In a garden of deviant roses : encountering queer history in Portland, Oregon, 1941-1974
Dirk, Jayden McKay
May 20, 2020
Historians have widely understood the development of twentieth century queer lives in the United States to be intimately tied to the urban space of the largest American cities. Many of the most foundational studies on queer history have utilized a single-city model to address key historical questions about the growth and evolution of queer cultures, politics, and identities. But, in doing so, historians have largely overlooked the queer histories in cities that are smaller and less notoriously queer than metropolises like New York City, San Francisco, or Chicago. This thesis uses Portland, Oregon as a case study to examine key historiographic questions and themes in the context of a smaller American city. Through its focus on the City of Roses— as Portland is so often called—this thesis addresses the emergence, growth, and evolution of queer culture in the city alongside the city’s official treatment of queer gender and sexual subversion. By attending to the history of queer Portlanders between the entry of the United States into the Second World War and the maturation of gay liberation politics in the early 1970s, this thesis finds that there are rich and complex histories of queer life in smaller American cities, and that those histories can substantially diverge from the narratives of the nation’s metropolitan cores.
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