A Queer History of the United States is not just a fascinating history of queer people in this country, but is also a “queering” of U.S. history. Author Michael Bronski synthesizes the pioneering work of gay historians and analyzes everything from the construction of U.S. masculinity and white supremacy to shifts in gender roles from 1492 to the present. In doing so, he illuminates the ways in which queer thought over time has “radically changed how some Americans [think] about homosexuality, heterosexuality, gender, gender roles, sexual activity, children’s sexuality, privacy, and, most profoundly, sexuality itself.”
A dominant theme of the book is the battle between social purity movements and liberatory self-expression. Bronski is particularly prescient on the present state of the gay movement, with its narrow focus on fighting for access to marriage and the military using the endlessly parroted mantra of “we’re just like you.” Instead, Bronski spotlights—and celebrates—difference, declaring, “Historically, ‘just like you’ is the great American lie.”
Have something to say? Send a letter to firstname.lastname@example.org. This article first appeared in the November-December 2011 issue of Utne Reader.