Gay Men in Early American society lived a long journey to true freedom. The process of achieving the level of freedom enjoyed by Gay Americans has been unprecedented. Many have given their lives so that others can enjoy freedom in the process of the pursuit of happiness. Gay struggled over the decades to achieve acceptance and to even survive.
Chancey identified Gay culture before the 1920s as a culture generally forgotten by traditional mediums. Yet, gay culture thrived in the early 1900s.
A stable economical enclave and culture hub centered in Harlem and other parts of the city grew and shined. This was just the beginning of Gay culture in 20th-century America.
In 1927, the US Supreme Court case Buck v. Bell allowed states to sterilize inmates without their consent. Madrigal v. Quilligan was a civil rights class action lawsuit against California for the involuntary sterilization of a Mexican American woman. (Lombardo 112) Both cases were decisive in the fight against the involuntary sterilization of colored women after WWII. This was but one of many laws that discriminated against gay men in America. Considering most American inmates have been men, it is safe to say that many gay men suffered involuntary sterilization. Nevertheless, this was not going to stop the movement brewing in New York City and California. Gay culture flourished in NYC before World War II.
Gay men developed a unique culture based on brotherhood and the rejection of the popular norm of name behavior. Homosexuals created cultural inner circles with music, and dance flourishing in Harlem, and other parts of New York City.
In Harlem, Gay men developed a unique identity living, and growing within their homosexual circles in the city. Gay men dress and conduct themselves differently even though the popular homosexual culture thrived publicly. However, sadly, there are many cases of hate crimes before, and after WWII. The economic enclave created by homosexual men in Harlem created some level of autonomy within the community.
Having their shops, and venues do not need to go outside their sphere of comfort and security. Having some level of sexual freedom during the pick of Pre-war Gay men society in Harlem. This was most rooted in the need to be safe from hate crimes, and other types of discrimination.
Several years before World War II, gender transition surgery was taking place. Castration, and sex change operations were developing, though in their early stages. Giving birth to the potential for sex change operations, and the modern transgender movement.
However, the psychological community treated transgender with gender dysphoria therapy, chemical castration, and other extreme, and inhumane measures. Some of the early surgeries took place in the 1940s and subsequent years.
Although many surgeries and therapies were taking place. Generally, transgender rights were very limited. Trasnanger were very vulnerable in society. Therefore, many groups arose to protect transgender. Such as the organization started by Sylvia Rivera to protect transgender people.
It became a refugee for those in need. This gave birth to many societal changes in medicine and research. Post-1960s. Sylvia Rivera took part in many transgender organizations including STAR. Groups such as The Gay Activist Alliance (GAA) rejected transgenders in their memberships.
Not allowing trans people, many of them of color into their ranks. However, Syvial together with many others fought long and hard to protect transgender rights until 2002 when legislation was established to protect translate people from discrimination.
Yet, the homosexual movement was the root of the transgender cause, now with sex surgery, and other measures, the possibilities broaden.
The Cold War America
The Cold War era brought a movement of sexual liberation. The term “make love, not war” was born in America. Stereotypical masculinity was openly challenged by the modern gay man. A man who was willing to be vulnerable, cry and have long hair. The tough man of the Vietnam war was not accepted as the masculinity standard any longer. Additionally, Sex was no longer attached to pregnancies with the help of birth control.
The mystique was the idea of women outside the household. Outside their roles as wives and mothers, and never focus on themselves as individuals. This led to much resentment, and societal changes helped by the effect of the Cold War. The idea that women should never speak about their afflictions and bury them was seen as the norm for women. The gay revolution saw much success but also challenges. As the author highlighted homosexuals were victims of oppression and labels for their sexual conduct.
Although the LGBTQ movement has its roots in early America. The homosexual movement faced different struggles compared to Women in the late 1900s. Danielle L. McGuire. 2010 argues that women such as Recy Taylor were victims of rape, and discrimination, subsequently. Whereas, women such as Rosa Parks were celebrated, and treasured as a symbol of women’s virtues based on her quiet demeanor.
The south was a very tumultuous American territory. Rape and racial discrimination were still rampant even post WWII. In many cases, the cases of rape with all the evidence in the world would go unpunished. Women were punished by society for being women, and color women made things worse. One of the most discriminatory, and illegal practices was done on Lou Hamer without permission.
While having surgery, a white doctor permanently sterilized Ms. Lou Hamer. This was not new at the time. Black women were frequently sterilized without consent while going to the doctor for typical procedures. This was a dire time for women of color.
The struggles and changes faced by the homosexual community have transcended time in America. Homosexuals struggle to exist and fight for freedom. Although transgender people are the face of all the hardships that the community sufferers to this day; homosexual men have struggled, and worked hard to gain acceptance, respect, and normalization by society, which perhaps is the ultimate goal of the movement.
Carter, David. Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution. St. Martin’s Publishing Group, 2010.
Chauncey, George. Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World 1890-1940. Basic Books, 1994.
Friedan, Betty. The Feminine Mystique. W. W. Norton, 2013.
Friedan, Betty. The fountain of age. Simon & Schuster, 1993.
Hirshman, Linda. Victory: The Triumphant Gay Revolution. HarperCollins, 2013.
Lombardo, Paul A. Three generations, no imbeciles: eugenics, the Supreme Court, and Buck v. Bell. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008.