The next section in A Queer History of the United States talks about something I am already somewhat familiar with. In the nineteenth century men and women moved in separate social circles. This evolved into a social construct we now refer to as ''homosocial.'' People in the nineteenth century referred to these relationships in the literature and popular culture of the day as ''romantic'' or ''intimate'' friendships. By today's standards, these relationships would appear to be sexual relationships, and undoubtedly some of them were, but most of them were not. However, they all had a psychological eroticism.
These relationships were quite common and considered socially acceptable. For some people they held the same level of commitment and devotion that legal marriage did/does. For others they provided an emotional and or fraternal need that they're legal marriage did not.
If you read letters between romantic or intimate friends today one could almost get turned on by the level of passion and sensuality. An example of one of these letters, off the top of my head, would be something like this '' when will you be returning to the city? My days are cold and empty without you and my heart aches for the warmth of your caress, the zeal of your affection and the security of your bosom.'' Can you imagine writing a letter to your best friend like that today? And men would write to men and women to women like that!
As far as nineteenth century LGBT people were concerned, these romantic or intimate friendships could have been a sort of ray of light. Since they were considered socially acceptable, an LGBT couple could have justified they're closeness by calling it a romantic or intimate friendship. These friendships were open and visible and sometimes romantic or intimate friends slept in the same bed together and nobody thought anything of it! I'm quite certain there were LGBT couples who saw an opportunity in this social structure and used it to they're advantage.