My Desire for History
Essays in Gay, Community, and Labor History
Publication Year: 2011
Published by: The University of North Carolina Press
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
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Introduction: Allan Bérubé and the Power of Community History
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Allan Bérubé was a community historian. He believed passionately in the power of history to change the way individuals and even whole groups of people understand themselves and their place in society. He projected a vision of history as a world-changing tool. The stories he told about the...
PART I: A Community Historian: Exploring Queer San Francisco
1. Lesbian Masquerade
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In the last few years lesbian and gay historians have begun piecing together a history of the varied experiences of lesbians in America. They have discovered, for example, large collections of love letters between middle-class women who attended nineteenth-century women’s colleges or who were active...
2. Behind the Specter of San Francisco
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The year 1954 marked, perhaps for the first time, official recognition of the large post–World War II gay migration to San Francisco. Early in the year the daily newspaper, the Examiner, began the weeklong front-page exposé on the local “sex-deviate” problem, exploiting a routine drive against “scores”...
3. Don’t Save Us from Our Sexuality
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Once called the “Gay Plague,” the aids epidemic continues to take its deadly toll in the gay community. The mysterious disease exhausts doctors, baffles researchers, challenges public health officials, divides the gay community, panics the public, and tantalizes the Moral Majority. It triggers everyone’s...
4. Resorts for Sex Perverts: A History of Gay Bathhouses
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For centuries, society has stigmatized homosexual men and women as sinners, criminals, and diseased because of their sexuality. Baths and bars were the first institutions in the United States that contradicted these stigmas and gave gay Americans a sense of pride in themselves and their sexuality....
PART II: A National Historian: Reexamining World War II
5. Marching to a Different Drummer: Lesbian and Gay GIs in World War II
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The U.S. military has a long tradition of purging homosexuals from its ranks. In January 1982, the Pentagon released a directive that may be its strongest antigay policy to date. “Homosexuality is incompatible with military service,” the directive explained, because it undermines military discipline...
6. Coming Out Under Fire
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January 1943: After more than a year of war, U.S. forces have begun bombing German cities and are recapturing Guadalcanal, and the Selective Service System has drafted nearly 4 million men. In Sioux Falls, South Dakota, nineteen-year-old Burt Gerrits, after a year of indecision, finally enlists in...
7. Rediscovering Our Forgotten Past
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Most histories of the gay movement and gay life in America focus only on San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, and other northern and West Coast cities. The South has an equally rich gay past, but it is often locked in the memories of men and women who are only now feeling safe enough to talk...
8. The Military and Lesbians during the McCarthy Years
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The following documents shed light on a little-known area of women’s history: the policy of the U.S. military toward lesbian personnel during the McCarthy era and its impact on women serving in the armed forces. The first three documents—indoctrination lectures on homosexuality designed for...
PART III: A Working-Class Intellectual: Personal Reflections on Identities
9. Caught in the Storm: AIDS and the Meaning of Natural Disaster
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"When I look at the aids epidemic without turning away, I find myself asking" "questions about the meaning of my life and my death. I remember asking these same questions in the 1950s as a devoutly Catholic adolescent. In those days, I was first coming to terms with what were to me the abstractions of...
10. Intellectual Desire
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In 1992 I was invited to present one of two keynote addresses at La Ville en Rose: Le premier colloque Québécois d’études lesbiennes et gaies—the First Quebec Lesbian and Gay Studies Conference — held in Montreal that November. Nicole Brossard, the lesbian-feminist québécoise poet, novelist,...
11. Sunset Trailer Park (with Florence Bérubé)
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“I cried,” my mother tells me, “when we first drove into that trailer park and I saw where we were going to live.” Recently, in long-distance phone calls, my mother—Florence Bérubé—and I have been digging up memories, piecing together...
12. How Gay Stays White and What Kind of White It Stays
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When I teach college courses on queer history or queer working-class studies, I encourage students to explore the many ways that homosexuality is shaped by race, class, and gender. I know that racialized phantom figures hover over our classroom and inhabit our consciousness. I try to name these...
PART IV: A Labor Historian: Queering Work and Class
13. Class Dismissed
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Sociologists used to talk about situational homosexuality. Perhaps I’m a situational homosexual. Most of what I know and how I think has grown out of the situations I have been in. Moving around. Checking out what’s going on and trying to understand how it got to be that way with me in it. Situated...
14. “Queer Work” and Labor History
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It’s January 1936. Jim Vieira, a senior at Mission High School in San Francisco, is working the 3:30 to midnight shift in a restaurant, earning extra money to pay for his family’s living expenses. He’s an effeminate young man with no friends who buries himself in books when he gets home from...
15. Trying to Remember
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I first met Stephen “Mickey” Blair, who called himself a working-class queen, in 1983 at his home in Seattle. A former boyfriend of mine, Chip Parker, and his lover, Gregg Kasner, introduced us. My friends knew I wanted to talk to older gay men, as I called them, who sailed as merchant seamen. I’d heard...
16. No Race-Baiting, Red-Baiting, or Queer-Baiting! The Marine Cooks and Stewards Union from the Depression to the Cold War
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The Lurline is about to embark on her maiden voyage from San Francisco to Honolulu. Among her passengers is William P. Roth, the president of the Matson shipping line. He’s accompanied by his wife, Lurline Matson Roth, after whom the ship is named, and their twin teenage daughters. Joining...
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As we wrote in our introduction, working on this project has been both a labor of love and a labor of sorrow: love, because of the quality of work that Allan Bérubé produced and the opportunity this volume provides to have it accessible to readers, and sorrow, because we wish more than anything that...
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Page Count: 344
Illustrations: 2 line drawings, 1 map
Publication Year: 2011