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Take the Young Stranger by the Hand: Same-Sex Relations and the YMCA

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Overview


Now associated with family health clubs, the YMCA's bland image is the result of relentless outreach and the studied avoidance of controversy. But, as John Gustav-Wrathall shows in his revealing social history of the organization, the life of the YMCA has been filled with strife, tragedy, and irony, a life that itself reflects the struggle over the shifting societal mores regarding masculine friendship and intimacy. Take the Young Stranger by the Hand presents the YMCA as an institution of profound contradictions, reflective of society's views of same-sex love and sexuality.

"Gustav-Wrathall's book offers an in-depth history of the origins and purposes of the Young Men's Christian Association and how it evolved into—and out of—a gay playland."—Arnie Kantrowitz, Lambda Book Report

"The book's absorbing exploration of the sometimes schismatic, sometimes synergistic relationship between spirituality and sexuality is a fascinating addition to the growing body of social history."—Jim Van Buskirk, San Francisco Bay Guardian

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
The ubiquitous, mundane YMCA seems an unlikely subject for a scholarly study, but Gustav-Wrathall reveals that the Y has had a complex and fascinating history at odds with its bland public image. The Young Men's Christian Association was founded to provide spiritual sustenance in the burgeoning urban environment of the mid-19th century. By the turn of the century, the Y's mission had secularized and evolved into an emphasis on physical education, sex education, and facilities that overtly discouraged--but covertly encouraged--homosocial activity. From the pietistic early years of Christian brotherhood and passionate friendships under the auspices of the many bachelor administrators, to latter-day gay cruising celebrated in the raunchy eponymous Village People tune, the author amplifies the homoerotic undertones that have always been present. He draws on his own missionary and evangelical experiences to show that the relationship between the Y's Christian origins and homosexuality have been more synergistic than dichotomous. Highly recommended for all gay studies and human sexuality collections.--Richard Violette, Special Libraries Cataloging Inc., Victoria, BC
Booknews
Goes beneath the current image of the YMCA as a family health club to show that the organization's past is filled with struggle over shifting societal mores regarding masculine friendship and intimacy. Considers the relationship between Christian brotherhood and homoeroticism, shows how the YMCA was one of the earliest popularizers of medical and psychiatric paradigms of sexuality, and looks at how it has influenced the evolution of gay culture. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
Jim Van Buskirk
The book's absorbing exploration of the sometimes schismatic, sometimes synergistic relationship between spirituality and sexuality is a fascinating addition to the growing body of social history that seeeks to explore and elucidate the roles played by our cultural institutions in the context of modern lesbian and gay communities and identities.
San Francisco Bay Guardian
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Product Details

Table of Contents


List of Illustrations
Preface
Acknowledgments
Introduction
1: From Urban Pietism to Sex Education
2: Intense Friendship
3: Singleness and the Consecrated Secretary
4: Marriage and the Sacrificial "Y Wife"
5: Women and the Young Men's Christian Association
6: Getting Physical
7: Cruising
Epilogue
App. 1: Analysis of Quantitative Sources on YMCA Secretarial Marital Status
App. 2: Methodological Problems: Silences, the Spirit/Body Split, and the Denial of Cruising
Notes
Bibliography
Index
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