Beacon Press: A Queer History of the United States
Login Cart

A Queer History of the United States

Author: Michael Bronski

The first book to cover the entirety of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender history, from pre-1492 to the present.

In the 1620s, Thomas Morton broke from Plymouth Colony and founded Merrymount, which celebrated same-sex desire, atheism, and interracial marriage. Transgender evangelist Jemima Wilkinson, in the early 1800s, changed her name to “Publick Universal Friend,” refused to use pronouns, fought for gender equality, and led her own congregation in upstate New York. In the mid-nineteenth century, internationally famous Shakespearean actor Charlotte Cushman led an openly lesbian life, including a well-publicized “female marriage.” And in the late 1920s, Augustus Granville Dill was fired by W. E. B. Du Bois from the NAACP’s magazine the Crisis after being arrested for a homosexual encounter. These are just a few moments of queer history that Michael Bronski highlights in this groundbreaking book.

Intellectually dynamic and endlessly provocative, A Queer History of the United States is more than a “who’s who” of queer history: it is a book that radically challenges how we understand American history. Drawing upon primary documents, literature, and cultural histories, noted scholar and activist Michael Bronski charts the breadth of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender history, from 1492 to the 1990s, and has written a testament to how the LGBT experience has profoundly shaped our country, culture, and history.

A Queer History of the United States abounds with startling examples of unknown or often ignored aspects of American history-the ineffectiveness of sodomy laws in the colonies, the prevalence of cross-dressing women soldiers in the Civil War, the impact of new technologies on LGBT life in the nineteenth century, and how rock music and popular culture were, in large part, responsible for the devastating backlash against gay rights in the late 1970s. Most striking, Bronski documents how, over centuries, various incarnations of social purity movements have consistently attempted to regulate all sexuality, including fantasies, masturbation, and queer sex. Resisting these efforts, same-sex desire flourished and helped make America what it is today.

At heart, A Queer History of the United States is simply about American history. It is a book that will matter both to LGBT people and heterosexuals. This engrossing and revelatory history will make readers appreciate just how queer America really is.
Bookmark and Share
“Bronski does a stunning job of sweeping across five hundred years and weaving ‘queer’ through the history of this nation. Always insightful, and provocative.” —John D’Emilio, author of Lost Prophet

“In the age of Twitter and reductive history, we need a complex, fully realized, radical reassessment of history-and A Queer History of the United States is exactly that. Along the way, there are enough revelations and reassessments to fuel dozens of arguments about how we got to where we are today. I don’t know when I have enjoyed a history so much.” -Dorothy Allison, author of Bastard Out of Carolina

“Bronski has that rare ability to comprehensively synthesize a large body of material without simplifying or distorting it, taking as much care with historical evidence as with the shifts in language necessary to accurately understand it. Equally prudent with his definitions and generalizations, the result is a thoroughly accessible and reliable account that is as deeply informative as it is pleasurable to read.” -Martin Duberman, Distinguished Professor of History Emeritus, City University of New York

“This book is a revelation. Its lively and engaging narrative peels back layers of cultural interconnection-from the creation of corn flakes to curb masturbation to Bette Midler’s rise to stardom that started at a gay bathhouse-and much more. Bronski has a Zinn-like grasp of the ties that bind us all together and how to illuminate them on the page.” -Jewelle Gomez, activist and author of The Gilda Stories

“Bronski demonstrates with wit, insight, and impeccable scholarship that queer lives are, and always have been, woven into the very fabric of this country. Readable, radical, and smart-a must read.” -Alison Bechdel, author of Fun Home

“Elegant, insightfully selective, and unremittingly intelligent, Bronski’s survey-of the whys and the ways queer people’s work and struggle have been integral in forming what we call ‘the United States of America’-is an impressive and useful overview.” -Samuel R. Delany, author of Times Square Red, Times Square Blue

“A savvy political, legal, literary (and even fashion) history, Bronski’s narrative is as intellectually rigorous as it is entertaining.” -Publishers Weekly, starred review

Reviews

Review: Windy City Times - March 1, 2012
"The first book to cover all of LGBT history from 1492 through the present is Michael Bronski's A Queer History of the United States (Beacon Press). It is wonderfully readable and looks at the way we understand the history of the United States. The LGBT population moves from the margins to the mainstream and we see that the history of this country also is our history."
Review: CHOICE Magazine - November 1, 2011
“Bronski's book provides an excellent overview for readers new to the field of gay history. Summing Up: Essential. All levels/libraries...”
Review: The Bay Area Reporter - June 1, 2011
“[A] monumental achievement.”
Review: Boston Globe - May 11, 2011
“...A succinct distillation of the history of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders in America… Bronski’s impeccable research bolsters his arguments… a useful handbook for LGBT activist groups and other interested members of the gay community.”
Review: Kirkus Reviews, starred review - February 17, 2011
“A lucid, cerebral treatise on gay culture from the point of view of a clever historian who maintains that 'the heritage of LGBT people is the heritage of Americans.'"
From Chapter 3: Imagining a Queer America

Writing a New National Culture: The East

Paradoxically, as westward expansion made the country geographically larger, new technologies--the invention of the telegraph in the late 1830s, the growth of a national railway system, and the telephone in the 1870s--facilitated travel and communications, making the country smaller and more cohesive. In these conditions we see the eventual flourishing of a distinctly American intellectual and literary culture. Washington Irving’s 1820 short story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” promotes the ideal of robust, decidedly heterosexual masculinity, as embodied by “Brom Bones” Van Brunt, over that of the lanky, effeminized schoolteacher Ichabod Crane. Both men are courting young Katrina Van Tassel until Brom Bones frightens Crane out of town. Irving’s gender and sexual message is clear. Crane’s first name means “inglorious” in Hebrew, which Bible-literate contemporary readers would know. And as literary critic Caleb Crain points out, much of the action of the story takes place by “Major Andre’s tree.” This is a reference to Major John Andre, the British officer--generally thought to be a lover of men--who collaborated with Benedict Arnold and was hanged by George Washington as a spy in 1780.7 For Irving, nearly four decades after the Revolution, the new, clearly heterosexual American man was an imperative.

In contrast to Irving, also in 1820, nineteen-year-old Harvard student Ralph Waldo Emerson was writing entries in his journal about Martin Gay, a fellow student three years younger to whom he was attracted. Two years earlier, when he had first seen Gay, Emerson wrote:

I begin to believe in the Indian doctrine of eye-fascination. The cold blue eye of [Emerson deleted the name here] has so intimately connected him to my thoughts & visions that a dozen times a day & as often . . . by night I have found myself wholly wrapped up in conjectures of his character and inclinations. . . . We have had already two or three profound stares at one another. Be it wise or weak or superstitious I must know him.

Crain notes that Emerson’s attraction to Gay was a form of the nineteenth-century ideal of “sympathy.” In this context, sympathy-- a form of empathy that, as Crain writes, “allows us to feel emotions that are not ours”--is an expansive form of romantic friendship. The deeply felt connective emotion of sympathy allows one to not only value a friend for his or her emotional sincerity, but to take imaginative leaps toward understanding and sharing the emotions of another. This new understanding of the possibilities of shared emotion was likely inflected by the new America of wide-open western spaces, natural landscape, and the outlaw.

In 1837 Emerson published “Nature,” an essay fundamental in defining transcendentalism: the distinctly American philosophy promoting individual spiritual transcendence through experiencing the material world, especially nature, rather than through organized religion. The next year, in his “American Scholar” speech, he urged his audience to rethink the idea of the American man (by which he meant humans) and to create an independent, original, and free national literature. Animated by the ideal of an expansive sympathy influenced by the “naturalness” of America, Emerson argued for an egalitarian society that values all of its members’ individual contributions to a whole: the doctrine “that there is One Man,--present to all particular men only partially, or through one faculty; and that you must take the whole society to find the whole man. Man is not a farmer, or a professor, or an engineer, but he is all. Man is priest, and scholar, and statesman, and producer, and soldier.”

Emerson’s vision of American equality, the basis for his strong antislavery and pro-women’s suffrage beliefs, has roots in the Enlightenment and in his radical, nature-based vision of Christianity. But it is especially rooted in his ability to admit and emotionally explore his attraction to--his sympathy with--other men. Samesex affection was integral to understanding the mutually beneficent dynamics of the individual in society. This egalitarian same-sex affection placed the rugged individualism of the Revolutionary man into a new context, not of conquering an American landscape but of emerging from it and being at one with it. This was the cornerstone of a new way of understanding gender, desire, and personal and social liberty.

The feelings Emerson had for Martin Gay (his journals indicate “sympathy” for other young men as well) did not stop him from marrying twice and fathering four children. Emerson did not easily embrace all aspects of this sympathy. In 1824 he wrote in his journal, “He that loosely forgets himself here & lets his friend be privy to his words & acts which base desires extort from him has forfeited like a fool the love he prized.” This is an example of an internal tension that reflected a larger tension between sympathy and overt sexuality: that is, moving from a private emotion to publicly expressing that emotion.

Emerson was not the only person dealing with this conflation of desires, emotions, and political ideas. A wealth of homoerotic sentiments are present in the poems and journals of Henry David Thoreau. Meditations on friendship run throughout his journal, and by the 1840s they became increasingly erotic: “Feb. 18 [1840]. All romance is grounded on friendship. What is this rural, this pastoral, this poetical life but its invention? Does not the moon shine for Endymion? Smooth pastures and mild airs are for some Corydon and Phyllis. Paradise belongs to Adam and Eve. Plato’s republic is governed by Platonic love.”

Thoreau’s invoking of Endymion, Corydon, and Plato strongly suggests a homosexual subtext; the two mythological figures were iconic representations for same-sex male desire in Renaissance art, and the Republic was, in part, an analysis of male friendship and love. Thoreau is using friendship as a metaphor here. However, his attraction to the eroticized male body appears throughout his journals without mythological trappings, but rather with a decidedly transcendentalist bent:

[June 12, 1852.] Boys are bathing in Hubbard’s Bend, playing with a boat (I at the willows). The color of their bodies in the sun at a distance is pleasing, the not often seen flesh-color. I hear the sound of their sport borne over the water. As yet we have not man in nature. What a singular fact for an angel visitant to this earth to carry back in his note-book, that men were forbidden to expose their bodies under the severest penalties! A pale pink, which the sun would soon tan. White men! There are no white men to contrast with the red and the black; they are of such colors as the weaver gives them. I wonder that the dog knows his master where he goes in to bathe and does not stay by his clothes.

Thoreau’s message is that civilization, with its “severest penalties,” is most unnatural. He is arguing that nature not only allows for “exposure” but is a space for racial equality, one wherein even the idea of “whiteness” is exposed as a lie. Alluding to classical literature and the European culture it inspired was a common method for nineteenth-century American intellectuals to discuss sexuality and sexual behaviors. Used consciously to reinforce ideas about American citizenship and democratic structures, the older culture safely places the sexuality at a distance.

Margaret Fuller, a leading figure in the transcendentalist movement and author of Women of the Nineteenth Century, the first major feminist publication in the United States, was also connecting to same-sex erotic intimacy and a new American ideal. In 1843, several years after viewing Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen’s Ganymede at a Boston exhibition, Fuller wrote “Ganymede to His Eagle,” a poem about the beautiful boy abducted by Zeus, in the form of an eagle, to be his lover and cupbearer. Here the cupbearer speaks to the eagle:

Before I saw thee, I was like the May, Longing for summer that must mar its bloom, Or like the morning star that calls the day, Whose glories to its promise are the tomb; And as the eager fountain rises higher To throw itself more strongly back to earth, Still, as more sweet and full rose my desire, More fondly it reverted to its birth, For, what the rosebud seeks tells not the rose, The meaning foretold by the boy the man cannot disclose.

Caleb Crain notes that Fuller is referring not only to the implicit homoeroticism of the original myth but, more important, to the eagle as “the emblem of sovereignty of the United States.” Thus she consciously conflates mythological same-sex desire with the democratic progress of the nation. Fuller is indicating that the longing for freedom implicit in same-sex desire and sympathy cannot be fully expressed--the rosebud cannot tell the rose what it feels--because its power, at root political, emanates from being unspoken. In much of this literature is an underlying assumption that unspoken feelings are stronger than articulated ones. In 1839, at the age of twentynine, Fuller wrote to a woman friend of long standing:

With regard to yourself, I was to you all that I wished to be. I knew that I reigned in your thoughts in my own way. And I also lived with you more truly and freely than with any other person. We were truly friends, but it was not friends as men are friends to one another, or as brother and sister. There was, also, that pleasure, which may, perhaps, be termed conjugal, of finding oneself in an alien nature. Is there any tinge of love in this? Possibly!

Authorís Note
Introduction

One: The Persecuting Society
Two: Sexually Ambiguous Revolutions
Three: Imagining a Queer America
Four: A Democracy of Death and Art
Five: A Dangerous Purity
Seven: Production and Marketing of Gender
Eight: Sex in the Trenches
Nine: Visible Communities/Invisible Lives
Ten: Revolt/Backlash/Resistance
Epilogue

Acknowledgments
Notes
Credits
Index

  • Click here to see Bronski featured as one of Out Magazine's "Out 100" for 2011
  • Click here to read an article featuring Bronski in the Washington Blade
  • Click here to read a review of A Queer History of the United States in Gay City News
  • Click here to read a blog post by Michael Bronski on Campus Pride
  • Click here to read a review of Bronski's work originally printed in Between the Lines News
  • Click here to read a review of A Queer History of the United States on Bilerico.com
  • Michael Bronski on Kansas City Public Radio's "Up to Date"; click here to listen
  • Michael Bronski on French Public Radio's (Paris) "Culture Monde"; click here to listen
  • Michael Bronski on WBUR's Radio Boston; click here to listen
  • Click here to read an interview with Michael Bronski on Salon.com
  • Click here to read an article featuring Bronski's work in The Independent
  • Click here to read a review of Bronski's work in Z Magazine
  • Click here to read an article featuring Bronski's work on Examiner.com
  • Click here to read a discussion of Bronski's work on the blog Bisexual.com
  • Michael Bronski on WGBH Radio's The Callie Crossley Show; click here to listen
  • Click here to read an interview with Bronski in Xtra! magazine
  • Michael Bronski on The Michelangelo Signorile Show on Sirus XM; click here to listen
  • Click here to read an op-ed on gay marriage by Bronski in The Boston Phoenix
  • Click here to read a review of Bronski's work on the blogBand of Thebes
  • Click here to listen to an interview with Bronski on New Hampshire Public Radio's "Word of Mouth"
  • Click here to read a review of Bronski's work on Popnography
  • Click here to listen to an interview with Bronski on Truthing Radio
  • Click here to listen to an interview with Bronski on the BBC's Americana
  • Click here to read a review of Bronski's work on Daily Kos
  • Click here to read a review of Bronski's work in Slate
  • Lambda Literary names A Queer History of the United States one of its "23 Highly Anticipated Books of 2011"; click to read more
  • Click here to read about Bronski's work in Gay City News
  • Click here to read the October 13th review of Bronski's work in Gay City News
  • Click here to read a review of Bronski's work in the Utne Reader
  • Click here to see A Queer History of the United States featured as a co-recipient of a 2012 Stonewall Book Award
  • Click here to see A Queer History of the United States featured as one of Booklist's 2012 "Over the Rainbow" titles
  • Click here to see A Queer History of the United States nominated for Publishing Triangle's Randy Shilts Award for Gay Nonfiction
  • Click here to read an interview with Bronski on TheAdvocate.com
  • Click here to see Queer History featured in the "Gay Voices" section of the Huffington Post as a part of a slideshow, "Gay American History."







Book Trailer for A Queer History of the United States

Contents

About the Book

The first book to cover the entirety of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender history, from pre-1492 to the present, Michael Bronski's A Queer History of the United States is truly among the first of its kind. Engaging and thought-provoking, it's more than a sweeping survey—the book radically challenges how we understand queer American history. Both comprehensive and accessible, A Queer History of the United States restores the visibility of people relegated to the margins of history to make the provocative claim that LGBT history is American history.

back to contents

Praise

"A savvy political, legal, literary (and even fashion) history, Bronski's narrative is as intellectually rigorous as it is entertaining." —Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Michael Bronski's book is a revelation. Its lively and engaging narrative peels back layers of cultural interconnection-from the creation of corn flakes to curb masturbation to Bette Midler's rise to stardom that started at a gay bathouse—and much more. Bronski has a Zinn-like grasp of the ties that bind us all together and how to illuminate them on the page." —Jewelle Gomez, activist and author of The Gilda Stories

"Michael Bronski demonstrates with wit, insight, and impeccable scholarship that queer lives are, and always have been, woven into the very fabric of this country. A Queer History of the United States is readable, radical, and smart-a must read." —Alison Bechdel, author of Fun Home

"In the age of twitter and reductive history, we need a complex, fully realized, radical reassessment of history—and A Queer History of the United States is exactly that. Along the way there are enough revelations and reassessments to fuel dozens of arguments about how we got to where we are today. I don't know when I have enjoyed a history so much." —Dorothy Allison, author of Bastard Out of Carolina and Cavedweller

"Elegant, insightfully selective, and unremittingly intelligent, Bronski's survey—of the whys and the ways queer people's work and struggle have been integral in forming what we call 'the United States of America'—is an impressive and useful overview. From the Puritans through the end of the 1990's this wonderfully readable book is informative, enlightening, and will please all who seek an understanding of the forces, the contradictions, and the cultural conflicts around sex that have made us what we are." —Samuel R. Delany, author of Times Square Red, Times Square Blue and About Writing

back to contents

About the Author

Michael Bronski has been involved in Gay Liberation as a political organizer, writer, editor, publisher, and theorist since 1969. He wrote extensively for the LGBT press in the 1970s and 1980s. He is the author of Culture Clash: The Making of Gay Sensibility and The Pleasure Principle: Sex, Backlash and the Struggle for Gay Freedom. He has edited several books including Pulp Friction: Uncovering the Golden Age of Gay Male Pulps. His essays have appeared in nearly forty anthologies. As a journalist, cultural critic, and political commentator he has been published in a wide array of venues including The Village Voice, The Boston Globe, GLQ, The Los Angeles Times, and The Boston Phoenix. He is a Senior Lecturer in the Women's and Gender Studies and Jewish Studies program sat Dartmouth College.

back to contents

Questions for Discussion

Chapter One: The Persecuting Society

  • Bronski begins this chapter by talking about the limited knowledge of most Americans about LGBT history. What was your knowledge of the "beginning" of LGBT history before you began reading this book? How has that changed?

  • According to Bronski, early Europeans held that people who did not conform to Christian values, gender and other societal norms "were less than human; they were like animals," which "qualified them to be deprived of individuality, liberty, and life itself" (p. 5). Many times in history, mistreatment of people-from slavery to genocide-has been justified by claiming the victims are inferior in some way. Is this done with LGBT peoples as well as other minorities?

  • Bronski makes it clear that the native people of the Americas, as well as the Europeans who settled here later, who engaged in same-sex emotional and sexual relationships did not see themselves as being "homosexual" or "LGBT" as we use those terms today. Is it possible to use those terms to describe them when writing a history? If we do use them what do we gain, and what do we lose in understanding their lives and experiences.

Chapter Two: Sexually Ambiguous Revolutions

  • Many connections in this chapter are made between slavery and the situation of homosexuals in American history. At one point, the author states that "the widespread acceptance of legalized slavery reinforced and normalized mainstream society's ideas about moral and sexual inferiority" (p. 23). What are some similarities you see personally between the two? Do you think this is an apt comparison?

  • Ideas about what it means to be a man and what it means to be a woman change all of the time. What does Bronski argue here about how the American Revolution changed gender roles as the colonies became the Republic?

Chapter Three: Imagining a Queer America

  • Bronski uses literature, song, and poetry to make some of his points in this chapter, a technique he employs in later chapters as well. Do you think those are reliable sources, or are they open to broad, perhaps even conflicting, interpretation? How do the arts reveal truths about society?

  • "The open sea, like the open range, by offering escape from social condemnation, allowed for the articulation of same-sex desire and made same-sex sexual behavior natural and even utopian" (p. 61). Is there an equivalent of this today—somewhere "open" for sexual expression? Or do we need to change our society to make it the open space? Discuss what are some limitations and obstacles to fostering that kind of openness.

Chapter Four: A Democracy of Death and Art

  • This chapter discusses the correlations between lesbianism and increases in women's independence, such as the ability to make a difference in the world through work, social change, or live in "Boston marriages." What do you think of this correlation, which is one continued throughout the book? As women become more independent, why might lesbianism also become more prominent?

  • Bronski makes the argument throughout the book that war has always brought major changes to the lives of LGBT people. How did this happen during and after the American Civil War? How did ideas about manhood change? And how was gender, at this time, connected to the new ideas about nationhood?

Chapter Five: A Dangerous Purity

  • Bronski focuses on the nineteenth century social purity groups in this chapter and how, though they were championing good causes, were often detrimental to freedom and acceptance of racial and minority groups including people who desired their own sex or were seeking more sexual freedom. He writes about the "tension between securing personal freedom for individuals and the social purity movement's desire to protect people" (p. 85). Are there still groups today similar to the social purity groups of the past? What do you think their influence is on contemporary American society?

  • This chapter introduces the stereotypes of the "mannish lesbian" and the "effeminate homosexual man," results of the theory of inverted sexuality in homosexuals (p. 96). Do you think that these stereotypes still exist today? Do we see them in popular entertainment and on television? Are they representative of the LGBT community, and, if not, why then do they persist?

Chapter Six: Life on Stage, Life in the City

  • Bronski writes that "theater promoted instability and immorality by allowing deviations from sexual and gender norms to materialize on the stage" (p. 105). Do you think theater and other forms of media, including film, television, and the internet push social norms today? If so, how? Are they still making LGBT and gender-bending roles more accepted? And if that is the case for individuals why is there still so much discussion and resistance to legal rights for the LGBT community?

  • This chapter discusses how social changes occurred as people migrated to cities. "The rise of communities of single men and women" led to "new structures of public socializing" which allowed more LGBT freedom (p. 106). How do you think social communities have changed in contemporary times? How do these communities resemble or differ from the ones Bronski is talking about in this chapter? Has the advent of the new structures of socializing like the internet and social networking sites changed things for the LGBT community?

Chapter Seven: Production and Marketing of Gender

  • In this chapter, Bronski writes about how access to cars by the 1920s afforded "new innovation in romantic and sexual privacy" which also was "a boon to those engaged in same-sex relationships" (p. 131). Why do you think there is such a strong correlation—both here and at other points in the book-between increased sexual freedom for all and better conditions for homosexuals in general? Has this always been true throughout U.S. history? Do we see it today as well? How?

Chapter Eight: Sex in the Trenches

  • This chapter discusses the effects of World War II on lesbians and gay men. Bronski quotes one member of the Women's Army Corps as saying, "'We would socialize together, both straight and lesbian'" (p. 161). He also cites numerous examples of how the armed forces tacitly accepted both lesbians and gay men. How do you think LGBT relations in the military have changed since then? Amidst the conflicts over Don't Ask Don't Tell and the current military situation, do you think things have improved or gotten worse for lesbians and gay men in the military?

  • World War II also changed how women were treated in the United States, often granted economic and personal freedoms they had never had before. Through iconic images such as Rosie the Riveter, women were told that they had cultural importance and power. How did this change in gender roles affect lesbians and gay men? What changes did it bring about that were far reaching? What aspects of these changes were short lived?

Chapter Nine: Visible Communities/Invisible Lives

  • This chapter describes the formation, after World War II, of national organizations for homosexual rights, which were "the beginning of today's lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender movement" (p. 176). As these changes evolved, how do you think the effectiveness of the LGBT movement changed when it became "official," as opposed to the more private struggle it had been previously?

  • Bronski writes about how "the cultural obsession with homosexuality increasingly blurred the line between heterosexual and homosexual" (p. 194). What are some concrete examples of this that he gives? Do you think obsession ultimately leads to acceptance? What differentiates the two?

Chapter Ten: Revolt/Backlash/Resistance

  • Stonewall has often been seen as a major turning point or even the beginning of the modern LGBT movement. However, Bronski says that Stonewall "was less a turning point than a final stimulus" (p. 210). What other events were happening at this time that helped create Stonewall? After reading this chapter, do you still consider Stonewall as major as you did before? If you had to choose a definite turning point for the LGBT movement, what would you pick? Why?

  • This chapter, which describes how legislation has curtailed LGBT rights, covers what is called "the beginning of a conservative political and religious backlash that is still happening today" (p. 221). Why do you think this backlash began? Why did things begin to move backward instead of forward? Was this reflected in popular culture as well? How? Have these social and political trend continued until today?

Epilogue

  • This epilogue discusses the many ongoing legal battles for LGBT people, from adoption for same-sex couples to same-sex marriage. What do you think are the implications of these legal changes? Which has to come first-changed laws, then changed minds, or changed minds first, and then laws? Bronski argues that some aspects of the current LGBT political agenda stem from the long history of the fight for legal equality in U.S. history. Some, he argues, have different roots such as the social purity movements? How do these two, very different, sets of precedents work together?

  • Many LGBT representations are mentioned, from TV shows to movies. What are some LGBT media representations you are familiar with? Are these portrayals positive or negative? Do they follow stereotypes or break them? And why are these representations important?

To Discuss After Finishing the Book

  • This book is the first in the ReVisioning American History series by Beacon Press, a series intended to reinterpret history through new perspectives. How do you think this book offers a fresh viewpoint? How is it different from what you've traditionally learned? Have your knowledge and your views of LGBT history changed in reading this book?

  • Bronski states in this book that "same-sex desire had become American" (p. 54). Do you think this is true? Discuss whether you believe LGBT identity is intertwined with American identity. Do you think most Americans would agree with that? If not, then why?

  • Not all of the history in here is about specifically LGBT people. It's also about gender roles, homosocial friendships, race, immigration, internal migration of populations, the rise of technology, the history of entertainment and other things. What do you think the significance of that is? Do you think most people take into account all those things when they think about LGBT history? What have historians taken into consideration when they have written history in the past?

Links

Further Reading:

Berube, Allan. Coming Our Under Fire: Gay Men and Lesbians in World War Two (The University of North Carolina Press; 20th anv. Ed., 2010)

Boyd, Nan Alamilla. Wide-Open City: A History of Queer San Francisco to 1965 (University of California Press, 2003)

Carter, David. Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution (St. Martin's Press, 2004)

Chauncey, George. Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World (Basic Books, 1994)

Cook, Blanche Wiesen. Women and Support Networks. (Out & Out Pamphlet, 1990)

D'Emilio, John. Sexual Politics, Sexual Communities—The Making of a Homosexual Minority in the United States 1940-1970. (University of Chicago Press,1983)

Faderman, Lillian, and Stuart Timmons. Gay L.A.: A History of Sexual Outlaws, Power Politics, and Lipstick Lesbians (Basic Books, 2006)

Faderman, Lillian. Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers: A History of Lesbian Life in Twentieth-Century America (Penguin, 1992)

Faderman, Lillian. To Believe in Women: What Lesbians Have Done for America-A History (Houghton Mifflin, 1999)

Foster, Thomas. Sex and the Eighteenth-Century Man: Massachusetts and the History of Sexuality in America (Beacon Press, 2006)

Heap, Chad. Slumming: Sexual and Racial Encounters in American Nightlife, 1885-1940 (University Of Chicago Press, 2009)

Johnson, David K. The Lavender Scare: The Cold War Persecution of Gays and Lesbians in the Federal Government (University Of Chicago Press, 2004)

Katz, Jonathan Ned. Gay American History. (Crowell, 1976)

Katz, Jonathan Ned. The Invention of Heterosexuality. (Plume, 1996)

Kennedy, Elizabeth Lapovsky and Davis, Madeline D. Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold: The History of a Lesbian Community. (Routledge, 1993)

Moore, R.I. Formation of a Persecuting Society: Power And Deviance In Western Europe, 950-1250. (Blackwell, 1987)

Satter, Beryl. Each Mind a Kingdom: American Women, Sexual Purity, and the New Thought Movement 1875-1920. (University of California Press,1999)

Stein, Marc. City of Sisterly and Brotherly Love: Lesbian and Gay Philadelphia, 1945-1972. (Temple University Press, 2004)

back to contents


A Queer History of the United States

ISBN: 978-080704439-1
Publication Date: 5/10/2011
Pages: 312
Size:6 x 9 Inches (US)
Price:  $27.95
Format: Cloth
Availability: In stock.
Qty:
Also Available In: