Wide-Open Town: A History of Queer San Francisco to 1965

Wide-Open Town: A History of Queer San Francisco to 1965

Wide-Open Town: A History of Queer San Francisco to 1965

Wide-Open Town: A History of Queer San Francisco to 1965


"A smart, insightful, readable book. Boyd expertly outlines the political, economic, and legal contours of San Francisco's queer history. With a rich array of sources, she reconstructs the nightclubs and bars where customers, workers, and owners fought for the right to public assembly and helped inaugurate a movement for gay and lesbian civil rights."--Joanne Meyerowitz, author of "How Sex Changed: A History of Transsexuality in the United States

"An outstanding book, a major contribution to U.S. gay, lesbian, and queer history. Nan Boyd has produced a fascinating account that helps us to understand why and how San Francisco has come to occupy such pride of place in the queer imagination. Traversing the complicated geography, the multiple gender and sexual cultures, and the multi-layered politics of a great metropolis, Wide-Open Town is a must-read for historians, students and scholars of sex, gender, and sexuality, and all those who have ever left their hearts in San Francisco."--Marc Stein, author of "City of Sisterly and Brotherly Loves: Lesbian and Gay Philadelphia, 1945-1972

"Boyd spins out a fascinating story of a unique community and in the process informs our understanding of the development of gay/lesbian communities and activism in places beyond San Francisco. She does this by showing the links between and relationship of cultural resistance and various forms of political organizing, and by rethinking the ways that major events in U.S. history, such as Prohibition and the Second World War, have shaped gay/lesbian history."--Leila J. Rupp, author of "A Desired Past

"Nan Boyd has excavated a queer pre-history of gay liberation movements in San Francisco. By highlightingsex and race tourism as well as the centrality of gender transgression to the creation of gay communities, she sheds new light on the formation of sexual identities in the twentieth century. Both insightful and highly readable


I think it's important to realize that San Francisco did not happen after New York or after Stonewall. … This was something that developed in San Francisco and evolved because there were a large number of Gay people who just did the traditional American thing of organizing— organizing around people's interests.

Larry Littlejohn, interview, 1990

San Francisco is a seductive city. Perched on the edge of a continent, its beautiful vistas, eccentric characters, and liberal politics reflect both the unruly nature of its frontier-town beginnings and the sophisticated desires of an urban metropolis. Sociologists Howard Becker and Irving Horowitz call San Francisco a culture of civility, noting that “deviance, like difference, is a civic resource, enjoyed by tourist and resident alike. ” But while the strength of the city's queer communities is world renowned, there are few texts devoted to San Francisco's gay and lesbian history. What follows, as a result, charts new ground. It asks the question “Why San Francisco?” Why do so many people associate San Francisco with homosexuals and homosexuality? In my research—and casual conversations—many answers have emerged. There are the samesex dances of the Gold Rush era, the city's location as an international seaport, the homosocial entertainments of the city's Barbary Coast, the artistic revivals of the turn of the twentieth century, the tradition of vigilante law and order, the persistence of civic graft, the strength and diversity of the city's immigrant communities, the staunch resistance to anti-sex and anti-alcohol ordinances, the military presence of two world wars, and the bohemian, Beat, and hippie cultures that flourished in the postwar generations. But, by and large, when asked “Why San Fran-

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