Review by Sabrina Samone
I’ve recently re-read this book. I had originally gotten this book years ago searching for any published work on history of transgender struggles. Though this is predominately about the gay movement throughout the 20th century, the Trans struggle to come in play as imagined around the 60’s and now that I blog about the Trans community I knew it had something for me so decided to re-read.
Recently, GLAAD has come out to not only publicly announce that it’s name now represents transgender people but apologizes and admits that it hasn’t been there for the trans community in the past, this book gives great detail about how we got to that point. It gives detailed accounts on how the gay movement began and even how the US military may or may not willingly helped through the first two world wars and gives accounts of the many fragmented gay rights organizations that did not understand or want the trans community to be the image that mainstream society at large saw them, therefore ignoring the Trans community during the 70’s.
By the eighties this attitude to be viewed as normal as their heterosexual neighbors, also leads to the terms in gay culture “straight acting”, further leading to the divide between LGB and the distant T. It was written at the end of the 90’s and is good reference for all in the LGBT community that would like to understand how and why things like the HRC asking that the Trans flag be removed from a marriage equality came to be. It’s not new and there is a long history of intolerance in the LGBT community but as this book shows, other choices could and was almost taken that may have given us today a totally different outcome but a ravishing disease known as AIDS and the fight for a cure quickly took precedent over everyone’s rights during the 80’s.
It’s a great book for all LGBTQIA people, but also I think Trans people will come away a little more forgiving of the LGB community of today knowing why we are at where we are today. I highly recommend this detailed fact filled history of the struggle of LGBTQIA equality of the 20th century.
This is a portion of the review by Kirkusreviews.com and further details about the author:
Loughery, who has told individual life stories before (e.g., John Sloan: Painter and Rebel, 1995), here attempts the more daunting task of telling a whole community’s personal and political history. His prodigiously researched source materials--acknowledged in a rich bibliographic essay at the end--include gay and lesbian archives, newspapers, periodicals, books, and his own interviews with many old enough to remember gay life 60 years ago. The title of the book--taken from the name of a 1970s theater company--points to its centering theme: that the history of gay men in America is the story of a silence learning to speak. Loughery mediates a host of voices, many not generally known, from Harlem Renaissance writer Alain Locke and pioneering gay psychiatrist Harry Stack Sullivan in the 1920s and ’40s, to playwright Mart Crowley, politician Harvey Milk, and scholar John Boswell of more recent history. Topics addressed include the military and WWII, gay bars and baths, literature, Freudianism, the gay press and bookstores, transvestism, homophile (later gay liberation) societies, Stonewall, and gay rights bills. Loughery does not always meet the challenge of integrating the material to hold the reader’s interest from one topic to the next: For example, all that binds the histories of Florida’s gay Mardi Gras, San Francisco’s Society for Individual Rights, and the Metropolitan Community Church, which Loughery subsumes under a single heading, is their origin among gay men in the 1960.
Below is a link to the New York Times Review done on September 20, 1998
From the Closet of History: An account of gay male life in America from 1919 to the 1990’s
or many otherwise well-meaning Americans, homosexuality and its attendant controversies -- gay marriage, military service, AIDS policy, sex education curriculums -- make us think or talk about things we would rather treat with benign neglect. Even though most straight Americans oppose overt discrimination against homosexuals, 7 in 10 think sex between members of the same sex is wrong. A majority viscerally opposes teaching tolerance for a ''homosexual life style'' and seems happiest with a ''don't ask, don't tell'' approach to the entire subject.
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