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Humanities LibreTexts

1.6: LGBTQ Community

  • Page ID
    68361
  • DURING WORLD WAR II, the large congregation of men and women in same-sex environments in the military, and in United States factories, meant gay and lesbian people could find each other in numbers never before possible. After the war, many gay and lesbian service members decided not to return home, but instead remained in large port cities with other gay and lesbian people. Despite persecution, gay and lesbian communities flourished in most major United States cities and a few vacation areas such as Cherry Grove on Fire Island in New York.

    A few social-based groups emerged to meet community needs. One the first known incorporated LGBTQ groups in American history, the Veterans Benevolent Association, launched in 1945 as a social and support group for gay veterans. The interracial social club Knights of the Clock launched at the end of the decade. The Satyrs Motorcycle Club founded in 1954 in Los Angeles became one of the oldest continually operating gay organizations in North America and helped spawn the formation of gay motorcycle groups across the United States.

    Other social gatherings were more informal. In-home parties provided protected spaces for LGBTQ communities. Reputed LGBTQ-friendly public parks and beaches, sports leagues, and even science fiction clubs provided other venues for same-sex people to meet and interact. Swasarnt Ner's Gay Girl's Guide in 1949 was one of the earliest to publish gay-friendly gathering places. Annual gay travel publications like the Damron guides and gay tours, such as those led by ONE Incorporated, emerged in the 1960s.

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    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): James Baldwin 1924-1987

    JAMES BALDWIN SURVIVED AN ABUSIVE STEPFATHER, bullying, and poverty to become one of the great writers and civil rights advocates of the 20th century. He explored racism and the African-American community in his texts, including in the critically acclaimed novel Go Tell It on the Mountain and essay collection Notes of a Native Son. In his book Giovanni’s Room, he dealt explicitly with a gay relationship, treating the gay characters as men first, rather than homosexual stereotypes. Baldwin himself was never in the closet and weathered enormous criticism for his sexual orientation. Baldwin spoke out against racism, homophobia, sexism, classism, and poverty all this life, a moral witness to prejudice and inhumanity in all its forms.

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    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): Motorcycles, cars, sports, parks, and beaches each held social opportunities for same-sex interactions outside of the bar culture.
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