“Long Before Stonewall: Histories of Same-Sex Sexuality in Early America”–looking backwards

Foster, Thomas A., editor, “Long Before Stonewall: Histories of Same-Sex Sexuality in Early America”, NYU Press, 2007.

Looking Backwards

Amos Lassen

It is so good to have someone exploring our past and putting it down and Thomas A. Foster has done just that. He gives us a look at early American gay history and shows how sexuality is central to understanding our own history. We get a look at our past in terms of gay and lesbian history and we see America as understanding the nature of same-sex relationships. We can, thereby, re-evaluate the early history of American homosexuality. We see it was not Stonewall alone that brought sexual identity to the fore and the nature of them is surprising. We are introduced to sexuality in colonial America and we see its importance.

In 1969 the Stonewall riots brought about the onset of gay liberation but in “Long Before Stonewall” we learn that there was a gay history before that date. People of the same sex had romantic involvements and sexual attraction for each other.

This is a new look at American history and one that has not been studied in depth before, especially the eighteenth century. By looking at that period, we can further expand the scope and definition of homosexual behavior. Using interdisciplinary studies, Foster assembles a collection of essays that is both classic and original and explores the nature of sexual identity. Foster looks at the new study of queer theory, cultural history. Social history and literary criticism to draw his material and he gives us a study of the entire early United States and links gender, race, status and class together in an extremely readable volume. By shedding light on early America history, he gives us a sense of pride. The essays in the volume look at early American sexuality but particularly at the late colonial and early national periods and give us reason to reflect on how sex, gender, race, class and power are regarded in present day life. Unfortunately many of the records of same-sex relationships have been destroyed by well-meaning family members but what we have is important and essential to gain a better understanding of how America was and how we live today.

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