192 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 18 halftones, appends., bibl., index
Voices of Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Steelworkers
2014 Sara A. Whaley Prize, National Women's Studies Association
Even as substantial legal and social victories are being celebrated within the gay rights movement, much of working-class America still exists outside the current narratives of gay liberation. In Steel Closets, Anne Balay draws on oral history interviews with forty gay, lesbian, and transgender steelworkers, mostly living in northwestern Indiana, to give voice to this previously silent and invisible population. She presents powerful stories of the intersections of work, class, gender, and sexual identity in the dangerous industrial setting of the steel mill. The voices and stories captured by Balay--by turns alarming, heroic, funny, and devastating--challenge contemporary understandings of what it means to be queer and shed light on the incredible homophobia and violence faced by many: nearly all of Balay's narrators remain closeted at work, and many have experienced harassment, violence, or rape.
Through the powerful voices of queer steelworkers themselves, Steel Closets provides rich insight into an understudied part of the LGBT population, contributing to a growing body of scholarship that aims to reveal and analyze a broader range of gay life in America.
"Their stories challenge our convenient stereotypes of what it means to be queer and how that has changed through time."
--Chicago Sun Times
"[A] well-wrought contribution to LGBT studies."
“An eye-opening read; you won’t forget these interviews.”
"This book is a great pleasure to read. It stands at the forefront of labor studies and queer studies. More important, it chronicles the amazing stories and reveals the hidden worlds of gay steelworkers."
--Steve Estes, author of Ask and Tell: Gay and Lesbian Veterans Speak Out
“A fascinating and insightful look into the lives of queer steel mill workers. . . . Covering a multi-generational and cross-gender segment of this workforce, this book contributes to the ever-growing body of scholarship on working-class queers who exist outside the metropole but whose life histories are nonetheless a critical (but often missing) part of the queer historical archive.”
--E. Patrick Johnson, author of Sweet Tea: Black Gay Men of the South
"Too much of current popular culture and academic literature either omits any mention of working class queers, or dismisses them with stereotypes. Balay gets right down to work, letting LGBT steelworkers speak for themselves and bringing to their voices her own coherent, readable perspective."
--Esther Newton, University of Michigan
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