I want you to imagine what being LGBTQ+ would be like in the 1920s or 30’s. How about the 1860s? If you’re like many today, you likely imagine the concept of the closet and assume society forced LGBTQ+ people to conform to the sexual mores of the day. They were repressed; forbidden from expressing themselves and living the lives they want.
Now, what if I told you the closet is actually pretty new? What if I told you LGBTQ+ culture in the 20s thrived in a little bubble where in bars, speakeasies, and dance halls they met, loved, and expressed themselves in a way much more free than just decades later? Let’s take a look at this bubble and focus in on New York City.
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Step Back is a history channel releasing videos biweekly that endeavors to go past the names, dates, and battles you might find elsewhere. It invites you to take a step back, consider the past and how it connects to today. We search for the quirky, unconventional, and just plain weird parts of our collective story.
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-Bullock, Darryl W. “Pansy Craze: the wild 1930s drag parties that kickstarted gay nightlife.” The Guardian. September 14, 2017. Accessed September 14, 2017.
-Chauncey, George, Jessica Shatan, Archie Ferguson, and Vicki Gold Levi. Gay New York: gender, urban culture, and the making of the gay male world, 1890-1940. New York: BasicBooks, 1994.
-Ferentinos, Susan. Interpreting LGBT history at museums and historic sites. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press, 2015.
-Garber, Eric. “Gladys Bentley.” Queer Cultural Center. Accessed September 14, 2017.
-Stabbe April 11, Oliver. “Queens and queers: The rise of drag ball culture in the 1920s.” National Museum of American History. April 11, 2016. Accessed September 14, 2017.
-“Subcultures and Sociology.” Underground Ball Cultures. Accessed September 14, 2017.
-Zarrelli, Natalie. “The Incredible Forgotten Queer Nightlife Scene of the 1920s.” Atlas Obscura. June 12, 2016. Accessed September 14, 2017.
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