Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Linda Van Ingen

Committee Members

Nathan Tye, David Vail


AIDS;Cold War;gay liberation;homophile;Midwest


Though not typically seen as a burgeoning environment for gay life, the Midwest nevertheless has a rich history of queer culture. Focusing on gay activism during the Cold War era, this thesis discusses the rise and influence of homophile organizations in the Midwest. Homophile organizations and the movement's ideals of accommodation and integration played an integral role in the activism coming out of World War II. The homophile movement, though, did not wane with the development of the more radical gay liberation movement. Instead, the homophile movement in the Midwest evolved and played its own part alongside radical activists. Historically, scholarship has focused on the coasts as the center of gay life, but this leaves out the experience of the less densely populated Midwest. Further, scholarship has put Stonewall at the beginning of gay activism, however, this ignores the activism that came before Stonewall. Although World War II and the Cold War period altered public perception of what it meant to be gay, homophile organizations in the Midwest reveal an activist continuity that adapted to the times by shedding secrecy surrounding homophile organizations, embracing the influence of radical militancy, while continuing to espouse homophile ideals in light of both disease and conservative pushback. Major primary sources used include news articles from publications throughout the Midwest, collections from the Gerber/Hart Library and Archive, and a variety of secondary sources. With conservative pushback once again on the rise, queer activists must look to the past to understand not only where the pushback is coming from but to examine the path forward to a more inclusive future.



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