In the late 1950s and 1960s, hustlers and street queens staged countless food riots, sit‐ins, and pickets in downtown “vice” districts across the United States. One cannot appreciate the indignation and rage that sparked these rebellions without understanding the moral values and economic norms shared by those who took collective action: the self‐defined “kids on the street” who often traveled from central city “tenderloin” to “tenderloin,” connecting far‐flung districts through migratory circuits. Sustaining themselves through sex work and other criminalized economies, kids created in these districts a distinct counterpublic with its own moral norms, performance practices, rituals for renaming new members, conventions for collective housing, and networks for pooling resources. Urban renewal and increased policing in US cities violated these norms, providing the anger and indignation that fueled central city uprisings during the long 1960s. Understanding the anger that prompted street kids to rebel allows one to grasp what the author calls their performative economy: the reciprocities, obligations, and moral norms shared by the kids on the street and the ways they were materialized and transmitted intergenerationally via performance.
“Homosexuals in Adolescent Rebellion”: Central City Uprisings during the Long Sixties
Joseph Plaster is curator in public humanities and director of the Winston Tabb Special Collections Research Center at Johns Hopkins University. His research examines the world-making practices of marginalized publics in the United States, with a focus on intersections of gender, sexuality, and race. He is the author of Kids on the Street: Queer Kinship and Religion in San Francisco's Tenderloin (2023), which explores the informal networks of economic and social support that enabled abandoned and runaway youth to survive in tenderloin districts across the United States, and San Francisco's Tenderloin in particular.
Joseph Plaster; “Homosexuals in Adolescent Rebellion”: Central City Uprisings during the Long Sixties. GLQ 1 April 2023; 29 (2): 157–182. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10642684-10308479
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