Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Paul Deslandes


Through the interpretative lens of “queer anxieties,” this thesis overviews the history of cultural anxieties about nonnormative gender and sexuality in Washington State since 1889. While employing a capacious “queer” framework, this study highlights the creation, dissemination, and management of individual and cultural anxieties about gender and sexuality. In doing so, this study posits how an “anxious turn” can benefit the study of Washington’s history. Ranging from the 1880s to 1990s, this work overviews a wide variety of phenomena which invoked anxiety including: sodomy laws, interracial sexual relations, cross-dressing, the creation of homosocial male spaces, gay travel, LGBT activist organizations, religious upheaval, anti-gay initiatives, gay bars, law and order politics, lesbian feminism, and the HIV/AIDS epidemic. By analyzing anxieties in these instances, this thesis explores the interplay of individual, interpersonal, communal, and social affects/actions relating to gender and sexual nonnormativity (often closely associated with a seemingly lucid, individual or social understanding about what that norm is, was, has been, or should be). Specifically, this approach allows this thesis to supplement the dominant narrative of literature on the LGBT history of Washington which tends to focus on the narrative of moving from “exile to belonging.” To do so, this thesis engages with a wide range of primary source materials including: newspaper articles, court cases, letters, advertisements, pamphlets, newsletters, flyers, religious literature, legislation, photographs, phonebooks, travel guides, and archived oral histories. At its broadest level, “Queer Anxieties in Washington State History” reminds its readers that the specter of queerness has haunted the enforcement of normative gender and sexuality in Washington’s history and, within modernity, queer anxieties have served as one of the crucial tools from which individuals have been “disciplined” socially while also disciplining themselves and others.



Number of Pages

208 p.