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