Just Queer Folks: Gender and
Sexuality in Rural America
by Colin R. Johnson
Temple University Press. 264 pages, $32.95
IN A 1925 STUDY, The City, sociologist Robert Park declared that “fifty years ago every village had one or two eccentric characters who were treated ordinarily with a benevolent toleration, but who were regarded meanwhile as impractical and queer.” What’s more, these odd characters were not hounded or ostracized but were generally tolerated.
It is Colin R. Johnson’s contention in Just Queer Folks that well into the early decades of the 20th century, “what looks from today’s perspective like decidedly queer behavior was anything but uncommon or unheard of in the hinterland.” Johnson—an associate professor of gender studies at Indiana University who is himself a product of a rural upbringing in western Illinois—looks at several populations in which male homosexual behavior was widely tolerated: itinerant railroad workers in remote areas of the country; all-male logging camps of the Pacific Northwest; the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) of the Great Depression era.