'The Second Largest Minority': Analogies Between Race and Sexuality in the American Homophile Movement, 1944-1968

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Shepard, Nikita
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Middle Tennessee State University
This thesis argues that the black freedom struggle provided the template through which early gay and lesbian activists conceived of their sexuality as a basis for political organizing. In the first decade after World War II, gay intellectuals first posited a minority framework for homosexuals explicitly modeled on African American experiences. In an emerging public sphere of publications, organizations, and conferences, homophiles debated the merits of the analogy between sexual orientation and race. By the early 1960s, perceived successes in African American civil rights struggles influenced a new militancy among homophile activists, who increasingly adopted the analogy and modeled tactics and strategies on black activism. While this paradigm provided a basis for solidarity between movements, expressed in joint organizing against police brutality and electoral coalitions, it also constructed homosexual political identity as normatively white. This research offers insights into the emergence of gay liberation, the interplay between mid-twentieth century social movements, and the interconnection of race and sexuality in modern American history.
Analogy, Homophile, Homosexuality, LGBTQ, Movement, Race