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

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Take the Young Stranger by the Hand examines the rich emotional lives of men who sought to build community with other men and considers the relationship between Christian brotherhood and homoeroticism. It also shows how the YMCA, a pioneer in the field of sex education, was one of the earliest popularizers of medical and psychiatric paradigms of sexuality - paradigms that have transformed American social, emotional, and family life. Gustav-Wrathall discusses the roles played by women in a Christian men's organization and the volatile relationship between the YMCA and the YWCA. He also looks at how the YMCA has influenced the evolution of gay communities, gay culture, and gay identities. Gustav-Wrathall presents the YMCA as an institution of profound contradictions, reflective of the broader society's views of same-sex love and sexuality.
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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
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
Introduction 1
1 From Urban Pietism to Sex Education 9
2 Intense Friendship 45
3 Singleness and the Consecrated Secretary 70
4 Marriage and the Sacrificial "Y Wife" 91
5 Women and the Young Men's Christian Association 116
6 Getting Physical 140
7 Cruising 158
Epilogue 180
App. 1 Analysis of Quantitative Sources on YMCA Secretarial Marital Status 185
App. 2 Methodological Problems: Silences, the Spirit/Body Split, and the Denial of Cruising 191
Notes 197
Bibliography 237
Index 255
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