The circle always grew: Folklore and gay identity, 1945-1960

David Sean Azzolina, University of Pennsylvania

Abstract

It has become a common place in Gay studies that the rise of Gay culture as we know it today has its roots in the years immediately following World War II. Using life history field techniques as a means of doing field research, the folklore of Gay men of this era is examined. Interviews were conducted with men who were out in the Gay world during the fifteen years after 1945. Biographies of the men are provided. Specific kinds of folkloric behavior are explicated including bar customs, nicknaming, parties, festival events and popular means by which men were able to identify one another as Gay and become part of the Gay community. The role folklore plays in the process of Gay identification is also examined. Historical context is provided for the era as it impacts the ways in which Gays were seen and the influence the Gay presence reflects the tenor of the times. Underlying concepts of Gay identity and community are given priority as a theoretical underpinning furthering understanding of the ways in which folklore is a necessary ingredient for both identity and community. It is demonstrated that any understanding of Gay men of that era must attend to their creative abilities in using folklore to carve a place for themselves in the cultural arena.

Subject Area

Folklore|Individual & family studies|American studies|Biographies|LGBTQ studies

Recommended Citation

Azzolina, David Sean, "The circle always grew: Folklore and gay identity, 1945-1960" (1996). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9627878.
https://repository.upenn.edu/dissertations/AAI9627878

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