Series: LGBTQ America: A Theme Study of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer History

Sex, Love, and Relationships

By Tracy Baim
Two Revolutionary War reenactors walk in the snow with a log cabin and trees behind them
Reenactors at Valley Forge National Historical Park give a sense of the conditions there the winter that von Steuben trained the troops.

Photo by Valley Forge National Historical Park.

Parks. Bathhouses. Bars. Piers. Private homes. The YMCA. Tearooms. Hotels. Motels. Teepees. Igloos. Bungalows. Softball fields. Department stores. Campgrounds. Picket lines. Lover’s lanes. Forest preserves. Prisons. Tattoo parlors. Brothels. Barracks. Music festivals. Personal ads. Websites. Gyms. Smartphones. Street corners. These are some of the places where LGBTQ people have found each other.

Long-term relationships. Chosen family. One-night stands. Hook ups. Friends-with-benefits. Anonymous. Monogamous. Polyamorous. Open. Dating. Committed. Married. Single. Celibate. Companion. Sperm donor. Adoptive parent(s). Surrogate mother. Single parent. Co-parent. These are some of the types of families and relationships that LGBTQ people have.

The history of sex, love, and relationships among the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, two spirit, and otherwise sexual and gender minority communities in the United States is as varied and complex as that of their mainstream peers. And yet, LGBTQ people are defined primarily by their sexuality and gender expression. It is in terms of these identities that “we mark ourselves as different from the dominant society—and are marked by others as a deviant and marginalized social group.”[1] Because of this, many historians have consciously and unconsciously chosen to elide, erase, or ignore the lives and experiences of sexual and gender minorities even when evidence of them was present. This means that to write about LGBTQ sex, love, and relationships, we need to refocus our lens to see what has been obscured. We also have to be very clear about how LGBTQ define these terms, and be aware that these definitions may differ or may even not apply for every lesbian, gay man, bisexual, transgender, or queer person. Read more » [PDF 2.8 MB]



[1] Susan Stryker and Jim Van Buskirk, Gay by the Bay: A History of Queer Culture in the San Francisco Bay Area (San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1996), 5.

The views and conclusions contained in the essays are those of the authors and should not be interpreted as representing the opinions or policies of the U.S. Government. Mention of trade names or commercial products does not constitute their endorsement by the U.S. Government.