Oct 02, 2009, 01:03PM


The year of gay liberation. A new exhibition and online resource from the New York Public Library.

The year 1969 marked a major turning point in the politics of sexuality in America. Same-sex relationships were discreetly tolerated in 19th-century America in the form of romantic friendships, but the 20th century brought increasing legal and medical regulation of homosexuality, which was considered a dangerous illness. This change in attitude was accompanied by pockets of resistance, spaces that gays and lesbians carved out for their erotic self-expression. Sometimes these spaces were hidden, like the gay bars in Greenwich Village and Harlem that were frequented only by those in the know. Sometimes they were in plain sight, like the homoerotic subtexts and in-jokes of Hollywood movies. The repression of homosexuality reached its peak in the 1950s with the McCarthy era. During the paranoia of the Cold War, gays, lesbians, and transgender people were seen as a corrupt, lurking menace, easily used as pawns by communists.


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