Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World 1890-1940

Overview

This brilliant work shatters the myth that before the 1960s gay life existed only in the closet where gay men were isolated, invisible, and self-hating. Based on years of research and access to a rich trove of public and private documents, including the diaries of gay men living in New York at the turn of the century, this book is a fascinating look at a gay world that was not supposed to have existed. Focusing on New York City, the gay capital of the nation for nearly a century, George Chauncey recreates the ...
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Overview

This brilliant work shatters the myth that before the 1960s gay life existed only in the closet where gay men were isolated, invisible, and self-hating. Based on years of research and access to a rich trove of public and private documents, including the diaries of gay men living in New York at the turn of the century, this book is a fascinating look at a gay world that was not supposed to have existed. Focusing on New York City, the gay capital of the nation for nearly a century, George Chauncey recreates the saloons, speakeasies, and cafeterias where gay men gathered, the intimate parties and immense drag balls where they celebrated, and the highly visible residential enclaves they built in Greenwich Village, Harlem, and Times Square. He tours New York's turn-of-the-century sexual underground, including gay bathhouses and backroom saloons. He chronicles the now-forgotten "pansy craze" of the Prohibition years, when Times Square's most successful nightclubs featured openly gay entertainers and when drag balls held in Madison Square Garden and Harlem's largest ballrooms drew thousands of spectators and banner headlines in city newspapers. And he reconstructs the codes of dress, speech, and style gay men developed to recognize and communicate with one another in hostile settings, which enabled many men not just to survive but to flourish. Gay New York offers new perspectives on the gay rights revolution of our time by showing that the oppression the gay and lesbian movement attacked in the 1960s was not an unchanging phenomenon. It had intensified in the 1920s and 1930s as a direct response to the visibility of the gay world in those years. Above all, Gay New York shows that our most intimate sexual identities are stunningly recent creations. It depicts a complex prewar sexual culture in which men were not divided into homosexuals and heterosexuals but into fairies, wolves, queers, and "normal" men. Many of those "normal" men frequently engaged in sexual relation

Winner of the 1994 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for History, Chauncey's brilliant work challenges the conventional wisdom that before the 1960s gay life existed only in the closet. "Chauncey's genius here is the way he combines real lives and theory."--Out. Illustrations.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Mining oral histories, diaries, police records, newspaper reports, etc., University of Chicago historian Chauncey here re-creates the prototypical pre-WW II gay community in New York City, which participated actively in the city's social and cultural life, until restrictive legislation forced it underground. Chauncey takes us on a tour of gay enclaves ranging from the Bowery's ``degenerate resorts,'' where effeminate ``fairies'' openly mingled with working-class heterosexuals, to Harlem's celebrated drag balls and Broadway's (plus publishing row's) ``pansy craze.'' Chauncey's deft charting of racial and class-divided clusters within the gay community itself is deepened with myth-shattering insights into shifting heterosexual attitudes toward gays, as well as transitions in their own self-perceptions. The impact made by this richly textured study is powerful. (June)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465026333
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 5/1/1994
  • Pages: 496

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction 1
Pt. I Male (Homo)Sexual Practices and Identities in the Early Twentieth Century
Ch. 1 The Bowery as Haven and Spectacle 33
Ch. 2 The Fairy as an Intermediate Sex 47
Ch. 3 Trade, Wolves, and the Boundaries of Normal Manhood 65
Ch. 4 The Forging of Queer Identities and the Emergence of Heterosexuality in Middle-Class Culture 99
Pt. II The Making of the Gay Male World
Ch. 5 Urban Culture and the Policing of the "City of Bachelors" 131
Ch. 6 Lots of Friends at the YMCA: Rooming Houses, Cafeterias, and Other Gay Social Centers 151
Ch. 7 "Privacy Could Only Be Had in Public": Forging a Gay World in the Streets 179
Ch. 8 The Social World of the Baths 207
Ch. 9 Building Gay Neighborhood Enclaves: The Village and Harlem 227
Pt. III The Politics of Gay Culture
Ch. 10 The Double Life, Camp Culture, and the Making of a Collective Identity 271
Ch. 11 "Pansies on Parade": Prohibition and the Spectacle of the Pansy 301
Ch. 12 The Exclusion of Homosexuality from the Public Sphere in the 1930s 331
Epilogue: The Strange Career of the Closet 355
Note on Sources 365
Notes 373
Index 459
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