(BLSB) - On the Homoerotic Aspect of Intergenerational Male Friendships at the YMCA of the USA in the 1920s

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On the roof in 1925 with the YMCA Pyramid Leaders Corp. Central YMCA of Youngstown, Mahoning County, Ohio, United States. Youngstown Central YMCA Archive.


From "Friendship" by Arthur Gordon, in Association Men (July 1920).

Nowhere is the bond of friendship more austere in its demands than when it exists between an older and a younger man. To be a friend to an adolescent boy is a task that requires all of a man’s courage and delicacy. Sit face to face with a divine example of young manhood. See for yourself the utter softness of the boy’s clay, the ease with which it may be formed. Who are you if you do not, with all men, look with awe upon the promise that flashes unconsciously from the youth’s eyes, that reveals itself in every movement of his limbs? It is this soundless depth about youth that is the magnet holding fast the hearts of older men. They know themselves to have limitations * * * youth has none, neither in his own eyes nor in the eyes of his elders, for who is there among us who can predict what power lies latent in the folds and sinews of youth?

The friend of boys should be a lover of boys—should have suffered because of boys until he has purged himself without pity of the lustful desires that come storming, whether he will or no, to take possession of him. He must be a friend and not care too much whether he have a friend in return. He must sublimate his friendship so that it moves on grandly, unrequited, like the friendship of a god. He is not worthy of the trust until he has been seared by suffering, scarred by battle, made sublime by the very passions that, but for his battle, might have been the victor instead of the vanquished.


Phantom Lake YMCA Camp (circa 1896–1919). Mukwonago, Waukesha County, Wisconsin, United States.