Queer Circulation and Communities in an Age of Moral Panic: Midcentury Tourism and Cruising on the Florida Panhandle

Friday, January 4, 2013: 8:30 AM
Bayside Ballroom A (Sheraton New Orleans)
Jerry Watkins, King's College London
Along the beaches and bays of Florida’s northern Gulf Coast-where a diversified fishing, agricultural and industrial sector was rapidly transforming into a tourist monoculture—“moral” panics were instead “economic” panics in the 1950s. Threats to image constituted threats to the livelihood of all, city fathers argued. However, many queer men felt differently since more visitors meant more men. While many fretted over a reputation for queer shenanigans, queer locals and transients revelled in it. Even when targeted by state and local forces of oppression some queer men bounced back, determined to stake their own claim in local community development.

This paper uses an acute “moral” panic from October 1961 in Panama City, which centred around a downtown public toilet, to argue that the level of response by authorities was directly related to the perceived economic impact of the threat to Panama City’s reputation as a “family friendly” tourist destination, making this panic economic rather than moral.

Previous Presentation | Next Presentation >>