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Queers are Workers, Workers are Queer, Workers' Rights are Hot! The Emerging Field of Queer Labor History

  • Sara R. Smith (a1)

Extract

Gay male stewards performing drag shows on large passenger ships in the 1930s. Male hustlers selling sex to men for money and then going home to their girlfriends in the 1950s. Lesbian bus drivers organizing in the 1970s to include “sexual orientation” in their union contract's antidiscrimination clause. Gay male flight attendants fired from their jobs for being HIV-positive in the 1980s. These are some of the stories told in the four books under review, each about the queer labor history of the United States.

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Copyright

References

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NOTES

1. I use “queer” rather than “gay and lesbian” because queer has a broader connotation, referring to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and other queer-identified people. “Queer” also describes people who express their gender and sexuality in nonnormative ways, but who do not necessarily identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.

2. George Chauncey, Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Makings of the Gay Male World, 1890–1940 (New York, 1994); Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy and Madeline D. Davis, Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold: The History of a Lesbian Community (New York, 1994).

3. Allan Bérubé, My Desire for History: Essays in Gay, Community, and Labor History (Chapel Hill, 2011), 28.

4. Also see Frank, Miriam, “Hard Hats & Homophobia: Lesbians in the Building Trades,” New Labor Forum 8 (2001): 2536 ; Miriam Frank, “Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Caucuses in the United States Labor Movement,” in Laboring for Rights: A Global Perspective on Union Response to Sexual Diversity, ed. Gerald Hunt (Philadelphia, 1999); Miriam Frank, “Lesbians and the Labor Movement,” in Encyclopedia of Homosexuality, 2nd ed., volume I: Lesbian Histories and Cultures, ed. Bonnie Zimmerman (New York, 2000).

5. Bérubé, My Desire for History, 263.

6. Ibid., 264.

7. Ibid., 77.

8. Ibid., 209.

9. See, for example, Robert W. Cherny, William Issel, and Kieran Walsh Taylor, eds., American Labor and the Cold War: Grassroots Politics and Postwar Political Culture (New Brunswick, 2004); Shelton Stromquist, ed., Labor's Cold War: Local Politics in a Global Context (Urbana, IL, 2008); George Lipsitz, Rainbow at Midnight: Labor and Culture in the 1940s (Urbana, IL, 1994).

10. David K. Johnson, The Lavender Scare: The Cold War Persecution of Gays and Lesbians in the Federal Government (Chicago, 2004). Also see Karen Graves, And They Were Wonderful Teachers: Florida's Purge of Gay and Lesbian Teachers (Urbana, IL, 2009); Stacy Lorraine Braukman, Communists and Perverts under the Palms: The Johns Committee in Florida, 1956–1965 (Gainesville, FL, 2012).

11. Kathleen M. Barry, Femininity in Flight: A History of Flight Attendants (Durham, NC, 2007); Georgia Panter Nielsen, From Sky Girl to Flight Attendant: Women and the Making of a Union (Ithaca, NY, 1982).

12. Phil Tiemeyer, Plane Queer: Labor, Sexuality, and AIDS in the History of Male Flight Attendants (Berkeley, CA, 2013), 2.

13. Ibid., 220.

14. Ibid.

15. Ibid., 220–21.

16. Ibid., 222.

17. Barry, Femininity in Flight, 166.

18. Tiemeyer, Plane Queer, 108.

19. Barry, Femininity in Flight, 175.

20. Tiemeyer, Plane Queer, 3.

21. Ibid., 138.

22. Ibid., 137.

23. Ibid., 195. Also see Alexandra Chasin, Selling Out: The Gay and Lesbian Movement Goes to Market (New York, 2000).

24. Tiemeyer, Plane Queer, 196.

25. Kim M. Phillips and Barry Reay, eds., Sex Before Sexuality: A Premodern History (Cambridge, 2011); Sexualities in History: A Reader (New York, 2002); Barry Reay, Watching Hannah: Sexuality, Horror and Bodily De-Formation in Victorian England (London, 2002); Barry Reay, Popular Cultures in England, 1550–1750 (London and New York, 1998).

26. Barry Reay, New York Hustlers: Masculinity and Sex in Modern America (Manchester, NY, 2010), 5.

27. For example, Chauncey, Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Makings of the Gay Male World, 1890–1940.

28. Reay, New York Hustlers, 17.

29. Ibid., 242.

30. Ibid., 174.

31. Ibid., 101.

32. Ibid., 105.

33. Ibid., 224.

34. Miriam Frank, Out in the Union: A Labor History of Queer America (Philadelphia, 2014), 9, 76–77, 88–89.

35. Ibid., 88, 121.

36. Ibid., 119.

37. Ibid., 97.

38. Ibid., 11.

39. Ibid., 21, 105–7.

40. Ibid., 3.

41. Ibid., 18, 83–84.

42. Ann Balay's Steel Closets: Voices of Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Workers (Chapel Hill, NC, 2014), like Frank, begins to rectify the absence of transgender workers from queer labor history.

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