The Kids of Fairytown: Gay Male Culture on Chicago's Near North Side in the 1930s

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On a Saturday night in April 1934, Harold, the sixteen-year-old son of a Polish immigrant family, was making his way from his working-class Chicago neighborhood to the bright lights of North Michigan Avenue. As a high school student, Harold enjoyed an active social life with a bohemian crowd that favored "smoking, nightclubs and beer flats." Although sexually involved with the same woman for over a year, "there was no love affair;' he confessed. Despite these social and erotic involvements, Harold felt "listless" and was searching for something "different." He had recently read the novel Twilight Men and was intrigued by the life of the main character, a self-identified "queer" who lived in New York's Greenwich Village. In quick succession, he read Strange Brother, Better Angel, Goldie, Scorpion, and The Well of Loneliness, all recently published novels with gay or lesbian themes. Then he heard a friend remark that "a whole bunch of fairies" hung around the Michigan Avenue Bridge. As he later recalled, "so the first possible chance that I had I went out on Michigan Ave, Saturday night, April 1934, intending to meet some of these so-called fairies."

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The Kids of Fairytown: Gay Male Culture on Chicago's Near North Side in the 1930s, in B. Beemyn (Ed.), Creating a Place For Ourselves: Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Community Histories, Routledge, chapter 4