio. They speculated that. and ethnoracial diversity. looking forward to “a movement that both defends gay rights in a homophobic society on the basis of the assumption of a ﬁ xed gay identity. Kennedy and Davis noted that the small national homophile movement emphasized “accommodationism” (273) and “held itself separate from the large gay and lesbian communities that centered in bars and house parties” (2). grew during World War II. and highlighted agents of social change. In short. which viewed butches as unlike straight women and femmes as like them.THE MAKING OF U. that bar communities were equally important predecessors” (2). passion. middle-sized U. but they focused on the transition from a dominant “gender inversion” model. they examined one such community as it took shape in the early twentieth century. focused on sexual communities. Kennedy and Davis described worlds marked by class. Kennedy and Davis embraced social constructionism. recognized that not everyone who engaged in same-sex sex identiﬁed as lesbian or gay. like D’Emilio.
ethnicity. Newton emphasized the construction and deconstruction of community bonds.” but the town was “like an oasis in the desert—the dream of what was to come” (111). Like D’Emilio and like Kennedy and Davis. She was more critical of her subjects than Kennedy and Davis were of theirs. and conservative class politics. she noted that “the third sex model is tenacious” (145). Unlike gay city neighborhoods. Fire Island. place. and valorized moments when cultural resistance and political activism “meshed” (373). “Cradle of many gay fashions and institutions. discussed gay liberation. Newton’s study began in the 1930s. and while she agreed that “the paradigm of homosexuality has been undergoing a slow shift” from gender inversion to object choice. Challenging the myth that pre-Stonewall homosexuals were “pitiable victims. but whether discussing campy theatrical productions or group sex in public. Newton expressed admiration for agents of change who resisted oppression. worked within a similar paradigm. “the world’s only geography controlled by gay men and women” (3). tourism.610 GLQ: A JOURNAL OF LESBIAN AND GAY STUDIES ing agents who contributed to change. and politicization in the 1960s. examined diversiﬁcation. creative hotbed of camp theatricality.” Newton argued that “Grovers played a major part in forging the more dynamic and complete identity that would later be associated with gay liberation” (39–40). and leisure in the 1970s. Newton singled out her subject as “America’s ﬁ rst gay and lesbian town” (iii). Of critical importance was the town’s contribution to “gay nationalism. race. and LGBT capitalism.” she insisted that “for persecuted minorities. the Grove’s character was “based on protective isolation. Esther Newton’s book Cherry Grove. which examined a resort town forty-ﬁve miles east of New York City. and the “gay world’s mecca” (9). and a fabled paradise of sexual licence” (9).” the notion that “sexual orientation constituted a broad and compelling common identity more important than the categories of class. explored repression and resistance in the 1950s. white racism. when LGBT people associated with the New York theater world began to vacation in the Grove. and necessity” (10). For her. that meant LGBT people . which in Buffalo did not occur until the late 1960s. and concluded with AIDS in the 1980s. and gender” (142). But Newton agreed with D’Emilio and with Kennedy and Davis on the signiﬁcance of community consciousness. lesbian feminism. identity politics have their time. commercialization. Although she acknowledged that the boundary “between gay and straight is arbitrary and permeable. the Grove exerted “disproportionate inﬂuence on the image or paradigm of what it meant to be gay” (11). Much of the book examined gay sexism. traced the transformative effects of a hurricane in 1938 and World War II in the 1940s.
arguing that “gay liberation’s fundamental premise. that gay people must openly declare their sexual preference. Contrasting the “camp/theatrical sensibility” of the Grove with the “egalitarian/authentic” sensibility of the LGBT movement (85). Harlem. partly because of shame and guilt. and the Ad Hoc Committee to Save Cherry Grove for positive purposes. . and mostly because the Grove’s special character . it was undergoing “a transition from a world . . Fire Island were published. Chauncey highlighted three features of the gay world: its most visible elements were working-class (with distinct ethnoracial components). which was a variation on D’Emilio’s discussion of what he termed the subculture and the movement. 1890–1940. Newton was critical of Grove political ambivalence. was a direct challenge not only to the dominant society but also to the old gay survival methods” (237). especially in enclaves in the Bowery. she devoted more attention to the former. that it followed D’Emilio in working within a Thompsonian tradition in which the gay world was made and was made in cities. George Chauncey’s Gay New York made clear in its subtitle. Chauncey discussed their failings in relation to the preceding period.THE MAKING OF U. and internalization” (2). who “could not mobilize to protect their civil rights and sexual preferences. Key terms in the subtitle referenced the prehistory of corresponding terms in D’Emilio’s title. invisibility. LGBT HISTORIOGRAPHY 611 who claimed space. Slippers of Gold and Cherry Grove. developed the queer economy. was not publicly acknowledged” (193). She concluded by declaring that “gay culture in both its camp and egalitarian aspects must and will be recognized” (299). and the Making of the Gay Male World. Here gay men constructed “spheres of relative cultural autonomy” (2). the Property Owners’ Association. Newton emphasized the Mattachine Society’s successful intervention and criticized Grovers. ﬁ lling in D’Emilio’s broad historical sketch by identifying the roots of the post–World War II sexual system in the pre–World War II gender system. Chauncey labeled the views he was challenging “the myths of isolation. partly because of internal divisions. D’Emilio had emphasized the ﬂaws of these myths in relation to the 1950s and 1960s.S. One year after Boots of Leather. remarkably complex. and continually changing gay male world took shape in New York” (1). But Newton also argued that “for any resort to become politically active works against a fundamental dichotomy in industrial life between leisure time and work time” (237). and the roots of the homosexual minority in the gay male world. when “a highly visible. Gender. Greenwich Village. and used organizational vehicles such as the Arts Project. the roots of politics in culture. Nevertheless. deployed the “gender theatrics” (75) of camp and drag. and Times Square. Urban Culture. when discussing police raids in the 1960s. In her discussion of post-Stonewall developments.
For Chauncey as for his predecessors. or sex differences. less visible to outsiders. Chauncey’s claim about the century’s second third will presumably be developed in his forthcoming second volume. and more rigidly segregated in the second third of the century than the ﬁrst” (9). On the surface. For Chauncey. But Chauncey’s argument about World War I paralleled D’Emilio’s about World War II. he argued. the growth of communal identity was key. Careful to note that New York was not necessarily “typical” because of its “size and complexity. Chauncey also joined his predecessors in identifying agents of social change and emphasizing “the politics of gay culture” (269). positive changes occurred during World War I and the 1920s and negative ones during the 1930s. In terms comparable to Newton’s.” Chauncey speculated that it may have been “prototypical” (29). which could reﬂect substantive disagreements. local variations. Like Kennedy and Davis. this evaluation differs from the more positive assessments of changes during the 1930s (and beyond) in Buffalo and Cherry Grove. local variations. Chauncey wrote that the country’s “gay capital” had “disproportionate inﬂuence on national culture” (28). more conventional homosexuals. though referencing an earlier period. and trade “distinguished various types of homosexually active men: effeminate homosexuals.9 Paralleling Kennedy and Davis’s discussion of femmes.612 GLQ: A JOURNAL OF LESBIAN AND GAY STUDIES divided into ‘fairies’ and ‘men’ on the basis of gender persona to one divided into ‘homosexuals’ and ‘heterosexuals’ on the basis of sexual object-choice” (358). Chauncey’s periodization differed from D’Emilio’s insofar as he argued that “gay life in New York was less tolerated. Chauncey emphasized that elements of the older system did not disappear but highlighted the transition from one dominant model to another. when the end of Prohibition and the enduring Great Depression contributed to a conservative backlash and “exclusion of homosexuality from the public sphere” (331). Chauncey argued that masculine men who engaged in same-sex sex typically identiﬁed themselves as normal in one era but gay in the next. he . endorsing the argument that World War II was transformative but pointing out that the “evidence that a generation of men constructed gay identities and communities during the war does not in itself demonstrate that the war generation was the ﬁrst generation to do so” (11). or sex differences. The rise of “gay” consciousness in the 1930s and 1940s. and it was becoming “more rigidly segregated” from the straight world (9). too. periodization differences could reﬂect substantive disagreements. reﬂected the decline of an earlier system in which the terms fairy. Here. And he presented their positions as reconcilable.” and the rise of a new system in which the term gay “tended to group all these types together” (21). Like Newton. queer. and masculine heterosexuals.
THE MAKING OF U. and this change.” he argued that “everyday resistance” was “remarkably successful in the generations before a more formal gay political movement developed” (5). and identity-based paradigm and in mine by challenging his characterization of the homophile movement.” and “pansies”. On the critical issue of gay consciousness. LGBT HISTORIOGRAPHY 613 criticized scholars who “construe resistance in the narrowest of terms—as the organization of formal political groups” (5). 1999–2000 Brett Beemyn’s 1997 anthology Creating a Place for Ourselves marked a signiﬁcant moment in the rise of local LGBT history. San Francisco. which Chauncey presented as pointing the way to the future. Michigan. and the roles of those who “organized groups to advocate the homosexual cause” (5). The paradoxical suggestion was that the less resistant (men who were more discreet. Cherry Grove. Philadelphia. and political movement” should be . The latter referred to the establishment in the 1930s of the Committee for the Study of Sex Variants. the precondition for gay history.11 Nevertheless. Both books examined places not commonly associated with signiﬁcant LGBT cultures and in this respect were more similar to Kennedy and Davis’s book than to Chauncey’s or Newton’s. and Flint. the myths to be challenged had been formulated by D’Emilio and adopted by others: that “gay identity and culture formation” were “linked to capitalist industrialization and urbanization” and that LGBT “desire. bringing together older work on Buffalo. Washington. community or culture. their conclusions suggested the need to qualify and modify (rather than reject) D’Emilio’s narrative. and masculine than fairies) contributed more to the rise of a consolidated gay identity. in Howard’s case by criticizing his urban. Insofar as both were conceptualized before the New York studies were published. Detroit. it is not surprising that they responded more to D’Emilio’s book. progressive. Chauncey indicated that middle-class white men led the way. Many resistance strategies focused on avoidance and survival. was not necessarily positive. a sign that this work remained the ﬁeld’s frame of reference. Invoking the anthropologist James Scott’s work on “the tactics of the weak. the efforts of gay bars that “challenged their prohibition in the courts”. identity. but when discussing cultural politics and social change. DC. Chicago. Chauncey highlighted the actions of “drag queens. and New York and newer contributions on Mississippi. For Howard’s Men Like That. In different ways.10 In the next few years John Howard’s book on Mississippi and mine on Philadelphia were published. private.S. both were inﬂuenced by the “queer” turn in LGBT studies.” “fairies. Mississippi and Philadelphia.
he wrote that the book focused on both “men like that. the latter group “probably predominated” (5). “did not pertain in Mississippi” or apply to “the shape and scope of queer life” (14–15). the ﬁ rst part focused . these men were similar to Chauncey’s “normal” men before the 1930s and Kennedy and Davis’s femmes in the 1930s and 1940s. . . he wrote that the ﬁrst part discussed “contexts” and the second “changes” (xxi). Howard left open “the extent to which queer genders and sexualities in Mississippi appear akin to those in other places” (xix).” meaning “self-identiﬁed gay males. Moreover. Criticizing “identity-focused studies” (xiv). Howard argued that the concept of “gay community. In “distinct but interwoven” (17) black and white worlds. modernist trajectory” (12). In several ways. Howard also reproduced the trajectory of desire. . Arguing for a “speciﬁc” but not necessarily a “unique” queer state.” in a “linear. Howard disputed the notion that queer cultures were quintessentially urban and that southern. Howard challenged D’Emilio’s national narrative. . Howard emphasized that it remained in place in Mississippi. rural.” which he equated with a “place-based. he devoted signiﬁcant attention to the “spell. then. sway. In addition. and in arguing for “an understanding of urban centers not only as centripetal. “homosexuality and gender insubordination were acknowledged and accommodated with a .” and “men who like that. he argued that “men interested in intimate and sexual relations with other men found numerous opportunities to act on their desires” (xi). According to Howard. and movement. identity. he underscored their importance. where “queer sexuality continued to be understood as both acts and identities” (xviii). In some respects.614 GLQ: A JOURNAL OF LESBIAN AND GAY STUDIES “arrayed in chronological fashion. But Howard challenged “the Great Paradigm Shift” (xvii). sustained.” meaning men who “like queer sex . and small-town America was exceptionally antiqueer. community. Referencing his title. Discussing his book’s structure. Focusing on the period from 1945 to 1980. but also as centrifugal” (14). pretense of ignorance” (xi). Howard endorsed D’Emilio’s arguments about World War II. the notion that there was a transition from a gender system in which homosexuality was conceptualized in terms of acts to a sexual system in which homosexuality was conceptualized in terms of identities. urban gay enclave” (rather than an imagined community). when the New York studies suggested that the older system was in decline. Jackson. Signiﬁcantly. although he criticized the urban paradigm. Yet the difﬁculties of escaping that narrative were illustrated by the extent to which he offered a counternarrative framed in opposition. Focusing on Mississippi and emphasizing “circulation rather than congregation” (xiv). but do not necessarily identify as gay” (xviii). and inﬂuence” (14) of Mississippi’s largest city.
. for example. when LGBT Mississippians achieved “greater levels of community solidarity and political power” (231). City of Sisterly and Brotherly Loves began with the end of World War II. and art to circulate queer and antiqueer representations. it was more effective at suggesting that the framework needed to be qualiﬁed than at offering a replacement. His last chapter focused on public scandals involving two local politicians accused in the 1970s and 1980s of having feminizing. they preferred “a more expansive deﬁnition of gayness” (231). His evidence also showed.THE MAKING OF U. were produced by more traditionally deﬁned political and cultural agents. unleashed a conservative backlash in the 1960s.” “transformed the sites they occupied. LGBT activists worked through a short-lived “southern manifestation” (232) of the homophile movement in the 1950s. Howard wrote that the churches were more successful. same-sex. Howard argued that “gay organizing clashed with local sensibilities. the Mississippi Gay Alliance (MGA) in the 1970s. Yet the changes highlighted in the second part. while Howard’s book criticized D’Emilio’s framework. which focused on relationships between lesbians and gay men in “everyday geographies. Overall. The imagined and real queerness of the black civil rights movement. Cultural producers and audiences used songs. Although critical of what was lost in this process. however. community. which one of them eventually embraced.” “public cultures. Discussing the limited success of the MGA.” which was another variation on D’Emilio’s discussion of movement-subculture relations. and complemented his dis- . though it challenged his characterization of the homophile movement. who “found themselves in increasingly politicized positions” and “moved onto the public stage” (xvii). Howard afﬁrmed that this is what occurred. the churches were driven by the dual identity politics of LGBT Christians. Howard actually discussed change in both. and gay churches in the 1980s.” and “remade themselves” (36). the new discourse “channeled queer feelings into particular modes of gay being and homosexual identity” (251).S. and non-Christians probably did not see such deﬁnitions as “more expansive.12 Chronologically. and politics” (xviii). probably ﬁt most readily into D’Emilio’s framework. rarely responded to a narrow gay movement driven by identity politics”. (Arguably. because the state’s “queer Christians . which drove his narrative forward. ﬁ lms. accepting D’Emilio’s argument about the war’s importance. emphasizing in the ﬁ rst part that queers “changed Mississippi. LGBT HISTORIOGRAPHY 615 on desires and acts.” and “political movements” (v). interracial sex.”) Nevertheless. queer and nonqueer. Howard used these episodes to highlight the ongoing inﬂuence of the act-based queer paradigm. that these politicians were struggling against an ascendant identity-based gay paradigm. My book on Philadelphia. novels. the second turned to “identity. .
City of Sisterly and Brotherly Loves began with a section that examined everyday life and everyday resistance across the entire period. I highlighted the roles of LGBT political groups. the ‘imagined community’ of lesbians and gay men” (185). Though the period chronicled in the book ended in 1972. “probably North America’s biggest city without a reputation for a sizable lesbian and gay community” (7–8). Beyond challenging myths about Philadelphia. have been key agents of historical change” (4) and emphasizing “the power that these groups gained to represent. the book looked at a “forgotten big city” (17). gay liberation. class.616 GLQ: A JOURNAL OF LESBIAN AND GAY STUDIES cussion of national repression in the 1950s with analysis of local examples and variations. Philadelphia’s early homophile era did not feature a pre- . While my analysis followed D’Emilio’s in emphasizing that community consciousness preceded political activism. . my book warned against romanticizing either communitybased resistance or homophile movement activism. and community members often encountered opposition and apathy in the movements that purported to represent them” (6). the book followed the lead of D’Emilio and Newton. In looking at “convergences and divergences” (10) between lesbians and gay men. but also worked at odds with them. it followed the lead of D’Emilio. the point of extending the discussion beyond Stonewall was to assess continuities and discontinuities across this turning point. . ethnicity. but it also examined gender. politically and textually. Like Howard’s book. Geographically. Like D’Emilio. and lesbian feminist groups in the 1960s and 1970s. As I argued: “Everyday resistance not only inspired. City of Sisterly and Brotherly Loves criticized “the tendency to conceive of lesbians and gay men as either entirely distinct or completely conjoined” (3) and the tendency to view everyday resistance and organized politics as either mutually supporting or fundamentally opposed. In exploring a location featuring “dynamic relationships” between everyday resistance and homophile politics. City of Sisterly and Brotherly Loves privileged sex differences. which in turned produced new ways of imagining community. In this respect. supported.” a ﬁnding that suggested that “every large city in the United States likely featured important LGBT communities” (ix). First. it modiﬁed D’Emilio’s portrayal of the movement. Socially. In my 2004 preface I argue that learning that New York and San Francisco “featured large and dynamic LGBT worlds before the 1970s” was “not nearly as surprising as discovering that such worlds existed in Philadelphia. Activists often encountered opposition and apathy in the communities that they purported to represent. and sustained organized movements. but then it proceeded chronologically. ﬁ rst exploring public debates about same-sex sexuality in the 1950s and then looking at homophile. arguing that “organized movements . and race.
Adopting a politics of sexual liberation. called on everyone to come out.” and “not only left binary sex oppositions in place but reinforced their strength” (386–87). and thus reconceptualized relationships between sexual politics and sexual communities (13). The Paciﬁc Northwest and San Francisco. Third. Although City of Sisterly and Brotherly Loves emphasized the diversity of homophile strategies and the sexual radicalism of one homophile faction. published the sexually risqué Drum magazine. suggesting continuities between pre. then. Kennedy and Davis’s book focused on women in a midsize city. which had become a national organization led by men. which led to devastating state repression. Newton’s explored a small-town resort. rejected the “minority” model. Yet in many respects the local monographs were not comparable. which became the country’s most widely circulating LGBT movement periodical. For example. LGBT HISTORIOGRAPHY 617 dominantly male Mattachine Society and an exclusively female Daughters of Bilitis.THE MAKING OF U. Janus. rural state. Mine focused on men and women in a big city and explored a time and place with an active “community” and “movement. on separate but parallel paths.” “reproduced the dominant system of relations between the sexes. lesbians and gay men “participated in and contributed to a conservative consensus about the nature of differences between women and men.S. my book may have modiﬁed the portrait of the homophile movement presented by D’Emilio. “Rather than represent a ‘queer’ alternative. only Chauncey’s examined the period before the 1930s. 2003 By the turn of the twenty-ﬁrst century there seemed to be enough local historical studies to allow for comparative or synthetic work. the local Mattachine Society and Janus Society brought women and men together. but it joined his in presenting critical historical perspectives on LGBT politics and communities. multicultural post-Stonewall gay liberationists and lesbian feminists. In the end. Of the ones discussed here. other homophile groups carried forward the politics of militant respectability into the 1970s. and it looked only at men in the country’s largest city. in the mid-1960s part of the homophile movement embraced the sexual revolution. and this shaped the groups’ strategies of respectability.” I argued. Fourth. Instead. Second. its overall conclusion offered a queer critique of LGBT sex/gender conservatism. but in this case the convergence centered on sexual politics. igniting a sex war with the more respectable activists discussed by D’Emilio. criticized the homo/heterosexual binary. Howard’s examined men in a southern.and post-Stonewall activism. Janus offered another instance of the movement and subculture converging.” These differences made it possible .
but also looked more broadly at the Northwest. making it clear that . more inﬂuenced by D’Emilio. while “most large cities. with which it shared chronological parameters and a focus on male genders and sexualities. Boag joined Howard in rejecting the “traditional ‘wisdom’ that rural America is a place averse to homoeroticism and lacking in attractiveness to a community of individuals with same-sex sexual interests” (41). Slippers of Gold in highlighting class differences. Emphasizing the distinctiveness of the Northwest. and oral sex was more accepted. a large multicultural population of transient male laborers. which featured a high male-to-female sex ratio. hobo jungles. Middle-class cultures. “openness. Peter Boag’s Same-Sex Affairs examined late-nineteenth. working-class and middle-class cultures developed distinct same-sex sexual geographies and institutions.” and same-sex sexuality was conceptualized more in age-stratiﬁed than in gender-stratiﬁed terms. remained hostile” (41). Boag also explored what happened to these cultures when their participants moved to or through the city. Workingclass same-sex sex was often conceptualized by dominant society as a product of class. ethnic. Yet Boag also explored urban middle-class geographies and formations. Middle-class same-sex sex was largely ignored until public scandals contributed to the emergence of modern conceptions linking homosexuality with middle-class whites. It was structured around three comparisons. According to Boag. In Portland. and infrequency were responsible for transient same-sex sexuality” on the road (39).618 GLQ: A JOURNAL OF LESBIAN AND GAY STUDIES to compare subjects deﬁned as dissimilar but not those deﬁned as similar. In this respect. This began to change with the publication of two books on West Coast cities. and racial degeneration and was actively repressed. the older partner typically “penetrated” the younger one. A second comparative discussion. In dialogue with Chauncey. a “dynamic midsize urban center” (1). despite drawing in gay men. the ﬁ rst of which followed Gay New York and Boots of Leather. tended to feature age-homogeneous couplings. Boag argued that migratory working-class cultures tended to feature couplings of older “jockers” and “wolfs” with younger “punks” and “lambs” (25–26). Examining working-class cultures in nonurban work camps. Boag’s book nonetheless worked within D’Emilio’s framework.and early-twentiethcentury Portland. Boag argued that in the Northwest masculine “punks” were more signiﬁcant than feminine “fairies. dealt with cities and hinterlands. whose identity models and sexual practices “contributed a great deal to America’s ﬁrst sexual revolution” (10). disdain. either anally or between the legs. and a white middleclass sector much affected by the rise of corporate capitalism. In these encounters. acceptance. Responding most directly to Gay New York. in contrast. and common practice rather than obscurity. and transportation vectors.
Boyd’s portrait of San Francisco in the 1930s.” and “licentious entertainment” (2). .THE MAKING OF U. transgression. led to a “seismic shift” (4) in which “the broader Northwest citizenry ﬁ rst learned that a thriving male homosexual community existed in their midst” (2). however.” and “its visibility was due in part to middle-class white society’s concerted surveillance” (3). differed from Chauncey’s portrait of New York insofar as San Francisco’s “publicly visible queer cultures and communities . Chronologically. Boyd suggested several modiﬁcations to D’Emilio’s framework. which brought unprecedented public attention to the “homosexual” culture of middle-class whites. bars. Boag thus concurred with D’Emilio not only on the importance of nineteenth-century socioeconomic transformations but also on the signiﬁcance of dynamic relationships between politics and communities. Like Chauncey and Boag. . Nan Alamilla Boyd’s Wide-Open Town opened up multiple translocal comparative possibilities insofar as it covered women and men. Before 1912 “the most visible same-sex sexual subculture in the Northwest was one that the region’s predominantly transient labor force had forged. . homosexuality also became implicated in regional class struggles when political populists attacked the sexual corruption of business and reform elites.S. she highlighted transformations in the late nineteenth century. Like D’Emilio. and he similarly developed D’Emilio’s argument about industrialization by emphasizing the sexual signiﬁcance of the new corporate white-collar sector. and taverns” (5). In this way. in “bar-based cultures” and “homophile communities” (6). blossomed in 1933 with the repeal of Prohibition and the emergence of queer entertainments in the city’s tourist-district nightclubs. Ultimately. which had “a uniquely queer environment in the post-Prohibition era” (11). San Francisco developed a “live-and-let-live sensibility” (4) that encouraged gender and sexual commerce. when publicly visible LGBT cultures emerged in the context of industrialization and urbanization. this led “progressive” reformers to initiate harsh crackdowns. LGBT HISTORIOGRAPHY 619 he favored “the tradition that holds that modern ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’ communities emerged ﬁrst in cities” (6). From its origins as a “frontier town” marked by multicultural diversity. which centered on a local YMCA and implicated middle-class whites. she emphasized the repressive campaigns of early-twentieth-century social reformers. Meanwhile. A third comparative discussion contrasted the periods before and after a major Portland vice scandal in 1912. tourism. Boyd’s focused on San Francisco. “lawlessness. and vice. high male-to-female sex ratios. before and after World War II. Like D’Emilio’s work on movement-subculture convergence. he developed D’Emilio’s argument about urbanization. The 1912 scandal.
identity. Boyd followed D’Emilio in emphasizing its leftist origins in the 1950s. she argued against a “linear relationship between behavior. its turn to assimilationist respectability. community.and post-Stonewall eras. she emphasized that it “functioned to elaborate and extend the tourist-based cultures that emerged in the post-Prohibition era. but without comparing the pre. the greatest challenges to dominant society did not come from “factions that clearly articulated same-sex sexual identities or aligned themselves with overtly political organizations” but instead derived . As for the post–World War II era. perhaps—a larger sense of community seemed on the brink of articulation” (5–6). . and its radicalization in the 1960s. and activism” (14). when entertainers promoted the notion of “a ‘gay community’ ” (59) and “the gay bar evolved into a kind of politicized community center” (62). Boyd explored the rise of “gay” consciousness. her book. “much like New York City’s 1969 Stonewall Riots. Like Howard. Thus she departed from D’Emilio’s conclusions. Along with her predecessors. examined new forms of repression and resistance in the 1950s. and emphasized that for many decades “queer communities . Early homophile groups introduced “the necessary ﬁction of national community” (162). Boyd concluded that while Stonewall was a “turning point” on the East Coast.620 GLQ: A JOURNAL OF LESBIAN AND GAY STUDIES While Boyd accepted the notion that World War II “transformed” the city (112). “Sometimes the differences between queer communities overwhelmed the possibility of forging a larger collectivity. the response to this raid demonstrated “the growing political strength of what was increasingly known as the city’s ‘gay community’ ” (6). Especially important were entertainers and bar owners. did not form a cohesive whole” (5). Moreover. . As she pointed out. Newton’s. but at other times—during a bar raid. Highlighting the emergence of the homophile movement. used the term queer for those “who did not identify themselves as gay or lesbian” (6). it was not “a mobilizing factor in San Francisco” (10). concentrated the political energies of organizations already in place” and “hastened the politicization of bar-based populations” (236). some of whom began in the 1940s to wage court battles for LGBT rights. like D’Emilio’s. As for agents of resistance and change. and in the 1960s “what was increasingly called a ‘gay community’ in San Francisco began to look and act like a formidable political constituency” (19). According to Boyd. Boyd’s argument paralleled D’Emilio’s insofar as the 1965 ball. the 1965 New Year’s Day raid on a costume ball organized by the Council on Religion and the Homosexual. Boyd joined Kennedy and Davis as well as Chauncey in emphasizing bar-based cultures. Boyd’s book ended with an episode identiﬁed by D’Emilio. and mine. rather than to fundamentally alter them” (9). Articulation began in the 1950s.
including the League for Civil Education. when various developments “forced bar-based and homophile movements to work together” (18). she argued that the homophile movement changed in the 1960s. Boyd criticized “the standard view that the homophile movement led the way in developing formal political resistance strategies” (111) and emphasized that homophile activists “distanced themselves from the working-class and transgender culture of queer bars. Speciﬁcally referring to bar-based court battles.THE MAKING OF U. LGBT HISTORIOGRAPHY 621 from “queer and gender-transgressive groups that occupied the social world of bars” (14).” a conference inspired in part by the twentieth anniversary of the publication of Sexual Politics. Exploring new campaigns and groups. In the end. Boyd thus claimed to disagree with D’Emilio. Boyd argued that “a new discourse of resistance emerged on the border between San Francisco’s queer-bar cultures and its homophile communities” (18). but D’Emilio had also highlighted the homophile movement’s “retreat to respectability” and its distance from LGBT communities (in the second part of his three-part schema). more radical directions in the mid-1960s. Historiographical Conclusions In the fall of 2003 the Social Sciences Research Council sponsored (and Margot Canaday and Pippa Holloway organized) “Sexual Worlds. identity. reproduced this framework when analyzing change over time. and activism. Sexual Communities. Boyd joined D’Emilio and me in suggesting that the homophile movement turned in new. the San Francisco Tavern Guild. like his. the Society for Individual Rights. Political Cultures. community. Boyd acknowledged that the homophile “contribution to queer life in the city was profound” (147). She concluded. “Where bar-based constituents had asserted collective rights (the right to association) and homophile communities had asserted individual rights (the right to due process). While she joined Howard in rejecting a linear narrativizing of behavior. Like D’Emilio. the emergence of a viable political constituency suggested an alternative approach to civil rights—a minority-based discourse based on equal protection law” (219).S.” “promoted gender-normative identities. her book. Furthermore. not necessarily because they agreed with everything he .” and favored “integration” and “assimilation” (14). and the Council on Religion and the Homosexual. she argued that bar-based resistance was “prepolitical” in relation to homophile movements but “political” (12) insofar as “traversing landscapes and claiming space had a political momentum of its own” (14). Invoking Kennedy and Davis’s work. Many of the conference participants paid homage to D’Emilio’s work.
622 GLQ: A JOURNAL OF LESBIAN AND GAY STUDIES had written but because his book had proved so compellingly productive. but those identities and communities look more diverse now. Sexual Communities a sense of the importance of Stonewall. disagreements. but they have offered new perspectives on when. D’Emilio’s broad historical framework. changing politics. Sexual Communities a foundation in Marxist feminist social constructionism.S. migrations. with analysis of federal government persecution in the 1950s and 1960s. a subject highlighted in D’Emilio’s book. where. examined corporate capitalism. and wartime mobilization. recently published as The Lavender Scare. Another sign of D’Emilio’s inﬂuence is that of the U. In making a case for D’Emilio’s inﬂuence on local studies. Nevertheless. DC. why. and explored multiple wars. They may have followed Sexual Politics. and conﬂicts. Johnson. real estate development. but they have built on this foundation to stress the importance of cultural developments. highlighted more of the movement’s conservative and radical features. and multiple strategies of the post–World War II homophile movement. Moreover. and cultural commercialization. ethnoracial. D’Emilio’s inﬂuence can also be traced in dozens of other books and articles on local U. whether. and their class.S. there is a greater sense of what was lost as well as what was gained in these developments. and there is a greater appreciation of the importance of queer desires and acts that exceed the bounds of homosexual identities and communities. processes of identity and community consolidation appear more complex and contested. but they have also placed cities within larger regional geographies. One example by David K. seems less complete. LGBT history. The local works may have agreed with D’Emilio that new identities and communities emerged in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. integrates a local study of Washington. The local studies may have shared with Sexual Politics. industrialization. sex/gender. and sexual features have been examined in greater depth. including those that concentrate on queer formations not directly linked to the “sexual politics” and “sexual communities” highlighted in D’Emilio’s book. and for whom Stonewall was a turning point.-focused dissertations in the Committee on Lesbian and Gay History bibliography that are not local studies. many focus on political themes initially explored in Sexual Politics. Sexual Communities in emphasizing urbanization. this essay has minimized departures. tourist economies. The local studies may have agreed with D’Emilio on the historical signiﬁcance. the transition from gender inversion to homosexual object-choice models. and offered new ways of conceptualizing relationships between politics and communities. The local studies may have shared with Sexual Politics. built on a sequential . and mobilizations. if there has been one. Sexual Communities. but they have expanded the concept of LGBT political resistance.
4. LGBT history. Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy. which after all is what many disciplines explore. the sequential narrativizing of desires. 1976).S. and Gay History. acts. Sexual Communities ﬁrst demonstrated in the ﬁeld of U. Judith Schwartz. identities. In this review I cite the ﬁrst edition of D’Emilio’s book. and movements. when Sexual Politics. See also Toby Marotta. Licata’s dissertation.S. On this part of D’Emilio’s framework see Steven Maynard.” Journal of Urban History 30 (2004): 378–98. 1991). not because it helps us offer stories of progress. 2. George Chauncey. communities. Among the early U. For better and for worse. completed at the University of Southern California. Gutiérrez’s dissertation was revised and published as When Jesus Came. Joan Nestle. they imagine cultural communities and political movements coming together to make meaningful social change. Conversations with Laura Doan at GLQ helped immensely. Allan Bérubé. 1. Lillian Faderman. Rather.-based scholars who most inﬂuenced the later development of U. the Corn Mothers Went Away: Marriage. communities. LGBT HISTORIOGRAPHY 623 narrativizing of desires. Esther Newton. and Jonathan Ned Katz. remains strong. Sexual Communities and its progeny address these dynamics. LGBT history were Henry Abelove. with special emphasis on human agents of change. Urban Culture. The Politics of Homosexuality (Boston: Houghton Mifﬂin. I would argue that this sequential narrative has been adopted so widely (even by those who have criticized it) not because we have failed to appreciate what it leaves out. Gay American History (New York: Avon. . Jorge Olivares reads and improves virtually everything I write for publication. 1981). was never published as a book. 3. Leila Rupp.THE MAKING OF U.S. and Power in New Mexico. Notes For opportunities to discuss some of the ideas presented here I thank audiences at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee (especially Jeffrey Merrick) and Swarthmore College (especially Timothy Stewart-Winter). 1500–1846 (Stanford: Stanford University Press. Lisa Duggan. Blanche Wiesen Cook. but the critical study of change over time. and movements offers a compelling way of writing critically about dynamics of change in the twentieth century. Eric Garber. it reﬂects what history today tends to be: not the study of the past. acts. Estelle Freedman.S. Over the years I have been enriched greatly by dialogue with most of the scholars whose works are discussed in this essay. As Sexual Politics. and not because we have failed to imagine queerer possibilities. Martin Duberman. Jonathan Ned Katz. identities. and Carroll SmithRosenberg. “ ‘Without Working?’ Capitalism. Sexuality. Michael Bronski.
Class. continuities. P. Ullman. 7.” in The Great Migration in Historical Perspective: New Dimensions of Race. the discussion of Sacramento in Sharon R. debates. it has been updated by Leisa Meyer. Some readers may be troubled by the section of this essay that focuses on my own work. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press. 2000). e. 1964). and discontinuities.html. and I thank the friends. Historiographical writing usually reviews and analyzes the development of scholarship over time. historiographical writing of discussing one’s own contributions to a ﬁeld. Kerber. For the Committee on Lesbian and Gay History’s bibliography of history dissertations see www. 1991). Joe William Trotter Jr. Woman’s Place: The Rhetoric of Women’s History. This essay was conceived as a work of historiography. conversations. Sex Seen: The Emergence of Modern Sexuality in America (Berkeley: University of California Press.usc. e. and Joe William Trotter Jr.S. ed.. Even works that do not appear to be local in general orientation have adopted local modes of analysis. The implicit and explicit criticisms of the ﬁeld that I make in the essay’s introduction . of Memphis in Lisa Duggan. 1997). and readers who have worked to ensure that I am neither too easy nor too hard on my own work. colleagues. which historians generally understand to refer to the history of history (with history deﬁned as the study of the past). The Lavender Scare: The Cold War Persecution of Gays and Lesbians in the Federal Government (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1–21. Female Worlds.” in Disorderly Conduct: Visions of Gender in Victorian America (New York: Knopf.624 GLQ: A JOURNAL OF LESBIAN AND GAY STUDIES 5. “More than the Woodward Thesis: Assessing The Strange Career of Jim Crow. The Making of the English Working Class (New York: Pantheon. dialogues.. of Chicago and New York in Kevin Mumford. pretending that I have not published in this ﬁeld (or acknowledging that I have but only in a cursory way) did not seem like a viable option as this essay took shape. Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham..” Gender and History 1 (1989): 50–67. Sapphic Slashers: Sex. 8.g.” Journal of American History 75 (1988): 842–56. paradigms. Carroll Smith-Rosenberg. Violence. 11–52. in David K.edu/isd/archives/clgh/dissertations. Linda K. Rabinowitz. and American Modernity (Durham: Duke University Press. “Hearing Women’s Words: A Feminist Reconstruction of History. See.” Journal of American History 75 (1988): 9–39. Johnson. Howard N. and Gender. patterns. E. for example. and of Washington. focusing. Interzones: Black/White Sex Districts in Chicago and New York in the Early Twentieth Century (New York: Columbia University Press. I prepared the original version. as well as on the larger contexts that inﬂuenced these developments. Thompson. DC. but there is a tradition in U. 1997). See. on scholarly trends. 2004). For various reasons. Including my own work in a discussion of historiographical developments posed several challenges. “Separate Spheres. “Beyond the Sound of Silence: Afro-American Women in History.g. 1985). “Black Migration in Historical Perspective: A Review of the Literature. 6.
“Christian Brotherhood or Sexual Perversion? Homosexual Identities and the Construction of Sexual Boundaries in the World War I Era.THE MAKING OF U. LGBT HISTORIOGRAPHY 625 and conclusion should be read as applying to my own work as well as to the other works discussed. 1988). Chauncey made a similar argument in earlier work on Newport. See George Chauncey Jr. That Noble Dream: The “Objectivity Question” and the American Historical Profession (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Gay. no. “Behind the Mask of Respectability: Reconsidering the Mattachine Society and Male Homophile Practice. “Making It Perfectly Queer. Culture.. Scott Bravmann. For a different challenge to D’Emilio’s characterization of the homophile movement see Martin Meeker. . 9.” Radical History Review. 10. that would be the case if I did not include a section on my own work. Turner. 62 (1995): 8–23. no. and Martha M. 1997).” is Peter Novick. “The Queering of Lesbian/Gay History. no. The standard work on U.S. 1997). and similar claims could be made about most reviews written by scholars about the work of other scholars. ed. Queer Fictions of the Past: History. Rhode Island. On the queer turn and its relationship to U. That said. Umphrey. 62 (1995): 44–57. 11..” Socialist Review 22. and Bisexual Community Histories (New York: Routledge.S.” Journal of Social History 19 (1985): 189–212.” Radical History Review.S. 1 (1992): 11–31. history see Henry Abelove. Creating a Place for Ourselves: Lesbian. historiography. William B. 2000). A Genealogy of Queer Theory (Philadelphia: Temple University Press. but the need to take care in making generalizations about language is suggested by the fact that queer referred to feminine men in Newport but nonfeminine men in New York. and Difference (New York: Cambridge University Press. I recognize that some of the essay’s arguments can be read as partial (in both senses of the term) defenses of my particular contributions. 1950s and 1960s. 12. which foregrounds debates about “objectivity. In this review I cite the ﬁrst edition of my book. “The Trouble with Harry Thaw. Brett Beemyn.” Journal of the History of Sexuality 10 (2001): 78–116. in the 1910s. Lisa Duggan.
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