People with a History: An Online Guide to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Trans* History
Section V: North America
[Note: Although North Americaincludes Mexico, Mexican LGBT history will be
treated along with the other countries of Latin America]
Go to the following pages for other parts of People with a History
Chapter 17: Native American Societies
There are modern "Gay American Indians" whose self-definition seems pretty
much the same as other gay and lesbian Americans. What is of interest in this section is
the tradition in many different Native American societies of socially validated
gender-divergent roles. Some groups essentially allowed children to choose their gender. A
male child who chose female clothes, for instance, would be raised as a female, and would
marry man. In some societies analogous roles were open to female children. The general
term for these individuals is "berdache" - a colonialist French word, derived
from Persian, - but which has retained its utility give the great variety of Native
American terms for the practice.
Some writers have objected to what they see as the appropriation of the
"berdache" by modern gay people, and by writers such as Will Roscoe (whose books
are probably the most widely read on the subject). While this complaint has some
justification, it could be made about any past group seen as relevant to the history of
"homosexuality" but where the societal definition was in terms of
gender-identity rather than sexual orientation.
Gary Bowen: Transgendered Native
Americans [At Internet Archive, from Amboyz]
- Wendy Susan Parker: The Berdache Spirit [at Nu-woman.com]
A Visit to We'wha's Grave [At
Gallae Page At Aztriad]
- Jody Greene:
In Men, review of Richard Trexler, Sex and Conquest: Gendered Violence, Political
Order, and the Conquest of the Americas [At The BOOKPRESS February, 1996]
Back to Contents
Chapter 18: The United States and Canada to c.1900
Discussions: Whole Period
Discussions: Colonial Era
John G. McClendon: Puritan
Jurisprudence: Progress and Inconsistency [At Wavefront.com]
A paper examining Puritan legal innovation and use of the Bible. Briefly addresses sodomy.
Roger Schultz: A Celebration
of Infidels: The American Enlightenment in the Revolutionary Era, Contra Mundum No. 1 Fall 1991 [PDF file]
Contra Mundum is a conservative Calvinist magazine. This article points out the Christian
framework of much of colonial society, including its sex laws.
Discussions: Ante-Bellum American [1776-1865]
Discussions: Late Nineteenth Century
- Louis Dwight: Sodomy in Boston Prisons, 1824-1826
- Joseph Smith: Comfort for a Gay Lover 1843
The founder of Mormonism was not apparently anti-gay.
- Joshua Speed: Reminiscences of Abraham Lincoln:
Speed was Lincoln's bed-mate for a number of years. Male intimacy was quite possible in
the early 19th century without arising suspicions.
- Herman Melville (1819-1891): Letters to
Nathaniel Hawthorne [at www.melville.org]
Melville's most important emotional relationship seems to have been with Hawthorne. In one letter he claims "your heart beat
in my ribs and mine in yours, and both in God's" -an idea of friendship that goes
back to Aristotle. The site has links to all Melville's works.
Walt Whitman (1819-1892): Leaves of Grass [At
Singing of the "body electric".
Walt Whitman (1819-1892): Leaves of
Grass [At Project Gutenberg]
- Emily Dickinson (1830-1886): Lesbian Poems
Emily Dickinson: Poems,
Back to Contents
Chapter 19: Before Stonewall [US and Canada]
With the advent of the twentieth century the nature of LGBT history changes. As well as
literature and court records, we now begin to have access to considerable oral history and
recollection. Moreover the period since the late 19th century does indeed seem to have
been marked by an increased interest in homosexuality by various elites - lawyers, doctors
and a new arrival - "sexologists". The current job of North American LGBT
history involves, for a great part, securing and writing down the oral histories before
the bearers disappear.
Discussions: Entire Period
- Pierre J. Tremblay:
Homosexuality Factor in the Youth Suicide Problem [At U. Calgary]. There is another
Mirror Version at QRD [At
An extended presentation at the Sixth Annual Conference of the Canadian Association for
Suicide Prevention, Banff, Alberta, October 11-14, 1995, (c) Oct. It includes a historical
overview of .gay suicide 1930-1995
James Sears: Stonewall South [At
Brief history and timeline of Southern Lesbian and Gay history.
Discussions: Pre WW II
Discussions: Whole Post War Period
- John D'Emilio:
Dreams Deferred: The
Early American Homophile Movement, The Body Politic 48, November 1978; 50
February 1979, [At Carleton]
- David L. Kirp:
Speak, Gay Memory, The Nation 7/15/96 [At The Nation]
Reviews of Young Man From the Provinces: A Gay Life Before Stonewall By Alan
Helmes, Midlife Queer: Autobiography of a Decade, 1971-1981 By Martin Duberman, Truth
Serum. By Bernard Cooper.
- Christopher Isherwood:
in the 1940s and 1950s
"A decade after his death, the diaries of author Christopher Isherwood paint a
lush-and louche-portrait of literary high life in L.A."
Christopher Isherwood: On His
Queerness [poem] [At Rice]
William Dubay: Homosexuality:
What Kinsey Really Said [At NCF]
Alfred Kinsey's studies of human sexual behavior revolutionized educated opinion I the
1950s. This article - favorable to Kinsey - explains what he said.
History of the Kinsey Institute [At Indiana]
Controversy over Kinsey's
Research [At Indiana]
In Fall 1995 the right wing Family Research Council began a series of attacks on Kinsey's
research and the Kinsey Institute - attacks which included making films/videos and
attempts to defund the institute. This page gives the Institutes response.
Mark Y. Herring: Review Article:
Phallacies and Other Lies: Freudian Fraud: The Malignant Effect of Freud's Theory on
American Thought and Culture, By E. Fuller Torrey (New York, Ny: Harpercollins, 1992), Contra Mundum No. 9 Fall 1993 [At Internet Archive, from Contra Mundum]
Contra Mundum is a conservative Calvinist magazine, but not "looney".
This article presents the criticisms made by conservatives of Freud, as well as Kinsey and
The Moral Debate on Homosexuality [At Internet Archive, from dallas.net]
This is a link to an anti-gay page. The page is useful though: first, People With a Story takes a stand in favor of openness; second, the page points to various right
wing articles criticizing the work and methodology of Alfred Kinsey and Evelyn Hooker;
third, the page does not point to any of the Kinsey Institute's responses. This
one-sidedness is typical of the Radical Religious Right "scholarship" on
homosexuality. The article by on Evelyn Hooker by Thomas Landess, (cited as former
Academic Dean at the University of Dallas) is an especially good example of weak analysis
- it hilariously cites the discredited Paul Campbell as an "analyst" on Hooker's
Harry Hay Profile [At
Founder of the Mattachine Society and the Radical Faeries. Already a
mythic figure even before his death in 2002.
Biography of Del
Martin [At Internet Archive, from Apple.com]
A founder of the Daughters of Bilitis
James T. Sears: Growing up as a
Jewish Lesbian in South Florida: Queer Teen Life in the Fifties, from Cultured
Youth, ed. Joe Austin (New York: NYU Press, 1997)
A complex account of the homophobia of the period.
Daniel Gomes : "SISSY"
BOYS AND "UNHAPPY" GIRLS: CHILDREARING DURING THE COLD WAR [At UCI]
- James L. Bauman:
Sources. Reviews in American History 23.4 (1995) 734-738 [At Johns Hopkins]
Discusses inter alia the pro-Vietnam war columnist Joeseph Alsop, who was queer.
The Kinsey Scale [At
Dr. Alfred Kinsey created a scale, graduated between heterosexuality and homosexuality to
rate individuals on actual experiences and psychological reactions. It had a major effect
on thought about sexuality.
Government, 1950. A brief, but very explicit, excerpt from the U.S. Congressional
Record vol 96, part 4 [81st Congress 2nd Session March 29, 1949 - April 24, 1950] [At
Harry Hay: Our Own
Faerie Way Crossroads 42, June 1994 [At Nathan Newman.org]
Harry Hay's recollections of the founding of the Mattachine Society, and the importance of
Radical Left politics in its creators' analysis of society.
Back to Contents
Chapter 20: Stonewall and All That
Back to Contents
Chapter 21: Stonewall to Today [US and Canada]
Discussions: Entire Post Stonewall Period
- Biron: ADVOCATE: Capitalist Manifesto, GAY SUNSHINE (San Francisco, Spring.1976) [At photos-biron.com]
A gay liberationist critique of The Advocate, the biggest and longest lasting
American gay publication.
- Ann Ferguson:
Identity, and the Sexual Revolution" in Signs. (1981) 7:1, 158-172. [At
- Gregory Rosamita: Harvey Milk: The
Forgotten Populist [At Hicomm.net]
An essay on the murdered San Francisco politician's Milk's politics.
Ron Williams: I Remember Harvey [At Webcastro.com]
- Rodney Jackson, THE 80'S IN REVIEW,
from The Washington Blade 12/29/89 [AT GLINN]
Pat Califia: The
Obscene, Disgusting, and Vile Meese Commission Report, 1986 [At eserver]
- Michael Swift The Gay Revolutionary, from Gay Community News,
Feb. 15-21, 1987
This text, printed in the Congressional Record is cited, apparently verbatim, by
the religious right as evidence of the "Gay Agenda". But when they cite it they
always omit, as does the CR, the vital preface, which sets the context for the piece. In
other words, every other version of this found on the net is part of the radical right's
great lie about gay people. (see the "Modern Homophobia" Section below for more
Mariana Romo-Carmona: Civic
Duty in the Age of Space Probes Crossroads 42, June 1994 [At Nathan Newman.org]
Examines the complexities of the lesbian and gay population's desire for acceptance into
Elizabeth Stroud: Our
Cultural Supernova Crossroads 42, June 1994 [At Nathan Newman.org]
The conflict between radicalizing and mainstreaming in LGBT organizing.
Marcy Rein: Bi-Bi
Love, Bi-Bi Politics Crossroads 42, June 1994 [At Nathan Newman.org]
Thoughts on Stonewall 25
Howard Wallace: An
Injury To One Crossroads 42, June 1994 [At Nathan Newman.org]
On the need for workers of all colors to move to the forefront of LGBT politics. See also
on Stonewall in Crossroads 42, June 1994 [At Nathan Newman.org] - passed unanimously
October 6, 1993 at the 20th Constitutional Convention of the AFL-CIO
B.W. Cook: October Barry Goldwater [At
Internet Archive, from orangecoast.com]
On Conservative icon Barry Goldwater's endorsement of gay rights in the 1990s.
Freya Johnson: Holy
Homosexuality Batman!: Camp and Corporate Capitalism in Batman Forever [At eserver]
- Steven Wishnia:
Rights & Weed, High Times, October 1996 [At High Times]
The development of a huge array of diverse LGBT organizations - student,
religious, social, cultural, political - is of prime importance in understanding the
creation and strengthening of the LGBT movement since 1969. This has hardly been touched
on as an area of research. Often the groups are not long lived, or not spectacular, nor
even very radical. But their continued proliferation and creation of social and communal
threads is impressive. Many of them have taken to documenting their own history on the web
- sometimes via time lines, other times via narratives.
- Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington DC
Homepage [At glaa.org]
GLAA is one of the oldest continuously active gay organization in the United States.
Founded on April 20, 1971, as the Gay Activists Alliance Fighting for Equal Rights Since
1971 GLAA, an all-volunteer, non-partisan, non-profit political organization, was founded
in 1971 to advance the equal rights of gay men and lesbians. Its homepage includes current
affairs and historical information. See especially the timeline.
- Columbia-Barnard Lesbian Bisexual Gay
Coalition [At Columbia]
Founded in 1967 as the "Student Homophile League" it is the oldest LGB student
organization in the US.
The GLBT Resource Center
History. University of Colorado [At Colorado]
Archives. Inventory Duke Gay, Bisexual, and Lesbian Association [At Internet Archive, from Duke]
- Duke's Gay History [At Duke]
- Queer Harvard [At Harvard]
With links to a large number of Harvard LGB groups
Harvard Gay and Lesbian Caucus [At HLGC.ORG]
Moving Forward: Lesbians and Gay Men at
Michigan State University [At Internet Archive, from MSU]
QUEERING THEORY AT
MIDDLEBURY COLLEGE [At Queer Insurgency]
Unhappy account of gay history at Middlebury.
GALA-ND/SMC! [At galandsmc.org]
Gay And Lesbian Alumni/ae of the University of Notre Dame and Saint Mary's College. It
includes an account of the enormous struggle LGBTs at these Catholic colleges had to go
Princeton LGB Pages [At
10% Society [At USD]
University of South Dakota's Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Alliance
Indiana Youth Group
Gerard Koskovich: History of
Gays and Lesbians at Stanford: From Passionate Friendship to Gay Liberation at
Stanford 1891 1974 [At Internet Archive, from Stanford]
Text for an exhibit at Green Library, Stanford University, July-October 1994
- LGBLSA Lesbian, Gay & Bisexual Law Students'
Association [At Yale]
History of San Francisco
Gay Men's Chorus
History of Chicago Gay Men's
Old Lesbians Organizition for Change
- LEAGUE Home Page [At League]
AT&T employees group - one-the first employer based LGBT organizations.
Dignity at 25: Fr. Jim
Mallon. [At Internet Archive, from Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Catholic Handbook]
Philadelphia Gay News article on Dignity at 25, concentrating on the witness of Fr. Jim
United Fellowship of Metropolitan Community
Churches Page [At MCC]
Probably the largest LGBT organization in the Americas.
- List of Links to LGBT Jewish
Congregations [At etz-chaim.com]
Affirmation Gay Lesbian
Mormons: History [At affirmation.org]
Radical Faerie Homepage [at eskimo.com]
Includes an informative FQA - "frequently questioned answers" and a RF
"hiss-tory". Links to other RF and gay pagan sites.
A Brief History of the Gay Games [At thecastro.net]
History of GLAAD [At
- Lesbian.org [At www.lesbian.org]
Includes accounts of various Lesbian Avenger groups, and a history of Dyke marches.
Handkerchief Code Page [At
A complete guide to the handkerchief codes used by a few gay men in the late
Bear History Project
An archive that seeks to study and document the "bear" movement.
- Patricia Leonardi: Review:
Last Call at Maud's, Cineaste 20:1 (Wntr, 1993):46 [At UCB]
On the closing of a famed San Francisco Lesbian Bar
- Calvin Klein Ads Archive
The use of the male body in public advertising became a major cultural trope in 1980s,
with the Calvin Klein company in the lead. This site collects images of CK models, models
who came to define a certain ideal of male beauty.
- American Psychiatric Association: Policy
Statements on Lesbian and Gay Issues [At APA]
APA statements over the years on LGBT issues.
Legal Age of Consent Around the
World [At ageofconsent.com]
Rocky O'Donovan: ECCE
HOMO: Ruminations on a Theology of My Queer Body [At
Internet Archive, from Geocities]
How the Mormon church dealt with a gay boy in the late 1970s.
Stephen Donaldson: Testimony at
Massachusetts Legislative Hearing of 5/23/94 [At spr.org].
On the issue and history of prison rape.
Patrick J. Buchanan: Speech Republican
National Convention in Houston, Texas, 1992 [At Buchanan.org]
Virulently homophobic [among other things] speech which helped Bill Clinton win in 1992.
- Bowers v. Hardwick June 30, 1996 [At QRD]
The US Supreme Court decision which upheld the legality of US states' sodomy laws.
Romer Vs. Evans May 20, 1996 [At UMKC]
The extremely important US Supreme Court decision, by Justice Anthony Kennedy, which
overturned the anti-gay Colorado 'Amendment 2'. This decision, which incidentally sees the
formal use of "gay" and "lesbian" by the highest levels of the US
government, finally established the legal foundation for prohibition of anti-gay bias. It
specifically accepts that gays and lesbians are a social group worthy of protection.
- QRD Legal Page
For other legal decision texts, and commentary, see this regularly updated page at QRD.
With the rise of the modern LGBT movement literature by and about LGBT's
has flourished as never before. Gay bookstores now carry thousands of titles. But at the
same time literature has become less central to analyzing historical issues, since so much
other data is available. The texts below are ones texts [and links to reviews] which have
had an especially important effect on the development of LGB culture.
- James Baldwin: Giovanni's Room
David Van Leer: "
The Fire Last Time:
Review Essay on James Baldwin: A Biography by David Leeming", The New Republic February 13, 1995
- Rita May Brown: Rubyfruit Jungle
- William Burroughs: Naked Lunch, Queer
Allen Ginsberg: The
Poetry of Allen Ginsberg [At Poem Hunter]
includes full texts of HOWL and other poems.
- Andrew Hollaran: Dancer from the Dance
- Larry Kramer: Faggots, The Normal Heart [play]
- Tony Kushner: Angels in America
Counting The Bastards:
The Problem of Origins in "A Gay Fantasia on National Themes", a paper to be
presented at the (DIS)PLACING NATIONALISM CONFERENCE, UC Irvine, 18 May 1996 [At
Internet Archive, from intersource.com]
- David Leavitt:
David Leavitt and
the Etiological Maternal Body, Modern Fiction Studies 41:3-4 [At
- Armistead Maupin: Tales of the City series
- John Rechy: City of the Night
a href="http://www.americanpoems.com/poets/adrienne_rich">Adrienne Rich Poems [At American Poems]
- Martin Shaw: Bent [play]
- Edmund White:
- Edmund White: A Farewell Symphony,
Chapter 1, [At New York Times Books Page--you will need to sign -or a free account to
view the article]. See also Review by
- Edmund White: Collected
Reviews of His Works [At New York Times Books Page]
- Owen Keehnen:
States of Desire: Living,
Loving and Writing with Edmund White, Outlines Chicago January 1996 [At
Back to Contents
Chapter 22: AIDS and History
- Joshua Oppenheimer: "
Markets, and the Mainstream: AIDS politics, queer politics, and the gay and lesbian
commercial scenes", paper at Acting on Aids: Activism Conference, ICA London,
March 1996 [At ICA]
Sarah Schulman Fiction and Action in the
Age of Aids, Harvard Gay and Lesbian Review 4:2 (Spring 1997) [At Internet Archive, from Harvard Gay
and Lesbian Review]
- Thomas L. Long: AIDS and American
Apocalypticism: Discourse, Performance, and the Cultural Production of Meaning in New
York City, 1981-1996 [Dissertation] [At Long's Homepage]
- The Armed Forces and AIDS [At
Gabriel Rotello: Creating a New
Gay Culture: Balancing Fidelity & Freedom, The Nation, 04/21/97 [At We are Family]
Rotello opposes sexual liberation in favor of a better "ecology". Summarizes the
political parts of his book Sexual Ecology.
- Martin Duberman:
Arguments, The Nation 05/05/97 [At The Nation]
Review of Sexual Ecology: AIDS and the Destiny of Gay Men, By Gabriel Rotello.
Duberman is respectful of Rotello, whose argument he summarizes, but he also points to
Rotello's conflation of historical data.
- Jeanne Bergman:
Saving Sex, The
Nation 06/24/96 [At The Nation] Review of Fatal Advice: How Safe-Sex Education Went
Wrong. By Cindy Patton.
- Gabriel Rotello:
The Twilight of
AIDS? The Nation 12/23/96 [At The Nation]
"New AIDS drugs and approaches offer hope -- but only for some, and only in
part." One get the impression that no news could be good for Rotello.
Back to Contents
Chapter 23: ACT UP
ACT UP, which began in New York in Spring1987 is important as part of AIDS history,
lesbian and gay history, and the history of medicine. For the first time the
"victims: of a disease, met with condescension and disdain by governmental and
medical establishment successfully organized a political and investigative revolution. In
the process ACT UP spun off chapters of its original NY parent all around the globe, a
whole series of radical practical help organizations, and revitalized the radicalism of
lesbian and gay politics [even as, annoyingly, its largely lesbian and gay members
complained each time the NY Times referred to ACT UP as a "gay organization"].
ACT UP achieved its goals [and it did achieve many of them] through spectacular
street theater and much hard backroom work. It was quite common in the late eighties to
see members slogging away at research in the New York Public Library on a whole array of
subjects. It is not often realized that ACT UP's press releases contained as much work as
its graphics. Sometimes its tactics shocked: but the shock of ACT UP gave it real power.
It got a voice at the table; it reduced health insurance costs; it made needle exchange a
viable policy; it transformed the way drugs were assessed. In then end, ACT UP did save
lives, even as thousands, including hundreds of its own members, died
The history of ACT UP is only now being written: its archives are with the NY Public
Library and will be open for research. There will be debates about who was important, and
what, if anything, went wrong. But it will be a shame if the sheer courage and bravery of
its members is ever overlooked. For all the toughness, for all the beatings its members
received from the police, no ACT UP member resorted to violence. But more, in the 1980's,
an age when college kids around the United States asserted that their highest goal was
"to join a financial planning corporation", ACT UP members demonstrated again
and again that there is meaning in human lives.
Back to Contents
Chapter 24: The Queer Moment
- Queers Read This/I Hate
Straights June 1990, [At QRD].
Distributed by "Anonymous Queers" at the 1990 LG Pride March in New York. It was
distributed from the ACT UP float, by ACT UP members acting without "floor"
support, but soon came to be associated with "Queer" politics.
- Queer Nation
Seattle Disbands: February 1995, Press Release [At QRD]
Back to Contents
Chapter 25: North America: Current Politics and
- Henry Louis Gates: Blacklash?, The New Yorker [Date?] [At CMU]
Examines the interconnections and differences between Black and Lesbian/Gay/Bi movements.
Military's Antipathy to Homosexuals Comes From, Chronicle of Higher Education,
March 31, 1993 [At nasa.gov]
- GAO Report on Homosexuals in the Military
American Civil Liberties Union Briefing Paper Number 18: LESBIAN AND GAY RIGHTS, [At Internet Archive, from aclufl.org]
Texts: LGB History
- Archive of Current Press Reports on LGBT Issues [At Brent Payton's website]
Archive of full-text press reports on
current lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans* issues: gays in the military; lesbian and gay
marriage; legislation. Mostly US, but some international
Texts: Modern Homophobia
Pope John Paul II's war on
gays and lesbians. [At Internet Archive, from Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Catholic Handbook]
Jeff Vos: The Homosexual Threat,
1995 [Full text][At Internet Archive] Classic homophobic Mein Kampf (although this text is overtly
anti-semitic, asserting that Jews are more neurotic than other groups, etc.).
William Donahue: Gays,
Giuliani, and Catholics. [At Internet Archive, from Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Catholic Handbook]
article from CRISIS magazine in which the head of the Catholic League - he has an office
next to Cardinal O'Connor - gives his bigoted opinions about the annual NYC Lesbian and
Gay Rights March.
Pastor Peter Daniels: Death
Penalty for Homosexuals [At Internet Archive, from Logoplex]
A Christian pastor calls for homosexuals to be killed.
Back to Contents
Special Themes 4: Anti-Gay: Gay Criticism of Gay
There has been a persistant willingness by gay writers to criticise aspects of gay
culture, and of lesbian writers to criticise lesbian culture.
Some of the criticism is probably justified, but elements of sheer intellectual and
class-based snobbery towards the lumpen-schwulen play an important part.
In general these writers live in comparatively safe urban gay environments (London, New
York, San Francisco. West Hollywood), have come to terms with their homosexuality long
ago, and feel free to offer critiques. Their targets usually (repeatedly in fact), include
gay activists, gay commercial culture, gay entertainment, Pride events and so forth.
Despite protestations to the contrary, they tend to obliterate the very real struggles
still going on for most gays and lesbians (violence, discrimination, religious
intolerance), and ignore the benefits of a commercial culture. Above all they create
tendentious constructions of gay culture in order to attack.
Review of Anti-Gay [At Internet Archive, from Planetsoma]
Review, and extensive excerpts of Mark Simpson, ed., Anti-Gay, (London: Freedom
Editions, 1996), with excerpts.
Don Tyler: Review of Anti-Gay [At Internet Archive, from New Times]
"Gay" as a Marketing Niche, 20 October 1996 [At Internet Archive, from Planetsoma]
Gabriel Rotello: Creating a New
Gay Culture: Balancing Fidelity & Freedom, The Nation, 04/21/97 [At We Are Family]
Rotell-poses sexual liberation in favor of a better "ecology". Summarizes the
political parts of his book Sexual Ecology.
- Sex Panic Leaflet, June 1997
A leaflet handed out in New York city about a public meeting on combating the sex
panic seen in the "anti-gay" writers.
Back to Contents
© 1997, Paul Halsall, [a picture!]
Note: I read all mail, and keep much of it, but I will not be able to reply to all
Last updated April 10, 2007