A history of San Francisco that studies change in the postwar urban landscape in relation to the city's queer culture.
The City Aroused is a lively history of urban development and its influence on queer political identity in postwar San Francisco. By reconstructing the planning and queer history of waterfront drinking establishments, Damon Scott shows that urban renewal was a catalyst for community organizing among racially diverse operators and patrons with far-reaching implications for the national gay rights movement.
Following the exclusion of suspected homosexuals from the maritime trades in West Coast ports in the early 1950s, seamen's hangouts in the city came to resemble gay bars. Local officials responded by containing the influx of gay men to a strip of bars on the central waterfront while also making plans to raze and rebuild the area. This practice ended when city redevelopment officials began acquiring land in the early 1960s. Aided by law enforcement, they put these queer social clubs out of business, replacing them with heteronormative, desexualized land uses that served larger postwar urban development goals. Scott argues that this shift from queer containment to displacement aroused a collective response among gay and transgender drinking publics who united in solidarity to secure a place in the rapidly changing urban landscape.
Damon Scott is an assistant professor of geography and American studies at Miami University of Ohio.
Damon Scott tells a brilliant, fresh story about the origins of queer community organizing. When the post-war maritime economy and 1950s Lavender Scare transformed San Francisco’s waterfront, a racially diverse network of gay, transgender, and leather entrepreneurs built a queer nightlife district. That emergent geography became the target of the city’s redevelopment authority evictions. Scott’s original research and lively account reveal how the 1960s toolkit of urban renewal real estate strategies galvanized the queer political organizing that redefined San Francisco and the nation.
~Alison Isenberg, Princeton University, author of Designing San Francisco: Art, Land, and Urban Renewal in the City by the Bay
In The City Aroused, Damon Scott skillfully documents the experiences of those who lived through state-backed efforts to contain and then erase gay social life in mid-twentieth century San Francisco. Against the backdrop of national trends—in which ambitious redevelopment projects decimated the spaces occupied by marginalized communities in the name of modernization—Scott’s story provides a sharp-eyed spatial analysis of both queer community formation and normative power structures and policy at work in urban America. While the gay spaces of the San Francisco waterfront ultimately fell prey to the wrecking balls of urban renewal in the 1960s, Scott shows that the experience galvanized a newly politicalized queer community that became an important player in subsequent decades.
~Georgina Hickey, University of Michigan–Dearborn, author of Breaking the Gender Code: Women and Urban Public Space in the Twentieth-Century United States
Introduction: Exodus on the Eve of Destruction
1. The Changing Sexual Geography of the Waterfront
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