User Tools

Site Tools


In the introduction of this book, I really liked Chauncey's comparison between twentieth century gay men coming into gay society to debutante balls. Chauncey argues that the entire concept of the closet did not exist in the early twentieth century New York City, and rather gay men socialized and lived their lives within those allowed communities. Coming out into a society, rather than going into a metaphorical closet suggests a more openly welcoming gay society in NYC during this time, especially before the Great Depression. Although I would not argue that this time period was more accepting of gay men and gay culture, Chauncey does seem to argue that it was more welcoming in comparison to a post-WWII America. –Olivia Foster

Adding to Olivia's point there was an interesting comparison that Chauncey makes between the difference between being in the “closet” and switching persona in the twentieth century. Instead of being isolated from others gay men were forced to have a mask that they would put on or how he refers to it as tying up and letting their hair down. When a gay man was around straight members of society or people who thought that being gay was a bad thing they would “put their hair up” and possibly cover some of the actions that they would normally do. This helped create an image that while there were immense amounts of pressure on the gay community at the time to conform they were not hiding like some metaphors might portray. -Savannah Alexander

He mentioned being in the closet and how that did not correlate to the time before the 1960s. the myths of isolation, invisibility, and self-loathing are not true at this time. It was also interesting The shift in gay culture radically changed after the war. Coming out was used back then but it was not coming out to straight people but coming out to other gay people. Almost as a coming-out party for other gay people. -Deon Satchell

Effeminacy and the concept of being a “fairy” were intermingled concepts that served as important determinants of those who could be perceived in each category. Many perceptions of “fairies” and homosexual men were largely obscured following WWII as few seemed to care about their outcomes. -RJD

In many areas, saloons were intermingled between straight and “fairies”, instead of being distinct categories. Gay and working-class men both enjoyed these spaces for socialization, much to the chagrin of anti-vice investigators in America. -RJD

A question that was answered after the discussion is that queer men were somewhat afraid of fairies because of the concern that they were so alike that the negative image surrounding fairies could be put onto queer men. It was not necessarily a distainment for fairies that drove the frustration but rather the possible outcome that could result for the entire community. -Savannah Alexander

One particular issue I would like to research or learn more about is the proximity and different boroughs of New York City and this played a factor in the gay community. My dad and I used to take trips to New York in the summer when I was younger and I was always intrigued by this “five” burrough idea and I'm curious how it formed. More importantly, I would like to know how these areas played a role in the gay community as far as culture and society. - Daniel Childers

These terms fairies and trades are an eye opener on how long the gay community has existed. It certainly was much longer than I thought in terms of history and I'm shocked at this and another notion. This notion of these terms being applied in a non-derogatory manner is so surprising. Considering how raunchy and free-speaking people used to be, how in 2023 there are terms that are purely negative regardless of how it classifies whoever is being talked about. I'm still struck by this idea that offensive at times, yes but it truly seemed as if just terms to describe these types of persons. - Daniel Childers

Fairies and Prostitutes were portrayed as being in the same general areas. These areas were usually in low-income places. This is an interesting bit of prostitution history, how working-class people were more receptive to the prostitution industry. It makes me wonder if there were prostitutes in the upper class areas and how they operated. - Zack Dutke

A major difference between sexuality in the early twentieth century and today is how sexuality is identified as a part of someone's identity. The New York that Chauncey is talking about featured men that didn't have their sexuality be a key part of their identity and how they define themselves. I think that's why there were those interactions between the “trades” and the fairies and why so many “straight” men were engaging in sexual relationships with fairies. Today, sexuality has become much more of a key piece of identity for people and communities. –Olivia Foster

One interesting thing I found within Chauncey's book is the fact that these fairies found inspiration from many female celebrities at the time for their openness about their sexual freedoms. Specifically, Chauncey brings up the movie star Mae West as being one of the inspiring figures in the queer community at the time. - Trey Reid

Chauncey notes how class and sexuality go together within the context of urban queerness. For example, he notes that members of the upper class would come to the districts that many queer people inhabited just to see the conditions they lived in to support their ideals of class superiority. - Trey Reid

Something that I found really fascinating was the idea of un-doing the history that we have learned that diminishes the kind of activity and structure gay men in New York created and really focusing on showing how they got around restrictions and dangerous circumstances. — Ruth Curran

One thing I thought was interesting was the code and the the way that they dressed as a way to communicate in an underground kind of way. — Ruth Curran

Got to here–WBM

(131-149): Chauncey discusses the rise of anti-vice societies in New York City and how they either intentionally or unintentionally monitored the gay culture and social scenes in the city. The societal upheaval that resulted from WWII also added more pressure on the gay community and an increase in these anti-vice societies. This is also a moment when Americans are exposed to gay communities and lifestyles that exist in Europe. –Olivia Foster

(179-267): In these pages Chauncey discusses the public spaces that became hot spots for gay activity. Such as specific parks, bars, streets, parts of NYC such as Harlem and Greenwich Village, and especially bathhouses. Bathhouses became popular spots because of their more private location. I also think it is interesting the NY police officers did not arrest men unless they were specifically seen doing homosexual activities, which definitely increased the amount of plainclothesmen patrolling and watching gay men in the city. –Olivia Foster

Baths were especially important in urban New York for gay men in the early twentieth century. They were a “safe” place for gay men to go to that they knew was primarily reserved for gay men without the fear of straight violence. While there were still raids there were far fewer than in other spaces and the resulting action was not as harsh as others. There is somewhat of a hint that the bathhouse owners were possibly paying off the cops to ensure they did not get arrested. Nevertheless, with the security, the risk of getting in trouble with the government was worth the risk for many owners because of the revenue they could pull in. -Savannah Alexander

The community was open to newcomers from other places but they first had to learn the language of the gay community. There is a specific language used to somewhat hide the true meaning of conversation to protect the safety of these gay hot spots. Some older gay men would take on younger, newer gay men and let them know how to maneuver the space and what places were good for them. The signals and code words were important to protect these gay men from possible hostile engagement or policing. -Savannah Alexander

I found Chauncey's discussion of the Turkish baths to be very fascinating. The baths served as meeting places that served as some of the only exclusively gay oriented privatized spaces during the period. The fact that there were so few spaces like this explains why there was a lot of public sexual encounters recorded. The bath houses essentially offered a safe space for gay men to interact with one another without the concern of being around straight people and having to change how they carry or portray themselves. - Joey Welch

(179-267): I found it interesting how much of a role the bath house played in the lives of gay men in NYC, but also how it was an if you know, you know kind of thing. So when new people came to the city, they did not know about these bathhouses unless they had a friend or cousin that knew about it. - Deon Satchell

Shifting perceptions of heterosociability marked distinct departures from previously accepted gender norms and understandings that caused a shift from single-sex institutions as a result of female autonomy -RJD

Class variation played a fairly important role in relations during this period. Blue collar workers were more likely to engage in strictly heterosexual behavior. -RJD

Middle class culture was most-involved in this movement, seemingly becoming not necessarily normalized but accepted. Socially acceptable “romantic” relations had been already accepted more, but this increased with time until a more public romantic view of same sex relations. -RJD

It was very interesting, and I think important, for Chauncey to point out that while some gay men were able to fully build their life around the gay social sphere many were not. These other men had to live “double lives” in which they were able to act differently and switch between these personalities sometimes multiple times a day. It was not necessarily that they were being outwardly “straight” but not announcing their sexuality like they might if they knew they were surrounded by their fellow gay men. -Savannah Alexander

(271-354): In these chapters, I really enjoyed Chauncey's conversation about drag balls and how they became a new part in gay society and culture. Gay bars and drag shows allowed for gay men and lesbian women to exist out and in the world. They were spaces where they did not have to live a double life, and Chauncey seems to argue that gay nightlife, like drag, became somewhat of a spectacle and entertainment for straight people. –Olivia Foster

I'm curious at the different boroughs of New York City and the roles and ways they served in the gay community. I may have already written about this in another reading but New York City's boroughs have always intrigued me. Take this and mix it with the gay culture of New York that Chauncey discusses gives even more a complex view of the history of this city. - Daniel Childers

For 471 we have discussed the film Paris is Burning and how it highlights the balls and drag shows of the 1980s. The director faced some backlash and a part of it was her being a lesbian but more importantly, a white lesbian. When I found out about Chauncey being a gay white man, it came across my mind and I wondered how since this is in print, did his race or sexuality not matter because it was a book? Or maybe it did not matter but I'm curious if he received any backlash . - Daniel Childers

Prohibition can be viewed in a different way after Tuesday's lecture involving this book. Alcohol and illicit behavior was a part of the underground community involving gay and queer people and I can not imagine a more significant aid or almost perfect scenario. Alcohol is banned yes, but is that really going to do anything? If if can be done and found, and as we've seen from the 20s and 30s, it was certainly found. - Daniel Childers

The 1930s had a crackdown on homosexuals. Secret gay bars were targeted by prohibition enforcement. After prohibition was repealed, homosexuals' role in night life diminished greatly. State liquor associations targeted homosexuals for post-prohibition crackdown, removing them from bars. - Zack Dutke

There were neighborhoods in NY where gay people congregated. Greenwich village was a place where gay people met, and it was appealing due to low bar and restaurant prices. Harlem was another popular gay people place. It was one of the only places where black homosexuals could be. The neighborhoods were filled with gay bars. Harlem even had drag balls. - Zack Dutke

As discussed in class, many young men had shifted from a rural to urban setting before being shipped off to Europe to fight in war. “But if the war threatened to expose millions of rural youths to the moral perils of urban life, it also made it possible for the social-purity forces to implement their program of reform on an unprecedented level” (142). This had an impact on (gay) men because they were moved into all male spaces. -Moe Cushing

Chauncey discusses the significance of bathhouses in Chapter 8. These were considered “hot spots” for gay men, and they were also considerably safer places to practice sex. They functioned as commercial social spaces. “If the baths served as a kind of 'closet' for those men, protecting them from the knowledge and hostility of outsiders, it was a very large closet indeed, filled with other people, with doors the police occasionally pried open but which, more often, they themselves opened and closed at strategic moments” (225). -Moe Cushing

One of the sections in Chapter 10 describes how there was a huge cultural shift for gay men in the 1920s. “Gay men created cultural institutions and rituals that fostered a sense of collective identity, much as the ethnic theater and dances of immigrant groups did” (291). This started to establish more self-worth and a sense of belonging. Drag reviews also became more popular in the '20s. -Moe Cushing

Page 271: This section discussing George Sardi and how he saw the possibility to enjoy the gay lifestyle in New York City turned into him being able to stay, establish connections, and work in industries that were for gay people. I think this shows how interconnected the gay community was here and how one could really embody this lifestyle not just in their private life but in just about every aspect even in a world that was opposed to it. Ruth Curran

302 I find it interesting how gay men in New York City could kind of fit into the theater or artsy crowd as people expected them to be eccentric. This seems like it would have been a way for gay men to be more open with their lifestyle versus others who may have led a more quiet life who we probably don’t hear as much about. Ruth Curran

340 It is interesting how the police are really picking and choosing here which bars to shut down and it kind of depends on if they are serving gay people or not. Clearly the shutting down of one bar does not stop gay lifestyle, people who are gay just find a new place to meet. Ruth Curran

chauncey_gay_new_york.txt · Last modified: 2023/04/14 20:11 by