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The Rediscovery of Working-Class Americans (April 2021): Worker’s Sexual Orientation

By David Cullen

Worker’s Sexual Orientation

While previous generations of labor scholars concentrated on race and class, few, if any, studied the intersection of sexual orientation and labor activism. The third generation of labor historians are working to correct this omission. Readers interested in this subject should begin with the work of pioneering gay activist and self-taught historian Allan Bérubé’s My Desire for History: Essays in Gay, Community, and Labor History, edited by John D’Emilio and Estelle B. Freedman.

For an overview of gay activism within the union movement, Kitty Krupat and Patrick McCreery’s edited volume Out at Work: Building a Gay-Labor Alliance; Joshua Greenberg’s Advocating the Man: Masculinity, Organized Labor, and the Household in New York, 1800–1840; and Miriam Frank’s Out in the Union: A Labor History of Queer America provide excellent introductions.

For specific studies of notable gay activists, readers should peruse Phil Tiemeyer’s Plane Queer: Labor, Sexuality, and AIDS in the History of Male Flight Attendants; Anne Balay’s Steel Closets: Voices of Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Steelworkers; and Stephen Norwood’s Strikebreaking and Intimidation: Mercenaries and Masculinity in Twentieth-Century America.