LGBTQ Business and Commerce

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Book Chapter

Publication Date



As the field of gay and lesbian studies first began to take shape in the 1980s, writer and activist Dennis Altman called attention to the central role that commercial enterprises played in the development of LGBTQ communities. “One of the ironies of American capitalism,” he observed, “is that it has been a major force in creating and maintaining a sense of identity among homosexuals.” While other minority groups depended on home and religious institutions to support their social and cultural practices, Altman observed that “for homosexuals, bars and discos play the role performed for other groups by family and church.” As numerous historians have since demonstrated, LGBTQ communities first coalesced and became visible to themselves and the larger society in the early twentieth century largely in bars, rent parties, diners, bathhouses, and other commercial establishments.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

LGBTQ Business and Commerce, in M. E. Springate (Ed.), LGBTQ America: A Theme Study of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer History, National Park Service, chapter 16