Monday, June 07, 2021

“A Book About Revolutionary People That Feels Revolutionary Itself”

Since 2009 I’ve shared every year during the month of June a series of “Queer Appreciation” posts.

Each series is comprised of a number of informed and insightful writings to mark Gay Pride . . . or, as I’ve preferred to call it since 2011, Queer Appreciation.

I always try to include in each series a diverse range of writers and topics; and, in general, the writings I share are positive, proactive and celebratory.

I start this year’s Queer Appreciation series with an excerpt from Scott W. Stern’s review of Aaron Lecklider’s Love’s Next Meeting: The Forgotten History of Homosexuality and the Left in American Culture.


Back in October, a mini-viral tweet asked writers, “Give the worst possible elevator pitch for your book.” Aaron S. Lecklider, a professor of American studies at the University of Massachusetts Boston, replied, “Queer people actually were national security risks.”

The jokey tweet alludes to a violent history: that of the “Lavender Scare,” the mid-century moral panic in which federal and state officials purged thousands of queer people from government employment on the grounds that “sexual perverts” were “perhaps as dangerous as the actual Communists,” as one Republican politician put it in 1950. The Lavender Scare – intimately connected to but ultimately distinct from the McCarthyite “Red Scare” – contributed immensely to hateful popular understandings of queerness as a psychological disease and a danger to “normal” people.

It also led much of the burgeoning gay rights movement to insist that queers were not dangerous – at least, so long as they were clean-cut, white, bourgeois, and conformed to conventional gender norms.

Implicit in this commitment to “respectable queerness” was an erasure of the presence of queer people who did not fit neatly into normative boxes. Post-Stonewall, those who were often marginalized and ignored included the radical queers that threw bottles at Stonewall, founded the Gay Liberation Front (GLF) and Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR), and fundamentally changed the trajectory of the early years of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. But what of the radical queers in the years before the Lavender Scare? Who were they?

One stab at answering this question is Lecklider’s invigorating new book Love’s Next Meeting: The Forgotten History of Homosexuality and the Left in American Culture – the one about how queer people “actually were national security risks.” Indeed, writes Lecklider, in the first half of the twentieth century, “a broad cross-section of sexual dissidents . . . took advantage of their space on the margins of American society to throw themselves into leftist campaigns.” In other words, queer people were abundant among American radicals decades before the rise of an organized mass movement for gay rights. And while much of the scholarship on queer history “discounts the Old Left due to its perceived homophobia,” Lecklider locates a “counter-history where possibility, visibility, and resistance converged at the intersection of homosexuality and the Left.”

. . . Lecklider has supplemented his archival sleuthing with insightful interpretations of “cultural works” – novels, poems, and memoirs – many of which reveal far more of a queer presence on the Left than, say, the official records of the Communist Party. The result is a startling and joyful work of scholarship, a book about revolutionary people that feels revolutionary itself.

To read Scott W. Stern’s review of Aaron Lecklider’s Love’s Next Meeting in its entirety, click here.

NEXT: Remembering Dusty Springfield’s
“Daring” 1979 Gay-Affirming Song

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Remembering the Stonewall Uprising on Its 50th Anniversary
The Queer Liberation March: Bringing Back the Spirit of Stonewall
Historian Martin Duberman on the Rightward Shift of the Gay Movement
Reclaiming and Re-Queering Pride
Recovering the Queer Artistic Heritage

The Wild Reed's 2020 Queer Appreciation series:
Zaylore Stout on Pride 2020: “What Do We Have to Be Proud Of?”
Francis DeBernardo on the U.S. Supreme Court Ruling on Title VII: “A Reason for All Catholics to Celebrate”
Mia Birdsong on the “Queering of Friendship”
The Distinguished Rhone Fraser: Cultural Critic, Bibliophile, and Dramatist
“To Walk the World Without Masks”
What We Are Hoping and Fighting For

The Wild Reed's 2019 Queer Appreciation series:
Quote of the Day – May 31, 2019
James Baldwin’s Potent Interweavings of Race, Homoeroticism, and the Spiritual
John Gehring on Why Catholics Should Participate in LGBTQ Pride Parades
A Dance of Queer Love
The Queer Liberation March: Bringing Back the Spirit of Stonewall
Barbara Smith on Why She Left the Mainstream LGBTQI Movement
Remembering the Stonewall Uprising on Its 50th Anniversary
In a Historic First, Country Music’s Latest Star Is a Queer Black Man
Historian Martin Duberman on the Rightward Shift of the Gay Movement
Queer Black Panther

The Wild Reed's 2018 Queer Appreciation series:
Michelangelo Signorile on the Rebellious Purpose of Queer Pride
Liberating Paris: Exploring the Meaning of Liberation in Paris Is Burning
Stephanie Beatriz on the Truth of Being Bi
Queer Native Americans, Colonialism, and the Fourth of July

The Wild Reed's 2017 Queer Appreciation series:
Our Lives as LGBTQI People: “Garments Grown in Love”
On the First Anniversary of the Pulse Gay Nightclub Massacre, Orlando Martyrs Commemorated in Artist Tony O'Connell’s “Triptych for the 49”
Tony Enos on Understanding the Two Spirit Community
Making the Connections

The Wild Reed's 2016 Queer Appreciation post of solace, inspiration and hope:
“I Will Dance”

The Wild Reed's 2015 Queer Appreciation series:
Vittorio Lingiardi on the Limits of the Hetero/Homo Dichotomy
Reclaiming and Re-Queering Pride
Standing with Jennicet Gutiérrez, “the Mother of Our Newest Stonewall Movement”
Questions for Archbishop Kurtz re. the U.S. Bishops' Response to the Supreme Court's Marriage Equality Ruling
Clyde Hall: “All Gay People, in One Form or Another, Have Something to Give to This World, Something Rich and Very Wonderful”
The (Same-Love) Dance Goes On

The Wild Reed's 2014 Queer Appreciation series:
Michael Bayly’s “The Kiss” Wins the People's Choice Award at This Year's Twin Cities Pride Art Exhibition
Same-Sex Desires: “Immanent and Essential Traits Transcending Time and Culture”
Lisa Leff on Five Things to Know About Transgender People
Steven W. Thrasher on the Bland and Misleading “Gay Inc” Treatment of the Struggle to Overturn Prop 8
Test: A Film that “Illuminates Why Queer Cinema Still Matters”
Sister Teresa Forcades on Queer Theology
Omar Akersim: Muslim and Gay
Catholics Make Their Voices Heard on LGBTQ Issues

The Wild Reed's 2013 Queer Appreciation series:
Doing Papa Proud
Jesse Bering: “It’s Time to Throw 'Sexual Preference' into the Vernacular Trash”
Dan Savage on How Leather Guys, Dykes on Bikes, Go-Go Boys, and Drag Queens Have Helped the LGBT Movement
On Brokeback Mountain: Remembering Queer Lives and Loves Never Fully Realized
Manly Love

The Wild Reed's 2012 Queer Appreciation series:
The Theology of Gay Pride
Bi God, Somebody Listen
North America: Perhaps Once the “Queerest Continent on the Planet”
Gay Men and Modern Dance
A Spirit of Defiance

The Wild Reed's 2011 Gay Pride/Queer Appreciation series:
Gay Pride: A Celebration of True Humility
Dusty Springfield: Queer Icon
Gay Pioneer Malcolm Boyd on Survival – and Victory – with Grace
Senator Scott Dibble’s Message of Hope and Optimism
Parvez Sharma on Islam and Homosexuality

The Wild Reed’s 2010 Gay Pride series:
Standing Strong
Growing Strong
Jesus and Homosexuality
It Is Not Good To Be Alone
The Bisexual: “Living Consciously in the Place Where the Twain Meet”
Spirituality and the Gay Experience
Recovering the Queer Artistic Heritage

The Wild Reed's 2009 Gay Pride series:
A Mother’s Request to President Obama: Full Equality for My Gay Son
Marriage Equality in Massachusetts: Five Years On
It Shouldn’t Matter. Except It Does
Gay Pride as a Christian Event
Not Just Another Political Special Interest Group
Can You Hear Me, Yet, My Friend?

See also:
Worldwide Gay Pride – 2017 | 2016 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007
A Catholic Presence at Gay Pride – 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007
Gay Pride: A Catholic Perspective
Police, Pride, and Philando Castile

Image: Photographer unknown.

No comments: