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Take the Young Stranger by the Hand: Same-Sex Relations and the YMCA (The Chicago Series on Sexuality, History, and Society) 1st Edition
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Allegedly to avoid clogging the swimming pools with their cotton swim suits, many men at the "Y" simply elected to swim nude. Not attaching anything sexual to the action, both the men and the organization accepted it as a matter of fact that men would see each other naked at the "Y".
The tension between people who wanted to keep things as they were and those who wanted the organization to project a 'family image' (hence the designation of "Family Y's" in post-war America) rivals any dramatic work which I've seen thus far. Considering the 'intense relationships' which they formed as consequence of working in the 'Y' movement, I also found it odd that some people in the YMCA would accuse their counterparts in the Young Women's Christian Association of being lesbians. These men had apparently absorbed the double-standards of their own day which negated women's public sphere influence.
The admission of women as members into the previously all-male realm of the Y was also interesting. This move was another tactic to convince people---inside and outside the organization---nothing improper was happening. During it's history, the organization also faced criticisms of it's program.
In 1912, the Portland, Oregon YMCA, with the ninth largest membership in North America, became the center of a sex scandal. A Portland newspaper charged many of the city's most prominent men with sodomy and delinquency of minors. A few of the implicated men lived at the YMCA and others used the sports facilities. This was the first time that a connection between the YMCA and homosexuality was publicly made.
The organization continued struggling with the issue of homosexuality, but their 'front lines'--the desk clerks allegedly supposed to guard against homosexuality---looked the other way. In this closeted era, the YMCA was a critical meeting space for 'queer' young men.
For all of the critical perspective, the book does praise it's subject. The "Y" pioneered racial unity AND sex education in an era when even many secular organizations lacked courage to even consider taking on the issue. I was especially heartened by the advocay of factually-based sex education, myself living in an era when so many other organizations with 'Christian' in their name actually advocate that people not have access to any of this information. How refreshing to read of an alternative---and in a much earlier era too!
This book is part of the Chicago series on Sexuality, History and Society, but people wanting to read about YMCA history would also find it interesting because the authors have used very inclusive and broad 19th century framework to explore intimate relationships among men. Finally, it would be a good acquisition for people who are just interested in American history period, however altered from it's founding, the "Y" still exists as an institution and continues to promote racial justice and sex education. This is one of the scholarly works which professionals and the general public will both readily enjoy.