History of Gender Identity and Gender Expression in Central PA
Gender During Gay Liberation
Right here in Pennsylvania an event pre-dating Stonewall, the Dewey’s Counter Sit In, was sparked due to the enforcement of conformity. Dewey’s was a chain of restaurants in Philadelphia, and as certain locations started attracting a perceived queer customer base, management decided to act in the Spring of 1965.
The restaurant started to deny service to those the management deemed as people wearing “nonconformist clothing.” It resulted in a sit in style protest, which then lead to picketing of the restaurant by members of the LGBTQ+ community. The management eventually gave in and stopped the denials of service. Those wishing to express themselves in ways alternative to gender stereotypes won the day and took a right step in the direction of permitting one to express their gender as they see it, not as others may.
As people challenged societal norms surrounding gender expression by wearing and acting in nonconformist ways, peoples’ desire to be true to their gender identity started to become increasingly public.
Reed Erickson through his money and foundations, helped fund early LGBTQ+ studies, organizations, and movements. He is a complicated figure in other aspects of his life, but he contributed to the development of gender identity and expression studies.
A lesser known figure in the early LGBTQ+ movement was Reed Erickson. Erickson grew up in Philadelphia and through inherited wealth established the Erickson Educational Foundation, which oversaw the Institute for the Study of Human Resources. Through the funding provided by these organizations, medical studies related to transsexual medicine, the precursor to modern medical services for
transgender individuals, started to take shape. Erickson himself was assigned female at birth and started masculinizing his body in 1963.