A QUEER CAPITALRooted in extensive archival research and personal interviews, A Queer Capital isthe first history of LGBT life in the nation’s capital. Revealing a vibrant past thatdates back more than 125 years, the book explores how lesbians, gay men, andbisexuals established spaces of their own before and after World War II, survivedsome of the harshest anti-gay campaigns in the U.S., and organized to demandequal treatment. Telling the stories of black and white gay communities and individuals,Genny Beemyn shows how race, gender, and class shaped the constructionof gay social worlds in a racially segregated city.From the turn of the twentieth century through the 1980s, Beemyn exploresthe experiences of gay people in Washington, showing how they created theirown communities, fought for their rights, and, in the process, helped to change thecountry. Combining rich personal stories with keen historical analysis, A QueerCapital provides insights into LGBT life, the history of Washington, D.C., andAfrican-American life and culture in the twentieth century.Genny Beemyn is Director of The Stonewall Center at the University of Massachusetts,Amherst, and has published extensively in LGBTQ studies, includingThe Lives of Transgender People.
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First published 2015by Routledge711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017And by Routledge2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RNRoutledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business© 2015 Taylor & FrancisThe right of Genny Beemyn to be identified as author of this work hasbeen asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright,Designs and Patents Act 1988.All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproducedor utilized in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means,now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording,or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission inwriting from the publishers.Trademark Notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks orregistered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanationwithout intent to infringe.Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication DataBeemyn, Genny, 1966–A queer capital : a history of gay life in Washington D.C. /Genny Beemyn.pages cm1. Homosexuality—Washington (D.C.)—History. 2. Gay men—Washington (D.C.)—History. 3. Lesbians—Washington (D.C.)—History.4. Gays—Washington (D.C.)—Interviews. 5. Gays—Washington(D.C.)—Social conditions. 6. Blacks—Race identity—UnitedStates—History. 7. Whites—Race identity—United States—History. 8. Gender identity—United States—History. I. Title.HQ76.3.U52W182 2014306.76′609753—dc232014000873ISBN: 978-0-415-92172-5 (hbk)ISBN: 978-0-415-73529-2 (pbk)ISBN: 978-1-315-81927-3 (ebk)Typeset in Bemboby Apex CoVantage, LLC
CONTENTSList of IllustrationsAcknowledgmentsviiixIntroduction 11 The Geography of Same-Sex Desire: Cruising Menin Washington in the Late Nineteenth andEarly Twentieth Centuries 142 “Sentiments Expressed Here Would Be Misconstruedby Others”: The Same-Sex Sexual Lives of Washington’sBlack Elite in the Early Twentieth Century 473 Race, Class, Gender, and the Social Landscape of theCapital’s Gay Communities During and After World War II 1004 The Policing of Same-Sex Desire in Postwar Washington 1295 LGBT Movements in the Capital in the Mid to LateTwentieth Century: Three Historic Moments 1816 Epilogue: “In Tyra’s Memory” 233Appendix: List of Narrators 243Bibliography 247Index 261
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ILLUSTRATIONSMAPS1 Parks and bars in and near downtown Washington, D.C. that werepopular with gay people, 1945–60 103FIGURES1 Carter Bealer (“Jeb Alexander”) in October 1921 1632 A page from Bealer’s 1920 diary 1643 Lafayette Square in the early twentieth century 1654 The Strand Theater in 1952 1655 The Central Branch of the Washington YMCA 1666 A resident’s room in the Black Branch of the Washington YMCA 1667 Couple Mary Burrill and Lucy Diggs Slowe (seated) in 1932 1678 Alain Locke, photographed by Glenn Carrington 1679 Angelina Weld Grimké (right) with an unidentified white woman 16810 Participants in the first gay rights demonstration to be held infront of the Pentagon on July 31, 1965 16811 Hillary Rodham Clinton speaking at the twentieth anniversaryof Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies in 2012 16912 The Carroll Tavern 16913 Members of the Furies in 1971 17014 Members of Cinque performing at the Coffeehouse in 1983 17115 Participants in the vigil for Tyra Hunter 171
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ACKNOWLEDGMENTSLike many activists who were strongly opposed to U.S. government policies in the1980s and 1990s, my relationship with Washington, D.C. began through its roleas the site of the federal government. I participated in the 1985 March for Peace,Jobs, and Justice (and was arrested in a civil disobedience action), the 1987 Marchon Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, and the 1989 March for Women’sLives. Being newly out and surrounded by hundreds of thousands of other lesbian,gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people made the 1987 march one ofthe most transformative events in my life and led me to want to volunteer for the1993 March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay, and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation.I spent three months in D.C. in 1993 working on the bisexual events that wereheld in conjunction with the march and, in the process, became familiar with thecity and its vibrant LGBT communities. It was then that I decided to write mydissertation on the history of LGBT life in the capital, which I completed in 1997.That research serves as the basis for this book.Beyond those three months, I have never lived in D.C., and for much of thetime that I was conducting research for my dissertation in African-American studiesand then for this book, I lived nearly a thousand miles away. But I was veryfortunate to have tremendous local support, without which I could never haveaccomplished this project. In particular, I am indebted to Loraine Hutchins forgiving me a home away from home whenever I was in D.C. and for helping connectme to the city’s LGBT communities. The people I interviewed were also verygenerous in giving me their time, getting me in touch with other potential narrators,and offering me their encouragement and friendship. I am especially thankfulfor the kindness of Joan Biren, John Davis, Larry Duckette, Jack Frey and PeterMorris, Gideon Ferebee, ABilly Jones-Hennin, Dusty Keyes, Jack Nichols, GladysPaige, Michelle Parkerson, Cheryl Spector, Thurlow Tibbs, “M. Tilden-Morgan,”
x AcknowledgmentsLilli Vincenz, “Ed Wallace,” and Jessica Xavier. Other Washingtonians at thetime of my research who provided me with suggestions, contacts, and/or goodconversation included Eric Cox, Mick Ellis, Elias Farajajé-Jones, William Leap,and Bob Roehr.In addition, I am greatly indebted to the people who shared their personaldocuments and files with me, especially Ina Russell, who graciously opened up herhouse and Carter Bealer’s diaries to me, and Annie Valk, who allowed me to useher interviews with members of the Furies. I am also tremendously grateful to thenarrators who gave me copies of material, including Roy Eddey, Wayson Jones,Jack Nichols, Isaiah J. Poole, Otto H. Ulrich, Jr., and Lilli Vincenz.For reading and offering insightful comments on different parts of the book, Iwish to thank John D’Emilio, Mickey Eliason, Susan Lemere, Martha Patterson,and Leslie Schwalm. And for their suggestions and assistance with sources, I amgrateful to Randolph Baxter, Derrais Carter, Douglas Charles, Lisa Duggan, DavidK. Johnson, Bill Thomas, Jr., and Roey Thorpe.For being patient with my many questions and requests for material, I wantto acknowledge the staffs of the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center at HowardUniversity; the Washingtoniana Collection of the District’s Martin Luther King,Jr. Library; the YMCA of Washington; the Beinecke Rare Book and ManuscriptLibrary at Yale University; the Amistad Research Center at Tulane University;the Harry S. Truman Library in Independence, Missouri; the National PersonnelRecords Center in St. Louis, Missouri; the archives at Carleton College, the MinnesotaHistorical Society, and the South Dakota State Historical Society; and theNational Archives and Records Administration. Particularly helpful in obtainingmaterial was Barbara Morgan, a Reference Librarian at the University of Massachusetts,Amherst, who continually amazed me by her ability to locate any governmentrecord immediately.When I began my research, few people were talking about Washington’s LGBThistory, much less documenting it. Therefore I was thrilled when the RainbowHistory Project was formed in 2000, and they have been an invaluable resource fororal history interviews and material on the area’s LGBT history over the past fiftyyears. I am especially indebted to Philip Clark from the Rainbow History Projectfor providing me with electronic copies of some of their interviews.I also cannot thank enough Kimberly Guinta and Routledge for having thefaith in me to finally complete this book after having it on the back burner formore than a decade. And finally I offer my greatest thanks to the narrators, manyof whom have now passed on; their moving stories inspired and led to this book.They made history and made a difference.
INTRODUCTIONWashington, D.C. is a “queer capital” in both senses of the term. It is a queercapital, in that the city has long had some of the most visible and most politicallyand socially active lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) communitiesin the United States and has been the birthplace of many LGBT institutions andmovements that have had a national impact. As the site of the federal government,which LGBT people spent decades fighting in order to be treated equally in civilservice employment, the city is also a queer capital, a place where LGBT individualsclaimed and developed spaces for themselves and ultimately became an importantconstituency in local and national politics.While Washington has received considerable attention as a national stage forLGBT rights battles, it has rarely been examined as either a queer capital or a queercapital. Yet individuals attracted to others of the same sex have had a visible presencein the city for more than a hundred years. At least since the late nineteenthcentury, the city’s extensive park system provided secluded and, at times, relativelysafe spaces in which both black and white men could pursue same-sex sexual relationships,and one of the country’s earliest documented drag events—a gatheringof black men—occurred in the capital in 1892. 1 From the early to mid twentiethcentury, numerous bars and restaurants in and near downtown Washington beganto attract a mostly or exclusively gay clientele, including several that catered towomen. 2 However, African Americans interested in same-sex sexual relationshipswere excluded from these establishments because of racial segregation. As a result,they socialized primarily within the city’s black neighborhoods, developing a richtradition of house parties that continued to flourish even after they created morepublic social spaces and after formal segregation ended in the District in the1950s. One of the first of these public spaces, Nob Hill, a bar on Kenyon Streetin Northwest Washington, was a feature of the city’s black gay community for
2 Introductionfifty years. It was this long and often groundbreaking history, much of which hasnever been documented, that drew me to a study of Washington.Another important reason to consider Washington’s LGBT communities is thefact that, being situated in the capital, they were at the center of dominant discoursesaround same-sex sexuality, shaping and being shaped by national politics.For example, the crackdowns against suspected gay people that occurred across thecountry during the 1950s had their roots in campaigns launched in Washingtonby police and federal officials and were fueled by the revelation that “admittedhomosexuals” had been employed by the State Department until efforts began inthe late 1940s to remove them. Subsequently, thousands of federal workers in thecapital were fired, and thousands more were denied jobs because they had beenarrested for sodomy, solicitation, or other gay-related offenses—figures which areespecially significant because the government was the city’s principal employer. 3A study of Washington also presents a unique opportunity to consider the livesof LGBT African Americans in an urban, southern-based environment with asignificant black population, and this book is the first published LGBT history ofa legally segregated society both prior to and following World War II. 4 AlthoughWashington is often seen simply as the nation’s capital, and thus as devoid of anyregional affiliation, its segregation practices, its location on the edge of the formerConfederacy, and its considerable black population with ties to southern statesmade the seat of the Union more of a southern city for much of the twentiethcentury. 5 Moreover, because of the tremendous influx of southern black migrants,the capital had the largest black population of any major U.S. city in the latenineteenth and early twentieth centuries, with substantial black communities inall four sections of the city. Even when many rural southern African Americansbegan to settle in northern states in the 1910s and 1920s as part of the GreatMigration, the capital continued to have the highest percentage of African Americansamong major metropolitan areas. 6At the same time, Washington also stands out as the center of the nation’sblack aristocracy; no other city possessed a greater concentration of black elites,an exclusive set bound together by ancestry, color, education, occupation, andbourgeois values. The black upper class in the capital was so extensive that leadingAfrican Americans from across the country were commonly related to membersof the group by blood or marriage, or were acquainted with them professionally.Such a nationwide social network radiating from Washington meant that its blackelite had a tremendous effect on black middle-class attitudes and behavior beyondthe city. They shaped national conversations on race, as well as discussions of thefamily and sexuality in the black community. 7For all their influence, though, the city’s black elite still faced discrimination inthe capital from a white power structure that rarely made class distinctions whendenying African Americans access to public facilities, employment, and housingoutside of black neighborhoods. With the hardening of white racial attitudes inthe early twentieth century, African Americans in Washington, whose rights had
Introduction 3been legally protected during Reconstruction, encountered segregation practicesthat were nearly as harsh as those in southern cities. 8 Even federal employment,which had been the economic backbone of the black elite for much of the nineteenthcentury, was no longer a certainty, as white government officials began toappoint other white people to the jobs traditionally reserved for black leaders andincreasingly limited African Americans to the small, segregated sections of federalagencies. 9The black elite responded to the worsening racial situation in two, contradictoryways. On the one hand, the narrowing of the gap between the treatmentthey and other African Americans received served as a unifying force. Faced withsystematic discrimination for the first time, the black elite organized a broad-basedprotest movement that succeeded in desegregating some department stores andrestaurants and culminated in the Supreme Court’s 1953 decision banning segregationin all public facilities in the capital. 10 On the other hand, though, membersof the group sought to maintain their exclusive social position by placing arenewed emphasis on what they saw as the key traits distinguishing them fromthe black masses: respectability and refinement. As E. Franklin Frazier concludedin his landmark 1949 study, The Negro in the United States, “[t]he great concernof the upper class with respectability has arisen from its great desire not to beidentified with the masses of Negroes and partly from the manner in which itwants to appear before the white world.” 11 It thus became even more difficult tobe accepted into elite social circles and also easier to fall from grace. For leadingAfrican Americans in Washington who were attracted to others of the same sex,the greater policing of group boundaries meant that they had to be even moreguarded about their sexuality during the early and mid twentieth century. 12Besides considering a significantly African-American, segregated city that wasimportant to LGBT history, my study also breaks new ground by providing anin-depth examination of how gender, race, and class differences shaped the constructionof the capital’s gay social worlds. With this as a focus, I am better able tocapture moments of unity and dissonance across multiple identities and betweendiverse population groups. For example, I discuss how race was just as critical tothe creation of predominantly white gay social spaces as it was to the developmentof institutions within the city’s black communities. Studies involving white peopletoo often normalize whiteness and ignore the significant role of race in their lives.My work also offers new insights by challenging the way in which LGBThistories commonly adhere to an exclusive, dichotomous conception of sexualitythat considers anyone who expresses a desire for a person of the same sex tobe lesbian or gay, regardless of the extent to which they might also be interestedor involved in different-sex relationships. Not only does such a framework failto recognize that many people who pursued same-sex sexual relationships werebehaviorally bisexual, but it also distorts the historical process of gay communityformation. My research on Washington reveals that bisexual individuals, whetherself-identified or not, frequented the city’s predominantly gay bars, restaurants,
4 Introductionand house parties, and helped establish male cruising areas in the early and midtwentieth century. A case in point is “Scott Harrison,” a white middle-class manwho moved to the capital to work for a local United Service Organizations (USO)chapter following the entry of the United States into World War II. Harrison discoveredthat the wartime influx of soldiers often turned USO centers into popularcruising locations, and he became involved with several men before falling in lovewith and marrying a woman in the late 1940s. The couple were happily marriedfor more than thirty years and raised four children together. Not until after hiswife died did Harrison begin to pursue same-sex sexual relationships again. 13Harrison’s experiences demonstrate the inability of a narrow dichotomousapproach to capture the complexity of people’s sexual lives. Clearly, his marriagecannot be overlooked or seen as a matter of convenience, just as his involvement inthe city’s gay culture cannot be ignored or reduced to youthful experimentation.But too often lesbian and gay male scholars have been as dismissive of people’sdifferent-sex relationships as heterosexist writers have been of their same-sex relationships.As I discuss, substantial evidence suggests that the poet and playwrightAngelina Weld Grimké was attracted to both women and men, yet historians andliterary critics have insisted on seeing her as a lesbian, disregarding a more nuancedreading of her life. In more contemporary times, bisexual individuals have alsobeen erased from the “lesbian and gay” rights movement. For example, two of theten people who participated in the Mattachine Society of Washington’s picket infront of the White House on April 17, 1965—the first gay rights demonstrationin the capital—self-identified as bisexual. Most LGBT histories ignore such realitiesabout individual lives; instead, these works try to fit people into a couple ofidentities that are assumed to align with a narrowly defined set of sexual practices.Although I take issue, at times, with the methodologies of previous LGBThistories, my approach owes a tremendous debt to such groundbreaking texts asLiz Lapovsky Kennedy and Madeline Davis’s Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold: TheHistory of a Lesbian Community, George Chauncey’s Gay New York: Gender, UrbanCulture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890 – 1940, Esther Newton’s CherryGrove, Fire Island: Sixty Years in America’s First Gay and Lesbian Town, and JohnHoward’s Men Like That: A Southern Queer History. These and other works havedrawn attention to the specificity of gay experience and demonstrated the importanceof place in shaping the lives of lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals. Whereasgeneral histories have often assumed that gay people in the United States shared asimilar “coming out” experience and had a common sense of their sexuality, communitystudies have documented the distinctions between the lives of gay peoplein different regions, cities, and neighborhoods and the unique circumstances surroundingthe development of gay communities across the country. 14Kennedy and Davis’s Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold, for example, traces therise of a working-class bar culture among white lesbians in Buffalo, New York inthe 1930s and 1940s. These lesbians, like white women who pursued relationshipswith other women in Washington, were able to socialize together publicly during
Introduction 5this period, making it easier for them to find others like themselves and to developa shared sense of community and group consciousness. However, the greater visibilityof white working-class lesbians in Buffalo and Washington also increasedthe likelihood that their sexuality would be disclosed to unknowing family membersand coworkers. For black lesbians in Buffalo, who already lacked anonymityin the city’s relatively small African-American community, specifically blacklesbian bars would have made them too visible and too vulnerable to attack fromthe police, and segregation practices prevented them from patronizing downtownlesbian bars until the 1950s. Instead, they socialized primarily at house parties inthe city’s black neighborhoods. While Washington had a larger and more decentralizedblack community, the likelihood still of running into people they knew, aswell as legal segregation, likewise made parties the most popular option for blacklesbians, gay men, and bisexuals in the capital.Although less specifically focused on racial difference than Kennedy and Davis’swork, Chauncey’s Gay New York also demonstrates the significance of race, as wellas class, in the structuring of an urban social landscape. Gay men, specifically whiteworking-class “fairies,” were highly visible in the streets and nightspots of someNew York City neighborhoods since at least the late nineteenth century, whentheir distinctive appearance, language, and mannerisms first began to attract publicattention. Most white middle-class men in search of male sexual partners weremore discreet, whether at a Greenwich Village drag ball, a Times Square nightclub,or a Bowery cafeteria. However, as Chauncey notes, their class and racialprivilege often enabled them to express their sexuality more freely in the cabaretsand speakeasies of Harlem, taking advantage of the extensive gay world created bythe city’s black lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals. Although gay African Americanscould not always be as open in their own community as these white “slummers,”they did develop some of the first places in New York—and in the country—where men could dance together in public and where drag queens could performregularly without police interference. 15Washington differed from New York City in not having a history of whitegay people patronizing establishments in the black community. 16 On the contrary,according to both black and white narrators, white lesbians, gay men, and bisexualswere a rarity at the capital bars that attracted many gay African Americans inthe 1930s and 1940s. Most of the bars with a white, largely gay clientele duringthis period were located in or near downtown Washington, where many singlewhite men and women had apartments or rooms—far from any family memberswho might live in the area. These distinctions, which continue to shape the city’ssexual and racial geography today, are a central theme of A Queer Capital.Newton’s Cherry Grove, Fire Island takes a very different approach from Kennedyand Davis and Chauncey. Rather than examining a lesbian or gay malesubculture within a hostile dominant culture, Newton discusses both lesbians andgay men within a society that they largely created for themselves. This differenceis a crucial one. Beginning in the late 1930s and 1940s, gay people residing in or
6 Introductionvisiting this summer vacation spot could be themselves, free of the strains of havingto conceal their sexuality and, in the case of lesbians, away from the unwantedsexual advances of straight men. Moreover, by focusing on both women and men,Newton is able to show how the two groups worked together on the Grove’s elaboratetheatrical productions and, at times, socialized with one another—a pointthat would be missed if, like Kennedy and Davis and Chauncey, she just examinedthe mostly separate worlds they developed. Cherry Grove, Fire Island shows theimportance of conducting a study that examines the experiences of people of allgenders in a place like the capital, where race was often a greater social divisionthan gender and sexuality.Given the “southern qualities” of Washington, at least until the 1950s, and itslarge black population, which mostly had its roots in the South, my approach wasalso informed by John Howard’s work on Mississippi. 17 Howard demonstrates that“men like that, ” as well as men “who liked that” (men who had sex with othermen but who did not identify as gay or bisexual), not only survived but also flourished,whether living in the rural countryside, a small town, or a relatively morepopulated city neighborhood. 18 Neither completely isolated nor invisible, theypursued their desires within the main institutions of local society—home, church,school, and workplace. The same could be said historically about black gay peoplein Washington. They largely enacted their sexuality in the early and mid twentiethcentury within the city’s black neighborhoods and community establishments, inwhich they were amid family, neighbors, and coworkers. Most of the black narratorswhom I interviewed for this study who were “in the life”—that is, whopursued same-sex sexual relationships—in the 1940s and 1950s stated that theirfamilies knew of their sexuality, while few of the white narrators’ families did, atleast at that time.Book OutlineA Queer Capital relies on a wide variety of sources. At the core of the text areinterviews I did with 108 Washingtonians from 1994 to 2000 and from 2012 to2013, along with fifteen interviews conducted by the District’s Rainbow HistoryProject and four interviews conducted by historian Anne Valk (for a list ofinterviewees, see Appendix). While I did not use all of the interviews in the bookdirectly, this material helped shape my research and gave me a fuller understandingof the city’s LGBT communities. Reading more than forty years of the WashingtonBlade, the capital’s LGBT newspaper, was also extremely valuable for developing asense of local history, even though the Blade, at times, provided little coverage ofLGBT people of color and transgender people of all races. Other primary materialthat was critical to my research included the diaries of Carter Bealer, the diariesand unpublished poetry of Angelina Weld Grimké, letters sent and received byAlain Locke, files of the local group Gay Men and Lesbians Opposing Violence,annual reports of the United States Park Police, congressional hearings on the
Introduction 7employment of gay people in the government, the FBI files of federal employeesfired for being gay, and numerous court case records (see the Bibliography for acomplete list of primary material).The book is subtitled “ A History of Gay Life in Washington, D.C.” becauseit is an episodic, rather than a comprehensive, history. On the one hand, a lack ofmaterial on the experiences of African Americans and women of all races whowere attracted to others of the same sex in the early and mid twentieth century,especially from the perspective of the individuals themselves, limited what couldbe included in the book for earlier decades. As this work began as my dissertationin African-American studies, I had initially thought to focus on the lives of blackgay people in Washington, but was unable to find enough primary and secondarysources. 19 On the other hand, there was far too much material available for the lastseveral decades of the twentieth century to cover all of the capital’s LGBT institutions,organizations, and communities. Other studies have addressed the rise ofprimarily white gay male activism, the development of white gay neighborhoods,and the proliferation of gay commercial establishments in the city in the 1960sand 1970s, so I provide only a cursory treatment of these topics. 20 Instead, in discussingthe last third of the twentieth century, I consider the experiences of individualsand groups typically left out of narratives of gay rights and liberation, bothnationally and in the capital: lesbian feminist separatists, black LGBT activists, andtransgender people. Their stories need to be told not only for a more completerendering of the city’s LGBT history, but also to reframe that history to recognizethe centrality of race, class, and gender in the construction of LGBT communities.A Queer Capital examines a wide range of historical moments, from gay malecruising practices in the early twentieth century, to the sexual lives of black elitesduring the New Negro Renaissance, to crackdowns against gay people in the midtwentieth century, to the development of lesbian feminist and black LGBT movementsin the 1970s, to organizing for transgender (trans) rights at the end of thetwentieth century. But whatever the community or era, how LGBT individuals inWashington experienced their lives was shaped by race, class, and gender dynamics.Across different time periods, race was often as significant as sexuality in theconstruction of LGBT communities, as both black and white individuals createdlargely separate social, cultural, and political worlds throughout the twentieth century.While white people who were attracted to others of the same sex typicallydeveloped institutions that were split by gender, black women and men who werein the life frequently socialized together, demonstrating that shared racial experienceswere often more salient than differences in sexual attraction. At the sametime, class divisions continually affected both black and white LGBT communitiesin the capital—whether it was the city’s African-American elite promulgating apolitics of respectability to differentiate themselves from the rest of the black communityin the early twentieth century, white and black men who pursued same-sexsexual relationships creating bars in the 1950s that catered to middle-class individualswho were not out, or white lesbian separatist organizing in the 1970s being
8 Introductionundermined by class differences. A study that primarily focused on sexual andgender identities would have overlooked or downplayed these critical aspects ofpeople’s experiences and thereby presented a distorted view of the city’s LGBThistory.My work begins in the 1890s, the decade in which gay life in Washingtoninitially seems to have been documented. The first chapter examines the experiencesof men who pursued same-sex sexual relationships in the capital in the latenineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when gay life was most visibly manifestedthrough cruising in the city’s streets and parks. Using the diaries of CarterBealer, a white gay man who extensively documented his sexual experiences inthe 1920s, I explore the parameters of male same-sex sexuality in the capital at thattime, including the different sites and techniques for cruising and the harassmentpractices of the police and larger society. In addition to considering the role ofparks in the lives of both black and white men who sought male sexual partners,I also discuss other important local institutions: bars, restaurants, theaters, roominghouses and apartments, YMCAs, and drag events.The second chapter provides a closer examination of the experiences of AfricanAmericans who were attracted to people of the same sex, which were oftenquite different from those of white people. While white people who pursuedsame-sex sexual relationships typically used the city to gain a measure of independencefrom their families, African Americans maintained their roots within blackcommunities and led their social lives within Washington’s black neighborhoods.Consequently, African Americans who were in the life, especially members of theblack elite, were often more circumscribed than white people in acting upon theirsame-sex desires. I focus in particular upon the experiences of Grimké, editor andcritic Alain Locke, and educators Lucy Slowe and Mary Burrill. Through a closereading of their published and unpublished writing, I demonstrate that each wasattracted to people of the same sex but felt precluded from pursuing such relationshipsopenly, or at all, because they feared ruining their careers and underminingtheir prestigious social positions, as well as having a negative effect on the peopleand issues they cared most about and on the larger black community.The third chapter details the race, class, and gender distinctions of the differentbars that opened in the late 1930s, and how the massive influx of military personneland civilian workers during and after World War II affected these divisions andchanged patterns of bar behavior. The war was a watershed event for gay life inWashington, resulting in a large increase in the number of lesbians, gay men, andbisexuals in the city and a dramatic rise in the number of bars catering to them.But it also led to conflicts between longtime bar patrons and newcomers, and furtherentrenched race, class, and gender separations in the capital’s predominantlygay establishments. The ongoing reverberations of segregation within the capital’sLGBT communities today make it especially valuable to study the development ofgay institutions during this period and how race, in particular, came to structurethe sexual identities of both white and black gay Washingtonians.
Introduction 9Responding to the increased visibility of lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals in thestreets and bars of Washington after the war, the police and politicians launchedformal crackdowns that affected the lives of all gay people in the city. The mostwell-known aspect of these witch hunts was a campaign against suspected gaypeople in the federal government fomented by conservative leaders in Congress,which resulted in the dismissal of thousands of individuals from civil serviceemployment during the 1950s and the prevention of thousands more fromobtaining government positions. But, as I argue in the fourth chapter, what somesenators derisively referred to as the “purge of the perverts” was actually the culminationof a systematic process of harassment and persecution of lesbians, gaymen, and bisexuals in the capital that began in the mid 1940s and had a muchwider impact than the possible loss of federal employment. Gay people in Washingtonhad to be more circumspect about revealing their same-sex sexual desires inthe decade following World War II and more careful at bars, parties, theaters, andother places that were known as gay locations, if they did not avoid these spacesaltogether. 21The initial research for this book, conducted for my dissertation, was up untilthe mid 1950s. I chose to end at this point because of changes in both Washingtonand its gay communities. While the park police continued to arrest men inthe city’s parks and suspected gay people continued to lose their government jobsor not gain federal employment, the “homosexual panic” in Congress and theintense pressure for the capital to be “cleansed of moral perverts” began to subsidein the late 1950s. The numbers of those arrested and those separated from thegovernment on suspicions of being gay also declined, which likely reflected fewergay people cruising in downtown parks and seeking federal positions as much asit did less forceful persecutions. 22Another important change during this same time was the U.S. Supreme Court’sruling that segregation in Washington’s restaurants and bars was unconstitutional,paving the way for favorable decisions in other desegregation cases. The landmarkruling did not lead black gay people to frequent the capital’s downtown bars inlarge numbers or suddenly cause the white owners and patrons of these bars towelcome African Americans. But it did accelerate the movement of white peoplefrom the city to the suburbs, which drastically changed the demographics of thecapital and ensured that black and white LGBT individuals had even fewer socialinteractions with one another.Finally, I sought to end my original research before a homophile rights movementdeveloped in the city with the founding of the Mattachine Society of Washingtonin 1961. While the active membership in the organization never exceededa couple of dozen people, the group dramatically increased the visibility of gaypeople in the capital and began the legal and political struggle that resulted in theend of the exclusion of gay people from government jobs. The fifth chapter of thebook details the efforts that led to discrimination against LGBT people in federalemployment being prohibited.
10 IntroductionThe fifth chapter also considers two other important movements that challengeddiscrimination and transformed the local landscape in the mid to latetwentieth century: the development of lesbian feminist social and political movementsin the early 1970s and the coalescing of a black gay renaissance in the late1970s and 1980s. These struggles are valuable to study because, despite differencesin goals, approaches, and outcomes, each involved the formation and empowermentof communities that, in turn, fostered larger cultural and political changesthat continue to resonate today in Washington and beyond. As in previous chapters,I address how these movements reflected and spoke to race, class, and genderdifferences in the city’s LGBT communities.To conclude the book, I offer an epilogue that considers the contemporarystruggle for trans rights in the District and in the United States in general byexamining the effects of the murder of Tyra Hunter, a twenty-four-year-old,African-American transsexual woman from Southeast Washington, in 1995. Ichose to end on the aftermath of her death because of what it shows about thecontinued denial of basic civil rights to many LGBT people today and the amountof work that still needs to be done to achieve full equality for all members of theLGBT community.Hunter’s death, in particular, is important to discuss because it significantlychanged attitudes toward trans people and became a defining moment for nationallesbian and gay rights organizations and the country’s emerging trans movement.The impact of her murder was especially felt in Washington. More than any otheroccurrence, it led to the local movement being redefined as one for lesbian, gay,bisexual, and transgender rights.Notes1. C. H. Hughes, “Postscript to Paper on ‘Erotopathia,’” Alienist and Neurologist 14 (October1893): 731–32; Irving C. Rosse, “Sexual Hypochondriasis and Perversion of theGenesic Instinct,” Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease 17 (November 1892): 802.2. I use the word “gay” throughout the book to refer to or describe all people who hadsome level of same-sex sexual involvement. The phrase “lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals”will also be used in this manner. As I discuss in Chapter 3, “gay” often served asan in-group term in the 1940s and 1950s for people who pursued same-sex sexualrelationships.3. U.S. Senate Committee on Expenditures in the Executive Departments, Subcommitteeon Investigations, Employment of Homosexuals and Other Sex Perverts in Government, 81stCongress, 2nd Session, 1950, 9, 25; Senate Appropriations Committee to Secretary ofState George C. Marshall, June 10, 1947, reprinted in Joe McCarthy, McCarthyism: TheFight for America: Documented Answers to Questions Asked by Friend and Foe (New York:Devin-Adair, 1952), 22.4. John Howard’s groundbreaking study of southern gay communities, Men Like That:A Southern Queer History (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999), focuses onpost-World War II Mississippi. Other contemporary southern LGBT histories include
Introduction 11Brock Thompson, The Un-Natural State: Arkansas and the Queer South (Fayetteville:University of Arkansas Press, 2010), and Daneel Buring, “Building Gay Communitybehind the Magnolia Curtain: Memphis from the 1940s through the 1980s,” diss.,University of Memphis, 1996.5. Carl Abbott notes that many commentators have said that Washington “used to besouthern until” and then name different moments of change, from the Civil War tothe start of home rule in the 1970s. Many of the white narrators whom I interviewedreferred to Washington in the 1940s and 1950s as a “small southern town” in thecourse of their comments. Some African Americans who migrated from the ruralDeep South during the Great Migration, though, saw the capital as part of the Northbecause it was urban and offered experiences that were often radically different fromwhat they had known. The extent of southern migration of African Americans toWashington is demonstrated by census figures from 1900 to 1930. During this period,approximately 58 percent of black residents were born in Maryland, Delaware, or theDistrict itself; 39 percent in the South; and only 3 percent in the North. Carl Abbott,“Dimensions of Regional Change in Washington, D.C.” American Historical Review90 (December 1990), 1367–68, 1379; Abbott, Political Terrain: Washington, D.C., fromTidewater Town to Global Metropolis (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press,1999), 2; interviews with “Haviland Ferris” (May 16, 1994), Peter Morris and JackFrey (March 22, 1994), Jack Nichols (May 20, 1995), and “Scott Harrison” (June 2,1994); Elizabeth Clark-Lewis, Living In, Living Out: African American Domestics and theGreat Migration (New York: Kodansha International, 1996), 70, 219.6. U.S. Bureau of the Census, Thirteenth Census of the United States Taken in the Year 1910,Vol. 1, Population, General Report and Analysis (Washington, DC: Government PrintingOffice, 1913), 207–13; U.S. Bureau of the Census, Fifteenth Census of the UnitedStates: 1930, Vol. 3, Part I, Population (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office,1932), 61. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, African Americanswere especially concentrated in the area around Howard University and in theneighborhoods of Georgetown and Foggy Bottom in Northwest Washington and inAnacostia in Southeast Washington. Histories of these communities include MichaelAndrew Fitzpatrick, “‘A Great Agitation for Business’: Black Economic Developmentin Shaw,” Washington History 2 (Fall/Winter 1990–91): 49–73, 108–11; KathleenM. Lesko, ed., Black Georgetown Remembered: A History of Its Black Community from theFounding of “ The Town of George ” in 1751 to the Present Day (Washington, DC: GeorgetownUniversity Press, 1991); Sandra Fitzpatrick and Maria R. Goodwin, The Guide toBlack Washington: Places and Events of Historical and Cultural Signifi cance in the Nation’sCapital (New York: Hippocrene Books, 1990); Louise Daniel Hutchinson, The AnacostiaStory: 1608 – 1930 (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1977).7. Willard B. Gatewood, Aristocrats of Color: The Black Elite, 1880 – 1920 (Bloomington:Indiana University Press, 1990), 39.8. The one exception to segregation in the capital was its streetcars and buses. But the factthat buses were not segregated in the city was little comfort to African Americans becausethey had to be seated in the back on any trip that crossed into Virginia. Mary ChurchTerrell, A Colored Woman in a White World (Washington, DC: Ransdell, 1940), 385.9. Gatewood, Aristocrats of Color, 64; Terrell, A Colored Woman in a White World, 256.10. See Marvin Caplan, “Eat Anywhere! A Personal Recollection of the Thompson’sRestaurant Case and the Desegregation of Washington’s Eating Places,” WashingtonHistory 1 (Spring 1989): 24–39, 101–02; Beverly W. Jones, “Before Montgomery and
12 IntroductionGreensboro: The Desegregation Movement in the District of Columbia, 1950–1953,”Phylon 43 (June 1982): 144–54.11. E. Franklin Frazier, The Negro in the United States (1949; New York: Macmillan, 1957),299.12. Kelly Miller, “Where Is the Negro’s Heaven?” Opportunity 4 (December 1926): 370–73.13. Harrison interview. Narrators were given the choice to use their real name or a pseudonym.Since LGBT history has so often been obscured or rendered invisible, I feel itis important to use real names as much as possible. At the same time, I also recognizeand respect the desire of some narrators for confidentially; they have not been out tofriends and family their entire lives, and doing so now would be difficult if not dangerous.Pseudonyms will be indicated by the use of quotation marks the first time that thenames appear in the text. A complete list of narrators is included in the Appendix. Fora thoughtful discussion of interview methodology, see Esther Newton’s “Appendix onMethods” in Cherry Grove, Fire Island: Sixty Years in America’s First Gay and Lesbian Town(Boston: Beacon Press, 1993), 301–04.14. Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy and Madeline D. Davis, Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold:The History of a Lesbian Community (New York: Routledge, 1993); George Chauncey,Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890 – 1940(New York: HarperCollins, 1994). Other valuable histories of LGBT communities inthe United States include Nan Alamilla Boyd, Wide Open Town: A History of Queer SanFrancisco to 1965 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003); Peter Boag, Same-Sex Affairs: Constructing and Controlling Homosexuality in the Pacifi c Northwest (Berkeley:University of California Press, 2003); Gary L. Atkins, Gay Seattle: Stories of Exile andBelonging (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2003); Marc Stein, City of Sisterlyand Brotherly Loves: Lesbian and Gay Philadelphia, 1945 – 1972 (Philadelphia: TempleUniversity Press, 2004); Lillian Faderman and Stuart Timmons, Gay L.A.: A History ofSexual Outlaws, Power Politics, and Lipstick Lesbians (New York: Basic Books, 2006). Seealso my anthology, Creating a Place for Ourselves: Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual CommunityHistories (New York: Routledge, 1997).15. For a detailed examination of white people patronizing establishments in black neighborhoods,see Chad Heap, Slumming: Sexual and Racial Encounters in American Nightlife,1885 – 1940 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009).16. Not until the 1970s, when several large gay dance clubs opened in Southeast Washington,did a significant number of white gay and bisexual men patronize establishmentsin a primarily black residential neighborhood. But their location did not mean thatthese spaces were significantly interracial. As I discuss in Chapter 5, the clubs cateredto white gay people and often discriminated against African Americans to discouragetheir patronage.17. Abbott, “Dimensions of Regional Change in Washington, D.C,” 1372–73.18. Howard, Men Like That, 5.19. Brett Beemyn, “A Queer Capital: Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Life in Washington, D.C.,1890–1955,” diss., University of Iowa, 1997.20. Alan L. Hersker, “The Landscape from Within: Citizenship, Locale and the Constructionof Place in Dupont Circle,” diss., American University, 2002; Melinda RelayneMichels, “Where the Girls Were: The Geographies of Lesbian Experience in Washington,D.C. during the Late 1960s and 1970s,” diss., American University, 2003; KwameA. Holmes, “Chocolate to Rainbow City: The Dialectics of Black and Gay CommunityFormation in Postwar Washington, D.C., 1946–1978,” diss., University of Illinois
Introduction 13at Urbana-Champaign, 2011; Rebecca C. Dolinsky, “Lesbian and Gay DC: Identity,Emotion, and Experience in Washington, DC’s Social and Activist Communities(1961–1986),” diss., University of California, Santa Cruz, 2010.21. Max Lerner, “The Washington Sex Story: No. 1—Panic on the Potomac,” New YorkPost, July 10, 1950, 4; U.S. Senate, Subcommittee of the Committee on Post Office andCivil Service, Administration of the Federal Employees’ Security Program, 84th Congress, 1stSession, 1954, 732.22. Lerner, “The Washington Sex Story,” 4; Lerner, “‘Scandal’ in the State Dept.: IV—Kinsey in Washington,” New York Post, July 13, 1950, 2.
1THE GEOGRAPHY OFSAME-SEX DESIRECruising Men in Washingtonin the Late Nineteenth andEarly Twentieth CenturiesFor years and years I have been this way—have loved and worshipped silentlyother boys and youths, some older, some younger than myself—sexual inversion,Havelock Ellis calls it . . . I never thought I should write anything like this downbut here it is done.—Carter Newman Bealer, diary entry, February 11, 1921 1It occurred to me today with something of a shock how horrible it would be forthis diary of mine to be pawed over and read unsympathetically by friends or relativesafter I am dead, by those utterly incapable of understanding, who would befilled with disgust and astonishment and think of me as a poor perverted wretch, aneurotic or a madman who was better off dead. And then the thought of the onething even more dreadful and terrible than that—for my diary never to be read bythe one person who could or would understand. For I do want it to be read—thereis no use concealing the fact—by somebody who is like me, who would understandabsolutely and yet Havelock Ellis is about the only person known to me, thatis known by name, to whom I could confidently entrust this record of my life, ofmy innermost soul at times.—Bealer, diary entry, April 16, 1923Men who documented their same-sex sexual experiences in the late nineteenthand early twentieth centuries faced censure should their writing be discoveredduring their lifetimes, or the likelihood that they would be remembered withembarrassment and shame should it be found after their deaths—with survivingfamily members then either destroying their work or hiding it away. Giventhese circumstances, it is not surprising that relatively few primary sourcesexist which describe how men in the United States pursued same-sex sexualrelationships at the time, either in the nation’s capital or in other cities, and
The Geography of Same-Sex Desire 15how they developed social spaces in which to do so. 2 It is this lack of first-handmaterial that makes the diaries of Carter Newman Bealer, a white, middle-classWashingtonian born at the turn of the twentieth century, so important. Recognizingthat the silencing of his voice would be more detrimental than a hostilereaction, Bealer extensively documented his sexual experiences in the capital,including the different sites and techniques utilized for “cruising”—a termhe used as early as 1923 to refer to his attempts to find sexual partners—andthe harassment of the police and larger society. 3 His diary is the only extensivefirst-person account of gay life in Washington, D.C. in the early twentiethcentury known to exist, and as such, is an invaluable resource. His work offers aunique window into the scope and parameters of white male same-sex sexualityin the capital at that time.Drawing extensively from Bealer’s diaries, this chapter will explore how menwho sought same-sex sexual relationships established and navigated the capital’ssexual landscape, focusing in particular on how the city’s racial dynamics affectedthe character and dimensions of male cruising. Because no first-hand accountsfrom black male Washingtonians who pursued same-sex sexual relationships inpublic spaces at that time are known to exist, I will bring in secondary sources thatoffer insights into the experiences of black men who were “in the life.” Evidencesuggests that both black and white men often used the capital in different ways forcruising; not just in where, but also in how they pursued same-sex sexual relationships,and the possibilities and limits of these relationships.Although Washington did not enact segregation laws like many southernstates, racial discrimination in public facilities was a firmly entrenched practicein the capital by the turn of the twentieth century and limited interracialsame-sex sexual relationships. 4 White men largely did not go to black neighborhoodsfor cruising; instead, they appropriated institutions in and near downtownWashington—movie theaters, bars, restaurants, apartment and roominghouses, and the main branch of the YMCA—as locations to meet potentialpartners. All of these places severely restricted the access of African Americansor denied them admittance altogether. As a result, black men hoping tomeet other men for sexual encounters created their own social sites within thecity’s black neighborhoods. However, because they lived and often worked inthese same neighborhoods, they developed more private gathering spaces thatenabled them to socialize with less fear of discovery. Still, many of their familiesand neighbors knew and tolerated, if not accepted, them being “that way,” asbonds of family, community, and race outweighed the difference of sexuality.The importance of racial solidarity was also reflected in the nature of the socialspaces established by African Americans who were attracted to others of thesame sex in the early and mid twentieth century; unlike most of the spacesbegun by their white counterparts, the sites within the black community oftenincluded people of all genders.
16 The Geography of Same-Sex DesireThe extent to which same-sex sexuality and gender non-conformity could beaccepted within the city’s black working-class neighborhoods was demonstratedby the popularity of drag shows at several clubs in the main black commercial sectionof the capital in the 1930s. While the community’s embrace of cross-dressingwas tied to the context of entertaining a presumably heterosexual audience—localdrag balls, in contrast, were prohibited—the appeal of such shows indicates thatdrag performers had a space in the community that they could claim as theirown. That most of the performers were African Americans from Washington alsoreflected a level of support; they could be out to people they knew and even gaina certain celebrity status.A number of well-researched community histories have examined male samesexsexuality prior to World War II, including George Chauncey’s Gay New York:Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890 – 1940, PeterBoag’s Same-Sex Affairs: Constructing and Controlling Homosexuality in the PacificNorthwest, and essays on Chicago by David K. Johnson and Allen Drexel inmy anthology Creating a Place for Ourselves: Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual CommunityHistories. But few works have considered the social and sexual lives of both blackand white men in a thoroughly segregated society. 5 One major study of men whodesired men in a segregated community, John Howard’s Men Like That: A SouthernQueer History, examines post-World War II Mississippi, a society much less urbanand more racially polarized than Washington. According to Howard, in Mississippi,“black men and white men participated in markedly similar worlds of desirethat rarely overlapped before the 1960s.” 6 In the nation’s capital, the creation ofthese separate worlds did not preclude some racial mixing in the early twentiethcentury, particularly in the extensive parkland in downtown Washington, which,unlike some of the parks in southern states, did not deny or restrict admittance toAfrican Americans, and in parts of the city’s “tenderloin” district, which enforcedracial separation but not always rigidly. 7Washington thus represents something of a middle ground between communitiesin the Northeast, Northwest, and Midwest, where men, particularly whitemen, who desired same-sex partners could often readily cross racial lines, andcommunities further South, where interracial socializing, much less sexual relationships,were heavily proscribed. While racism excluded African Americansfrom many downtown-area Washington institutions and kept most white peoplefrom patronizing establishments in the city’s black neighborhoods in the late nineteenthand early twentieth centuries, both white and black men attracted to othersof the same sex created a number of spaces in which both groups could co-existand where some men had relationships across racial lines. In Bealer’s case, racismled him to avoid black men whenever he could. But the fact that he had to makean effort, at times, to keep African Americans from his social world demonstratesthe potential for racial mixing, as well as the extent of racial separation, in thenation’s capital.
The Geography of Same-Sex Desire 17Meet Me Across from the White House: “ Adventures ”in the City ’ s ParksIt was a lovely night to sit in the peaceful confines (outwardly peaceful, to thosewho don’t know the passion and intrigue and mystery sheltered in those dimshades) of Lafayette Square.—Carter Newman Bealer, diary entry, September 14, 1922As he recounts in his diaries, Bealer recognized his attraction to men by the timethat he was a teenager. He was born on October 17, 1899 in Atlanta, Georgia,and when he was eight years old, his father, stepmother, and the rest of the familymoved to Washington, D.C., where they lived first in the Mount Pleasantneighborhood and then in the Brightwood section of the city. Bealer attendedWashington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, and George WashingtonUniversity before beginning a long career as an editor for the Department ofAgriculture. 8Bealer started keeping a diary in 1912, when he was twelve years old, and fouryears later, he cataloged having his first sexual experience with another man. AtWashington and Lee, his same-sex attractions were largely unrequited; returningto the capital brought far greater opportunities to meet potential partners. ForBealer, cruising in the city’s downtown parks, particularly in the “dim shades” ofLafayette Square across from the White House, was nearly a nightly ritual eachspring and summer during the early 1920s, when he was twenty to twenty-threeyears old. He would go “as soon as darkness fell” and stay until “things hadgrown very quiet” between eleven and midnight, hoping to find the “lasting idealfriend . . . [he] had dreamed of so often.” 9 Bealer became so obsessed with goingto the park that he made a resolution to himself at one point to stay away for atleast one night. 10Despite the frequency and duration of his visits, Bealer often failed in hisattempts to pick up men, much less to develop a long-term relationship, becausehe frequently did not have the courage to approach others, even those who seemedinterested in him. For example, he admitted in a 1922 diary entry that he couldnot bring himself to sit on a bench next to a youth he found attractive because ofhis “damnable timidity.” Ray Hare, another young white man whom Bealer cameto know through cruising the capital’s parks, subsequently did approach the youth,leading Bealer to think of himself as a “cowardly fool.” 11 On another evening,Hare apparently succeeded in picking up two soldiers, while Bealer “let severallads that [he] wanted slip thru [his] fingers.” He went home alone, wishing that“only once [he] had [Hare’s] assurance, easy personality and persuasional ability.” 12Bealer’s inhibition, which he called his “curse,” regularly frustrated anddepressed him. In one particularly despondent moment, when he was alone onNew Year’s Eve in 1923, he despaired that he would always be “a miserable outcast”and would never find a “kindred soul” because he was attracted to other
18 The Geography of Same-Sex Desiremen and unable to act on his feelings: “Is it not bad enough that I must be what Iam, without the additional horror, this perpetual nightmare of self-consciousness,shyness and silence that isolates me as effectively as the sky isolates the moon fromall-else?” 13 Bealer’s fear of being “doomed to eternal loneliness and solitude” ledhim to think briefly of suicide, rather than live an “existence that can find no happiness,no abiding joy in anything but only a ceaseless agonizing hunger, an ache,the pain of which is unutterable.” 14Cruising was far from entirely futile for Bealer, though. Despite his selfconsciousnessand shy nature, he had sex with dozens of men and, amazingly,detailed his experiences. At the back of his diaries from 1922 and 1923, he listedthe men with whom he had what he referred to as “adventures” (using their realnames or ones he made up for them) since he was sixteen years old, when andoften where he met them, and the sex acts in which they engaged. For 1920,Bealer recorded seven adventures with three different men. In 1921, he had fiveadventures with four different men; the following year, he had sex once each withsix different men; and in 1923—the last year that he regularly went cruising—hehad forty-six adventures with thirty-one different men. For the 1923 encounters,Bealer indicated the types of sexual activities in which he and the other personengaged, which might include caressing, masturbation, fellatio, and anal sex. Duringthe first half of the year, many of his adventures involved no physical contact oronly caressing, but by the end of June, most of the encounters involved sex acts bythe other person and often by Bealer as well, perhaps because he had become moreself-confident sexually or simply more successful in finding willing partners. 15For someone who often felt uncomfortable approaching other men, it is surprisingthat Bealer would catalog his sexual experiences so readily and so openly.He did avoid discussing sex in the rest of the diary, so he presumably could tearout these back pages. He also listed his sexual activities in pencil, while the restof the diary was in pen, so he presumably could erase this material. In addition,Bealer kept his diary locked in a trunk. But the fact that he did disclose his sexualpractices and the names of his partners, and did not remove or erase the information,suggests that Bealer was at least somewhat comfortable with his sexuality andwanted to leave a full record of his experiences, including his sexual encounters.Familiar with the work of Ellis and other sexologists, he may also have thoughtthat his sex life could be studied by some future, sympathetic researcher to betterunderstand same-sex sexuality. Certainly for historians, the details of his adventuresprovide a rare glimpse into the public sexual world of a segment of whitemen in the early twentieth century.As the list of his sexual partners indicates, most of Bealer’s relationships wereone-night affairs and, for all of his trips to the parks, he never had sex with anyof the men he met there more than five times, despite seeing some of the sameindividuals nearly every evening. Bealer commented especially on his frequentsightings of Hare, because Bealer thought that Hare, one of the first men he metwhile cruising and had sex with, would be the love of his life. “This day I shall