Toward a Typology of Modern Mexican Gay Domesticity: The Households of Mexico City Gay Couples, Roommates, and Bachelors, 1900–40

Sunday, January 9, 2011: 9:10 AM
Provincetown Room (Marriott Boston Copley Place)
Víctor M. Macias-Gonzalez , University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, La Crosse, WI
While historians of queer gendered space have drawn attention to ‘gay' public spaces in early twentieth-century Mexico City such as the bathhouse, bars, theaters, and other cruising areas, this paper explores three different types of gay private space and the households, sociability, and identity that these supported: the homes of gay committed monogamous partners, the apartments of gay roommates, and the homes of gay bachelors. These private spaces facilitated the emergence of a homophile network that pioneered modern gay identity for middle and upper class urban gay professionals who focused on passing and creating long-term, companionate physical and emotional relationships with men of similar backgrounds. They adopted gender-appropriate conventions of dress and behavio and a “middle class preference for privacy, self-restraint, and lack of self-disclosure,” thanks to the anonymous, “normal” lives they led in their homes. Benefiting from a legislative framework that did not punish same-gendered sexual acts between consenting adults in private, as well as an expanding housing and credit markets that made more residential options available in a rapidly expanding city, successful young gay professionals, culturati, and bureaucrats established a variety of residential practices. The households these men established became increasingly important to the maintenance and dissemination of modern gay identity from the early 1930s on. Culminating in the 1934 movement to remove “counterrevolutionary” homosexuals from government posts, gay men found themselves the target of persecution, and public spaces that had once provided the impetus for “spheres of relative cultural autonomy” such as bars, dance halls, and disreputable hotels, came under increased surveillance. Only in the relative anonymity of big city life, at invitation-only parties held in private flats and single-household occupied homes, could some safety from the state be found. Thus, the modern gay family—and modern gay identity—emerged in private spaces that merit further attention from historians.
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