Robert Mapplethorpe dies of AIDS, and a retrospective including his photographs of Manhattan’s gay leather scene is cancelled, setting in motion the culture wars of the 1990s.
Sylvia “Ray” Rivera, a transvestite street hustler, is among the young people who resist a typical police raid on a gay dive in Greenwich Village on June 28, 1969, thus launching a watershed event that came to be known by the bar’s name: Stonewall.
A former GI from the Bronx goes to Denmark in 1950 and returns to New York two years later as a woman named Christine Jorgensen, garnering national headlines as the first celebrity transsexual.
After nearly three lukewarm decades in vaudeville, Brooklyn-born Mae West hits Broadway in 1926 with a persona derived from the styles of Greenwich Village gay men, Harlem dancers and Bowery prostitutes. Within six years, she is packing her bags for Hollywood.
Openly defying a federal law that regards such acts as obscene, Margaret Sanger goes to jail in 1917 for operating a clinic that dispensed information about birth control. She is well on her way to making birth control legal in America.
New York City was the locale for many of the most critical events in the history of sex and sexuality in America. And in the process of these events, many New Yorkers were thrust into the headlines—and into history—either by chance or design.
But New York’s role in transforming American attitudes about sex was just as much the result of everyday rebellions in the quieter lives of people anonymous to history, the neighbors in the apartment next door who lived under the subterfuge of lesbian “sisters” and gay “bachelors.”
NYC Sex: How New York City Transformed Sex in America investigates the sexual subcultures of the city’s past and present, and explores the means by which they have influenced the development of modern attitudes about sex and sexuality.