What are some good books on the history of LGBT rights movement?
November 19, 2013 6:47 AM   Subscribe

I really want to find out more about the history and progress of LGBT rights. Namely, early forms and social codes to express homosexuality, the civil rights movements and how psychology viewed before and now, and what led to finally removing homosexuality as a disorder from the DSM.

And actually, since I'm interested in the rhetoric of today's opponents to gay rights, I wouldn't mind looking into more right leaning books covering the subject as well (as I'm from a country where gay marriage is the hot topic at the moment). But generally, some good old fashioned attempt at being objective would be great (a la Howard Zinn's A People's History of America)
posted by ahtlast93 to Society & Culture (13 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
My favorite is Gay New York.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:52 AM on November 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

Gay New York is incredible, but you should know it only goes up to 1940 and so doesn't address how homosexuality came to be seen as acceptable in America.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:11 AM on November 19, 2013

Came to say Gay NY as well as anything by Warren J Blumenfeld.
posted by Sophie1 at 7:13 AM on November 19, 2013

Some good overviews of American queer history: A Queer History of the United States and Queer America: A People's GLBT History of the United States
posted by heurtebise at 7:14 AM on November 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

Zinn's history is useful for high school students but it is far from objective and is pretty clearly designed to be a polemic.

Gay New York is probably the best book of gay history ever written.

'The Straight State' is a very smart book that looks more at how anti-homosexuality led to the expansion of the federal government in the early 20th century.

However, it was based on a dissertation, so if reading academic books that weren't dissertations isn't your thing (weirdo) then you could probably get by reading the first chapter for free on amazon.

Also, I CANNOT recommend enough Regina Kunzel's Criminal Intimacy: Prison and the Uneven History of Modern American Sexuality. Its about the intersection of sexuality and prisons, and is just fascinating.

Also, of all the books I mentioned, I do not know the personal politics of each scholar, other than that they have an interest in homosexuality and, by virtue of studying it, treat it as a subject worthy of respect. I don't really know what a 'right-leaning' book on this topic would look like.

Also, a lot of these academic works will be informed by Foucault, so reading up on his history of sexuality may be helpful.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 7:53 AM on November 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

We read Stonewall, by Martin Duberman, in a GLBT Lit class I once took. I believe we also did Odd Girls And Twilight Lovers, about lesbian culture before/around the time of Stonewall, but I may be thinking of a different queer-oriented college course.

Both of those would be good additions to something like Gay New York.

I would actually LOVE to see some recommendations of LGBT histories post-Stonewall. I've read a few women's liberation memoirs that talk about lesbian stuff in the 70s and early 80s, as well as And The Band Plays On (which has some stuff about gay male culture around the same time) but no comprehensive history of how gay rights was won. In my (relatively well-informed) mind we go from YAY STONEWALL to civil unions in Vermont in a fog, with minor side tangents of the Lavendar Menace and Act Up.
posted by Sara C. at 8:47 AM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Zami: A New Spelling Of My Name is Audre Lorde's memoir about lesbian culture in New York prior to/around the time of Stonewall. It's not a comprehensive explanation of LGBT history, but it is one of those Queer Lit must-reads and might add something to the Lillian Faderman chronicle of (mostly white) lesbian culture from around the same time.
posted by Sara C. at 8:48 AM on November 19, 2013

One of my favorites that seems to be unjustly forgotten is The Other Side of Silence by John Loughery. Nobody seems to know about this book, but it's terrific.
posted by Tin Man at 8:56 AM on November 19, 2013

In addition to Gay New York and Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers, take a look at Sexual Politics, Sexual Communities which covers ~'40s-70s. Gay Politics, Urban Politics examines LGBT political influence and voting patterns in NYC, SF, Chicago, and Birmingham, AL.

I don't have a specific book recommendation but make sure your research includes the Mattachine Society.
posted by JackBurden at 9:23 AM on November 19, 2013

Consider How Long Has This Been Going On? by Ethan Mordden. It's a novel but it's also a great overview.
posted by janey47 at 9:38 AM on November 19, 2013

Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality is great book. It is a serious academic work, by famed Yale historian, John Boswell. But, it is still an engaging and readable book.

This book completely explodes much of the rhetoric used by opponents to gay rights. The book documents the acceptance of homosexuality in early Christian communities. It also takes a very careful look at the anti-gay passages in the Bible - and shows that the Bible is not nearly as clear on the issue as many assume it to be.
posted by Flood at 9:43 AM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Not a book, but This American Life's 81 Words podcast on what led to the changing of the DSM is a great oral history on how and why it finally happened.
posted by Toekneesan at 11:22 AM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

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