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Masked Voices

Gay Men and Lesbians in Cold War America

Craig M. Loftin

Publication Year: 2012

An analysis of unpublished letters to the first American gay magazine reveals the agency, adaptation, and resistance occurring in the gay community during the McCarthy era. In this compelling social history, Craig M. Loftin describes how gay people in the United States experienced the 1950s and early 1960s, a time when rapidly growing gay and lesbian subcultures suffered widespread discrimination. The book is based on a remarkable and unique historical source: letters written to ONE magazine, the first openly gay publication in the United States. These letters, most of which have never before been published, provide extraordinary insight into the experiences, thoughts, and feelings of gay men and lesbians nationwide, especially as they coped with the anxieties of the McCarthy era. The letters reveal how gay people dealt with issues highly relevant to LGBT life today, including job discrimination, police harassment, marriage, homophobia in families, and persecution in churches and the military. Loftin shows that gay men and lesbians responded to intolerance and bigotry with resilience, creativity, and an invigorated belief in their right to live their lives as gay men and lesbians long before this was accepted and considered safe. Groundbreaking chapters address gay marriage and family life, international gay activism, and how antigay federal government policies reverberated throughout the country.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Title Page, Copyright Page, Dedication

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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xiv

I am deeply grateful to many people who have helped make this book a reality. First and foremost, I thank Lois Banner and Steve Ross in the history department at the University of Southern California for serving as co‑chairs of my dissertation committee, for reading countless chapter drafts over many years, ...

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pp. 1-16

In the spring of 1954, a man named John walked by a newsstand in downtown Los Angeles and spotted something he had never seen before. It was a small magazine called ONE: The Homosexual Magazine. ONE was the first, and at that time, the only American magazine directly marketed to gay and lesbian readers. ...

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Chapter 1: ONE Magazine and Its Readers

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pp. 17-42

The publication of ONE magazine’s first issue in January 1953 was a watershed moment in the history of American sexuality. Though not the first American publication to cater to homosexual readers (male physique magazines had been coyly cultivating gay male readers for years), ONE was the first American publication openly and brazenly to declare itself a “homosexual magazine.” ...

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Chapter 2: Newsstand Encounters: ONE Magazine’s Volunteer Agents and Public Visibility

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pp. 43-62

ONE did not appear on newsstands throughout the country by serendipity or magic. The civil rights impulse that saturated ONE’s pages was also evident in the magazine’s distribution. A grass‑roots network of gay men and lesbians, persons who shared ONE’s desire to improve the collective status of gay people, brought about the magazine’s national proliferation and visibility. ...

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Chapter 3: Imagining a Gay World: The American Homophile Movement in Global Perspective

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pp. 63-82

ONE received letters from all over the world. Most of its non‑U.S. correspondence came from Canada and Western Europe, but a small number of letters trickled in from Central and South America, Africa, the Middle East, India, Southeast Asia, Japan, and Australia.1 Newsstands and bookstores in Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Hamburg, Vienna, Buenos Aires, and Mexico City sold ONE.2 ...

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Chapter 4: ONE Magazine Letter Archetypes

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pp. 83-100

Most of ONE’s correspondents wrote to the magazine to begin, renew, or cancel a subscription. They usually used the preprinted subscription form found in each issue, but some individuals penned subscription requests on their own stationary. These requests often said little more than “Please renew my subscription.” ...

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Chapter 5: “Branded Like a Horse”: Homosexuality, the Military, and Work

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pp. 101-120

The anxieties unleashed by the federal government’s lavender scare were captured poignantly in the character of Brigham Anderson from Allen Drury’s Pulitzer Prize–winning novel Advise and Consent, which was published in 1959. Anderson was a handsome, confident U.S. Senator from Utah, married with a young child. ...

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Chapter 6: Classroom Anxieties: Educators and Homosexuality

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pp. 121-140

In the popular 1953 Broadway play Tea and Sympathy, a teacher named Harris befriends a sulky, naive, and effeminate teenage student named Tom Lee. Both Harris and Tom Lee are rumored to be gay at their elite prep school, and rumors fly wildly after other students witness the two swimming in the nude at a local beach. ...

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Chapter 7: Family Anxieties: Parent and Family Responses to Homosexual Disclosures

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pp. 141-156

Tom Lee, the harassed protagonist of Tea and Sympathy, has a strained relationship with his father, Herb. Herb cannot bear the idea that his son might be homosexual. Herb searches for clues to disprove the rumors, but he is repeatedly disappointed. Herb cringes at the effeminate way Tom plays tennis. ...

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Chpater 8: Homosexuals and Marriage under the Shadow of McCarthy

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pp. 157-180

In Tea and Sympathy, a housemaster’s wife, Laura, takes pity on poor Tom Lee. She disbelieves that Tom’s effeminacy, sensitivity, and fondness for classical music means he must be gay. But Laura is not so sure about her macho husband, Bill. During their brief marriage, their sex life has dwindled to nothing. ...

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Chapter 9: “I shall always cherish Sunday”

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pp. 181-202

In 1964 Donny, a young African‑American man who lived in Atlantic City, New Jersey, wrote an extraordinary letter to ONE magazine.1 Over the course of nine typed pages, Donny described a gut‑wrenching saga of sexual awakening, crushing heartbreak, and emotional breakdown. ...

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Chapter 10: Unacceptable Mannerisms: Gender, Sexuality, and Swish in Postwar America

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pp. 203-222

In the mid‑1950s, playwright Robert Anderson and Metro‑Goldwyn‑Mayer (MGM) executive Dore Schary faced a dilemma. They wanted to turn Anderson’s stage hit Tea and Sympathy into an MGM film, but the motion picture censorship code forbade movies with homosexual themes. ...

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pp. 223-230

When I began reading the letters written to ONE editors, I was expecting horrifying tales of suicides, homophobic violence, and involuntary lobotomies. Instead, I was surprised by the upbeat tone of so many letters. Even in the bleakest descriptions of antigay discrimination, a sense of humor, irony, and resilience often prevailed. ...

Appendix: Categories of ONE Correspondence

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pp. 231-232


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pp. 233-272

Sources and Bibliography

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pp. 273-292


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pp. 293-310

E-ISBN-13: 9781438440163
E-ISBN-10: 1438440162
Print-ISBN-13: 9781438440156
Print-ISBN-10: 1438440154

Page Count: 268
Illustrations: 2 tables, 18 figures
Publication Year: 2012