Queer Margins in Early Twentieth-Century Domestic and Pedagogic Places

Saturday, January 4, 2014: 12:10 PM
Columbia Hall 7 (Washington Hilton)
Don Romesburg, Sonoma State University
Within the territories of middle-class and predominantly white families and education intended to produce successful, well-adjusted modern adolescents in early twentieth-century America, young people explored gender diversity and same-sex sexuality in ways both sanctioned and transgressive. This paper draws upon diaries, letters, student papers, photographs, case histories, and published autobiographical and fictional works to better understand how adolescents in ostensibly normal locations of domesticity and learning made meaning of such queer possibilities, both at the time and in retrospect. I also explore how these possibilities played out at times under the watchful eyes of adults and, at others, in the private margins and moments that middle-class life facilitated. Finally, I connect these youth and their places with developing expert discourses regarding modern adolescence and homosexuality, including the rise of the concept of the acceptable adolescent "phase" and its related call for gentle interventions that would steer otherwise "normal" youth back on track.
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