Dec 13, 2017 in Literature

A Queer History of the United States

The main idea of the book A Queer History of the United States by Michael Bronski is to reveal the truth to readers. First of all, the author is trying to show that bisexuals and homosexuals were actually making and remaking the history of America. Secondly, M. Bronski states that America became queer long before the sexual revolution. Finally, he goes beyond the “queer history”’ as such and proves readers that it is impossible to identify “queer” because of the various contexts people existed in.

The first eye-opening fact is that gays and bisexuals were among the greatest icons of the country. Such information might be hidden from the average citizens, but people like Emily Dickinson, Calamity Kane, Eleanor Roosevelt and others are the part of “queer history”.  In the first chapter of his book, M. Bronski writes about both Emily Dickinson, who was writing various love poems to her sister-in-law, and Walt Whitman, whose homoerotic poetry actually shows the male love. At the time, such kind of love was called the “male adhesiveness”. On the basis of Ralph Walso Emerson, M. Bronski analyzed what was written between the lines. Emerson was writing in his journal about Martin Gay, who was a fellow student. At the time, any kind of such attraction was believed to be a form of an ideal “sympathy” that was common for the nineteenth-century. However, Emerson acknowledged that the emotions he felt were not his own as it was an expansive form of a very romantic friendship. Thus, all the feelings were hidden as people tried to lead a normal life. Emerson was married twice and had four children (Bronski 49). Another person was Emily Dickson, who wrote a lot about sympathy and intimacy between women. However, she was not married and was passionately devoted to Sue Gilbert, a wife of Dickinson’s brother (Bronski 53). Another example of queer icons can be taken from the twentieth century. The author was writing about Eleanor Roosevelt, who was in the heterosexual marriage and had sexual relationships with a journalist, Lorena Hickok. All of these facts show that the average person does not know everything about personal life of well-known people, creators of the history. Therefore, it becomes obvious that personal life was more complicated than it seemed to be.

Secondly, M. Bronski shows that queer history is at least five hundred years old. In the chapter “Strangers in a Strange Land”, M. Bronski shows that similar sex-affinities were practiced and even honored by the Native Americans. Moreover, it was done before the European colonists came with their repressive religions and censure. Europeans were actually shocked when they saw tribes, which were living naked and engaged themselves into immoral sexual practices. As a matter of fact, the traditional mating conventions were unknown for the Native Americans. Later on, all of the sexual behaviors and rules for marriage were introduced in the country to make it look perfect. However, the nature of people cannot be so easily changed. M. Bronski shows that the queers were quite active participants in the Revolutionary War. It was done through the cross-dressing. Such tradition was also used during the civil wars. Now, these people may be called transgender, however, the author insists that current labels are inappropriate for those times. All these facts show that long queer history was hidden for centuries.

The last reason used by the author to support the main idea of the book is his statement that “the queer history” is impossible to identify. All people who are a part of queer history existed in various contexts. They cannot be called a minority because the minority should be physically and physiologically separated from the general society. From the historical point of view, these people were not called “gay” or “lesbian”. The love to other sex stopped being something just about sympathy during the period of Civil War. At the time, an idol of a real man was coined, which opened the eyes of people on something what was usual and unconventional (Bronski 78-82).

Generally speaking, M. Bronski focuses attention on the invisible while displaying the history of America. He does not give any positive or negative evaluations of various significant people or events. He only opens the readers’ eyes on the fact that people with different points of view on the relationships existed throughout the whole history. M. Bronski also mentions that now they cannot even be labeled according to the current point of view as they were not separated from the society. Actually, they made and remade it despite the fact that they were a part of “queer history”.  

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