Long before the Stonewall Riots and the beginning of the broader queer liberation movement, the queer community navigated around an increasingly hostile American public. Author James Polchin, in his first book, explores some of these darker stories, approaching true crime from a queer historical perspective.
Polchin makes no bones that pre-Stonewall America was a consistently difficult point for gay men. From the 1920s through 1960s, queer Americans were subjected to systemic discrimination, from the Department of Justice’s pursuit of criminalization to the medical community pushing “homosexual panic” theories. From these institutions’ actions came violence which targeted one of the most vulnerable communities of the time.
And this is where Polchin’s work shines, particularly based on his meticulous research. By wading through numerous contemporary newspaper accounts of incidents involving queer men, he’s created a thorough examination of how queer men were viewed during this time. In many cases, Polchin explores murders, and these descriptions are gruesome and horrific. But the deep-rooted aversion to homosexuality in the early 1900s paints them not as victims, but as anomalies, and Polchin masterfully translates these dated beliefs for modern readers with thoughtful critique.
Intelligent, disturbing, and ultimately fascinating, Polchin has crafted a unique examination of queer American life.
Title: Indecent Advances: A Hidden History of True Crime and Prejudice Before Stonewall
Author: James Polchin
Publisher: Counterpoint Press
Publication Date: June 04, 2019
Classification: LGBTQIA+, Nonfiction, True Crime
Note: I received a free ARC of this book through Edelweiss.