Allen Bernstein and his 1940 paper | Drexel | 14031
A previously unknown 149-page manuscript from 1940 defending homosexuality, entitled “Millions of Queers (Our Homo America).” by Allen Bernstein has been discovered. Drexel University’s Randall Sell found the manuscript in 2010 while searching the National Library of Medicine for the earliest uses of the term “queer” in reference to homosexuality.
Mr Sell is an avid and accomplished LGBT history researcher with a track record of unearthing early gay manuscripts.
Bernstein offers a libertarian argument that homosexuals don’t hurt anyone, should not be criminalized and stigmatized and should be left alone to work out their non-conforming lives by themselves. Expressing such a view, and signing his name to it, as Bernstein did in several essays, was a daring, radical act in its day.
Bernstein’s essay is unusual for its use of common, derogatory terms, especially “homo” and “queer”, as casual, value-neutral labels, decades before the term “queer” was reclaimed with pride by LGBT groups beginning in the 1990s.
Bernstein’s document is also a rich source of historical insight into gay culture from the 1920s and ’30s. It offers glimpses into hundreds of lives based on Bernstein’s direct observation and a network of pseudonymous informants. Included are anecdotes about an active Boehmian queer culture in Boston, stories about gay men’s lives in heterosexual marriages, legal persecution of homosexual behavior, and the deaths of queer friends by suicide.