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The Tightrope of Normalcy: Homosexuality, Developmental Citizenship, and American Adolescence, 1890–1940




In the early twentieth century, American developmental citizenship presumed a gradual extension of rights based upon a naturalized trajectory that would lead individuals toward heterosexuality, gender complimentarity, and increasing social and political investment. Means changed dramatically through which psychological, pedagogical, and political discourses positioned adolescence, sexuality, and gender in relationship to national belonging. Yet compliance with gender and sexual normativity as a marker of successful adjustment into adulthood persisted as a powerful precondition to full citizenship. Figurative “problem youth” were attacked in part because they threatened to expose exclusionary assumptions undergirding supposedly universal ideals in optimistic modern American democracy.

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