Wednesday, July 10, 2013

a bloody bathhouse and whitman's gay torch song

So, I'm finished with my Before Stonewall after 1899 postings and now I'm going to resume my postings on A Queer History of the United States. I've still been reading it even though I postponed my postings about it and it's gotten even better! I left off at chapter four.
    When I think of the American civil war I think of Southern secession, slavery, Lincoln, The Emancipation proclamation, etc. In other words I think of everything I was taught in history class, and even in my own independent studies, until now! One thing I never considered about it on my own was the impact of starring ones own mortality in the face. What kind of physical, mental and emotional vulnerabilities is a soldier open to in a war zone or in combat? What ''could of, should of, would of's'' race through ones mind when they're own extinction is within sight? That old expression ''eat, drink and be marry for tomorrow we die'' must surely apply in a war zone and open soldiers up to exploring avenues/areas of life, like sexuality, that were unexplored before. When you add the ''homosocial'' environment that war and soldiering created back then, since females were scarce in the military and the average soldier was eighteen and ''cocksure,'' you have a recipe for a bathhouse bazaar or a gay pride celebration!
     The only records to confirm any same-sex attractions, for lack of a better word, during the civil war period come from Walt Whitman's writings. He had been a nurse on the battlefields and in army hospitals and was quite disturbed at the sight of beautiful, young male minds and they're bodies being damaged and mangled, sometimes beyond repair. His popular Leaves of Grass series of poems reflected his mood with clear homoerotic intentions. And it did not go unnoticed since he was fired from his job with the department of the interior in 1865.

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