Men without MapsSome Gay Males of the Generation before Stonewall

Men without MapsSome Gay Males of the Generation before Stonewall

John Ibson

Print publication date: 2020

ISBN: 9780226656083

Publisher: University of Chicago Press


Before the movement commonly described as “gay liberation” was well under way, queer life in the United States is sometimes thought to have been a veritable prison of shame, repression, illegality, and invisibility. Indeed during the 1950s, on the very eve of the “liberation,” the United States experienced an especially harsh, widespread outbreak of homophobia—with countless arrests, lost jobs, even lost lives, in a fierce cultural orgy of mandatory heterosexuality. Focusing on several American males who lived before the “liberation,” in stories of agency as well as agony, of fulfillment and pleasure as well as thwarted desire and self-loathing, Men without Maps freshly explores the actual quality of life for those “of the generation before Stonewall” who yearned for and sometimes experienced sexual involvements with other men. A few of the men studied are moderately well known today, but most are not. The involvements of some with other men were examples of long-lasting gay domesticity, while the encounters that others had were fleeting. Relying mostly on archival material--such as letters, memoirs, and snapshots--previously unused by a scholar, the book first explores those midcentury males, more numerous than usually realized, who lived as part of a male couple; it then examines experiences of solitary queer men who found coupling to be either unappealing or simply unattainable. Men without Maps joins John Ibson’s acclaimed previous books, Picturing Men and The Mourning After, to form a trilogy of studies, from varying angles, of male relationships in modern American society.