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Unearth America's Queer History Roots14:58
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Just last week, New York became the latest state to legalize gay marriage. And Monday was the 42nd anniversary of the Stonewall riots, an event that many see as the beginning of the gay rights movement.

But there’s a new book out by Michael Bronski, a Dartmouth professor, that goes a lot farther back than 1969. Like Bay-Colony-And-the-Puritans-far back.

The tombstone of Deborah Sampson Gannett, who is thought to be the first woman to fight actively as a member of the U.S. military, rests in Sharon. (Mr. Ducke/Flickr)
The tombstone of Deborah Sampson Gannett, who is thought to be the first woman to fight actively as a member of the U.S. military, rests in Sharon. (Mr. Ducke/Flickr)

Bronski's book, "A Queer History of the United States," contains many names - and plenty from right here in New England. For example, there's Michael Wigglesworth, a Harvard tutor who wrote in 1653 about having a an "unnatural filthy lust" for his male students; and there's Deborah Sampson, born near Plymouth, who fought in the American Revolution as a man, under the name Robert Shurtliff.

But Bronski's history is much more than an anthology of biographies. It's the story of queer and America at once - a history with two seemingly paradoxical axioms. Here's Bronski:

“LGBT people are integral to every single aspect of American society, from before Columbus got here up until the present. And to ignore this is a terrible thing and we need to bring these people to the forefront.”

But:


"Queer history doesn't exist. What we're looking at here is American history. And I would ague this is true of African American History, of Women's History, of Latino History. These are absolutely natural and great transitional moments - and I should add they may be transitional for 100 years - but to not claim it as being American history shortchanges these people, shortchanges the LGBT community, and also shortchanges the imagination of all Americans to accept the fact that we come from - whether we love it or hate or whatever - a country that is so complex, so ever evolving, so complicated in it's history."

Guest:

  • Michael Bronski, author, "A Queer History of the United States"

This segment aired on June 28, 2011.

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