The Straight State: Sexuality and Citizenship in Twentieth-Century America
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

The Straight State: Sexuality and Citizenship in Twentieth-Century America (Politics and Society in Twentieth Century America)

3.87 of 5 stars 3.87  ·  rating details  ·  131 ratings  ·  12 reviews
"The Straight State" is the most expansive study of the federal regulation of homosexuality yet written. Unearthing startling new evidence from the National Archives, Margot Canaday shows how the state systematically came to penalize homosexuality, giving rise to a regime of second-class citizenship that sexual minorities still live under today.

Canaday looks at three key a...more
Paperback, 296 pages
Published July 25th 2011 by Princeton University Press (first published January 1st 2009)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Straight State, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Straight State

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 328)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
This is a cleverly written book about the history of sexuality in America. I really enjoyed the author's tone and the was she handled many of the difficult issues that are still present today.
In The Straight State: Sexuality and Citizenship in Twentieth-Century America Margot Canaday elegantly demonstrates the ways in which an expanding federal bureaucracy both shaped and reacted to the emergence of a homosexual-heterosexual binary. The emergence of this binary came to function as an important method of inclusion and exclusion from the benefits of citizenship. By creating the category of the homosexual, government policies also created the closet. Canaday examines both what the gover...more
Interesting book about the ways that the development of the American state and the defining of citizenship and homosexuality are linked in the twentieth-century. Canaday uses immigration policy, the military, and welfare to illustrate her point. Interesting conclusion that some states have been much more inclusive with homosexuals than the federal government, unlike during the Civil Rights Movement (race).
Canaday argues that changing definitions of homosexuality emerged with the systematic bureaucracy of the federal government. According to Canaday, late nineteenth century understanding of homosexuality as the possession of opposite gender qualities shifted toward the 20th century identification with sexual acts. The author looks closely at federal enforcement of sexual "normalcy" in the realms of welfare, the military, and immigration, with particular attention to how men and women were penalize...more
Uniquely organized around two time periods (1900-1940 and 1940-1960) and three areas (immigration, the military, and welfare), Courtenay's first and award winning book draws from court-martials, records from the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and congressional and court records to demonstrate how the state defined and attempted to control homosexuality in twentieth century America. While it is commonly argued that homosexuality became more "visible" during and following WWII and targete...more
Todd Stansbury
Not a bad book, but a little dry.
Sarah Jeanne Lombardo
Remarkably engaging, considering the topic is the consolidation of bureaucratic forces to constrict rights and agency for queer people in, and trying to get in, the US. Some chapters could carry a trigger warning, and much of it is infuriating--but in a highly motivating kinda way. A fine history book, and great for folks interested in how privilege is as institutionalized as oppression.
Quite good, and her point is well taken on the need to attend to the welfare and other nonmilitary state in histories, especially histories of social groups. I appreciated that she gave snapshot pictures of the personalities of the (mostly men) who she wrote about. Meticulously cited. A bit dry for a popular book but very well-written for an academic one.
Who would have thought that it was the entity of the state that created and has defined the concept of a homosexual identity?
Dense reading revealing ineffable, discriminatory acts of the U.S. government trying to exclude everyone who is "different" after having created its own catgories ...
Very interesting read, especially the later chapter on the extensive lesbian witch-hunts in the Cold War-era military.
Seems to be very well-researched with excellent primary sources.
E marked it as to-read
Sep 01, 2014
Chris marked it as to-read
Aug 28, 2014
Bessie added it
Aug 20, 2014
Katherine Hensley
Katherine Hensley marked it as to-read
Aug 14, 2014
Brianna marked it as to-read
Aug 09, 2014
Alex Cruz
Alex Cruz marked it as to-read
Aug 05, 2014
Andrew marked it as to-read
Aug 05, 2014
Ampersandstone marked it as to-read
Aug 01, 2014
Highlyeccentric marked it as to-read
Jul 27, 2014
brokentapedeck marked it as to-read
Aug 31, 2014
perksof marked it as to-read
Jul 19, 2014
Michael marked it as to-read
Jul 13, 2014
Priscilla marked it as to-read
Jul 11, 2014
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America
  • The Lavender Scare: The Cold War Persecution of Gays and Lesbians in the Federal Government
  • Queer (In)Justice: The Criminalization of LGBT People in the United States
  • Queering the Color Line: Race and the Invention of Homosexuality in American Culture
  • How Sex Changed: A History of Transsexuality in the United States
  • Normal Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics and the Limits of Law
  • Gender and Jim Crow: Women and the Politics of White Supremacy in North Carolina, 1896-1920
  • Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World 1890-1940
  • Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America
  • Coming Out Under Fire: The History of Gay Men and Women in World War Two
  • Cold War Civil Rights: Race and the Image of American Democracy
  • Beyond (Straight and Gay) Marriage: Valuing All Families under the Law
  • American Babylon: Race and the Struggle for Postwar Oakland
  • Public Vows: A History of Marriage and the Nation
  • The Invention of Heterosexuality
  • Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times
  • Working Toward Whiteness: How America's Immigrants Became White: The Strange Journey from Ellis Island to the Suburbs
  • Captive Genders: Trans Embodiment and the Prison Industrial Complex

Share This Book