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From a contemporary standpoint, quite a few nineteenth-century authors might appear gay or lesbian, including Nathaniel Hawthorne, Sarah Orne Jewett, Walt Whitman, Kate Chopin, Herman Melville, Emily Dickinson, William Dean Howells, and Henry James. Another group of lesser-known authors include Theodore Winthrop, Elizabeth Stoddard and Margaret Mussey Sweat. Anxiety over more rigid definitions of manhood led to more definite distinctions between heterosexual and homosexual men, the intimacies and rhetoric of "romantic friendship" becoming the exclusive property of the latter. As homosexuality became a legal, medical, and psychological category, it came to characterize not individual acts, but a type of personality, the homosexual, whose sexuality was innate, fundamental, and legible in every aspect of the homosexual's life. Romantic same-sex friendships were often perceived as socially transformative, yet often they strained under the tension between reform and self-interested prejudice, especially when those friendships formed across the color line. Racial differences both intensify and undermine friendship's potential for libratory social change.
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