Postwar Disorientation, Queer Community, and Queer Ambivalence
This chapter illuminates how Johnnie Ray, Little Richard, Johnny Mathis, and Liberace achieved mainstream commercial success by discussing the dynamic gender norms of the postwar era. Drawing on Wini Breines, the chapter frames the era as one of “disorientation”--notably, the outgrowth of gender conformity was pervasive alienation. These tensions generated spaces of gender rebellion that were stigmatized in mainstream media exposés and publicized simultaneously. This visibility reflected a public interest in deviance and helped gay men and lesbians develop an awareness of a community that catalyzed the Homophile and Gay Liberation movements. Parallel to these political movements was a subcultural movement among queer artists in film, literature, and popular music that is discernibly queer yet trafficked in sexual ambiguity at the time.
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