United States Queer History

This is a project for the class "Oakes 150: Queer History & Theory in the United States" at UC Santa Cruz. This timeline provides a substantial (but by no means complete!) overview of seminal events of queer history in the US. The timeline has been divided into eras of US history that extend over centuries, beginning with colonization and “ending” at present-day (June 2015). The timeline consists of information primarily from in-class readings, especially Michael Bronski’s “A Queer History of the United States” (2011).

Other projects for this class are the ;xSTx;a href="http://queerarchive2015.tumblr.com";xETx;Queer History Archive;xSTx;/a;xETx; and the ;xSTx;a href="http://queer-theory-and-history-in-the-us.wikia.com/wiki/Queer_Theory_and_History_in_the_US_Wikia";xETx;Queer Glossary;xSTx;/a;xETx;. Check them out!;xNLx;;xSTx;br;xETx;;xNLx;Colonial/Revolutionary Era (1492-1800): European contact with indigenous peoples through the American Revolution.;xNLx;;xNLx;Western Expansion (1802-1860): Colonials move westward.;xNLx;;xNLx;Civil War (1861-1865): North and South fight over slavery.;xNLx;;xNLx;Gilded Age/Rise of Social Purity (1870s-1900): Rapid economic growth in the US, increased wages attracts European immigrants. Rise in movement to abolish sexual immorality.;xNLx;;xNLx;Pre-World Wars/Early 20th Century (1900-1919);xNLx;;xNLx;Roaring Twenties (1920-1928): Distinct cultural edge in major US cities as the economy prospers.;xNLx;;xNLx;Great Depression (1929-1938): World wide economic depression following the stock market crash of September 1929.;xNLx;;xNLx;World War II (1939-1945): Second World War, the US does not enter until after the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 1941.;xNLx;;xNLx;Post-WWII (1947-1960): The period following World War II, when sexual identity further permeated the mainstream, especially in "science".;xNLx;;xNLx;Civil Rights (1961-1990): Civil rights became a topic of debate - issues of race, gender, and sexuality were discussed, and old norms were questioned. Queerness gained visibility in the mainstream through the media as well as demonstrations.;xNLx;;xNLx;Present (1991-2015): Present-day "advancements" of the past 24 years - noted by changes in laws and increased representation.;xNLx;

Sexual Behavior in the Human Male

By Alfred Kinsey - detailed study/interviews with men on their same-sex behavior. 650k-1.6m male soldiers admitted to mostly having sex with other men. This work also included the creation of the Kinsey Scale, a new way in which individuals could describe their sexuality. The Scale ranges from 0 (exclusively heterosexual) to 6 (exclusively homosexual), and provided one of the first ways of placing a nonbinary label on one's sexuality.

Death penalty for sodomy eliminated

Pennsylvania sodomy law eliminates death penalty for sodomy, replacing it with six months of hard labor and the loss of a third of the individual’s estate.


Philadelphia is established, becomes progressive Quaker city – Quaker views on sexual freedom influence American politics over the next fifty years.

The term "homosexual"

Karl-Maria Kertbeny first coined the term "homosexual" in a pamphlet arguing for changes in Prussian law against sodomy.

Hayes Code

In March 1930, The Production Code, also known as the Hayes Code, was implemented into the Film industry. It forbade adultery, non-marital, and other “sexual perversions” to be presented to the masses. By July 1934, all films required a certificate to prove that they had adhered to the Code's standards before they were released.

"War on the Sex Criminal"

J. Edgar Hoover, the director of the FBI, wrote the article “War on the Sex Criminal" - this consequently incited public fear of the homosexual.

Victoria Woodhull

Victoria Woodhull was the first woman to run for president.

Comstock Act

The Comstock Act banned “obscene, lewd, or lascivious” material from the US mail. This included anatomy books, birth control, and sex education material.

Hull House

The first U.S. settlement house opens in Chicago, Hull House, founded by Jane Adams and her companion Ellen Gates Starr. Hull House aimed for social reform and greater opportunities for the working class and for women.

Kiernan - "homosexual"

Dr. James G. Kiernan uses the word “homosexual” for the first recorded time. Describes homosexuals as people with a “general mental state is that of the opposite sex".

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