I think of Nuwās as the incomparable soloist, the high, clear, castrati soprano rising above an innumerous chorus of Arab poets whose work touches on love or sex between men, dating from the dawn of Islam to the present.Read More
If you’re not familiar with the Digital Transgender Archive, it’s a portal to an incredible collection of trans materials from across the world, a great resource for researchers or any queer person who wants to spend an afternoon looking at amazing old photos, journals, flyers, newspaper reports, and more.Read More
By this point, the line between homosexuals and communists had blurred almost to non-existence in the eyes of most Americans. Both were thought to be spies hiding in plain sight, associating in small cells, out to destroy the American way of life. If you were one, you were probably the other.Read More
Marsha P. Johnson fought, and perhaps even died, for gay liberation. Although we still witness and experience violence and discrimination today, we live in an America that is vastly safer for gays and lesbians because of the life she lived. Yet the very movement that idolizes her does too little for black transgender women like her.Read More
On January 14th, 1916, when Antonio Bellavicini went to his job as a bartender at 32 Sands Street (near the Brooklyn Navy Yard), he had no way of knowing that before the evening was out, he would be caught up in New York City’s early, inchoate attempts at policing homosexuality. At that time, the Navy Yard area was renowned for its lawlessness and – to those in the know – for its gay cruising. Sands Street, in particular, was so infamous that in 1932, when Charles Demuth painted an image of a john trying to pick up two sailors there, he simply titled it “On ‘That’ Street.”Read More
As a queer historian, a frustrating amount of my research comes from records of arrests. Sodomy, prostitution, disorderly conduct, masquerading, vagrancy, the crime against nature, solicitation – the list of laws that have been used in New York City to criminalize queer lives is long, varied, and stretches all the way back to 1634, when a Dutch colonial anti-sodomy law was used to prosecute a settler named Harmen van den Bogaert and an enslaved African man called Tobias.
I say frustrating because these arrests rarely say much to the historian interested in queer life: a name, a date, a charge; perhaps if you’re lucky you can find a newspaper squib that gives a line or two of context.
there’s a lot of queer history to be explored in these working-class communities, but it’s not as simple as finding the gay bar in Red Hook they all went to. And because these folks were poor and queer, they rarely had the opportunity to write their own histories, so I often find myself reading "against" an official source, trying to ferret out information about queer life from an arrest record, or a medical report, or an angry jeremiad written for a newspaper by a straight person.
This is queer history: A game of telephone played down the decades, preserved by passionate individuals and community institutions working on the margins; half-forgotten documents telling of wholly forgotten times, of lust and fear, shame and pride, butches and femmes, lovers and fighters.Read More