When working on his history of homosexuality and the Cold War, The Lavender Scare, historian David K. Johnson came across some physique (or body building) magazines from the same period, but he firmly put them aside—privileging the “real history”—the rise of political movements that had responded to harsh government repression. Thankfully, he has now returned to these sources, and in his most recent work Buying Gay, finds publications once dismissed as quaint artifacts from an era of closeted homosexuals, to be a central part of a modern gay identity and community formation. This in the decade before the 1969 Stonewall riots, an event still often considered to be the birth of the modern gay rights movement. Indeed, along with works such as Martin Meeker’s 2006 study, Contacts Desired: Gay and Lesbian Communications and Community, 1940s to 1970s, Johnson attempts to alter not only our chronology, but also...

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