Queer Career: Sexuality and Work in Modern America

Princeton Univ. Jan. 2023. 312p. ISBN 9780691205953. $39.95. LGBTQ+ STUDIES
As a follow-up to 2009’s The Straight State: Sexuality and Citizenship in Twentieth Century America, Princeton Univ. historian Canaday explores the relationship between LGBTQ individuals and their employers in the latter half of the 20th century. Using oral histories, court cases, and other documents, Canaday focuses primarily on gay and lesbian employment experiences and shows how fears of precarity and unemployment shaped their work life. She divides workplaces into the “straight work world,” in which LGBTQ people hid their sexuality at work and the “queer work world,” which allowed LGBTQ people to be more open about their sexual orientation, but typically came with lower pay and more precarity. The author looks at federal employment after the Lavender Scare, in which LGBTQ people’s employment was terminated en masse, and focuses on its effects throughout the years. Additionally, the author also explores other topics such as security clearances, AIDS, lawsuits, and the expansion of employment benefits. Canaday reflects on the changing nature of employment and how the historical treatment of LGBTQ employees by their employers influenced current trends.
VERDICT A fascinating and thought-provoking look into the relationship between sexual orientation and employment.
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