Kids on the Street: Queer Kinship and Religion in San Francisco's Tenderloin

Regular price $ 28.95

by Joseph Plaster

Duke University Press

2/24/2023, paperback

SKU: 9781478018957


In Kids on the Street Joseph Plaster explores the informal support networks that enabled abandoned and runaway queer youth to survive in tenderloin districts across the United States. Tracing the history of the downtown lodging house districts where marginally housed youth regularly lived beginning in the late 1800s, Plaster focuses on San Francisco’s Tenderloin from the 1950s to the present. He draws on archival, ethnographic, oral history, and public humanities research to outline the queer kinship networks, religious practices, performative storytelling, and migratory patterns that allowed these kids to foster social support and mutual aid. He shows how they collectively and creatively managed the social trauma they experienced, in part by building relationships with johns, bartenders, hotel managers, bouncers, and other vice district denizens. By highlighting a politics where the marginal position of street kids is the basis for a moral economy of reciprocity, Plaster excavates a history of queer life that has been overshadowed by major narratives of gay progress and pride.


Kids on the Street is a beautiful, powerful contribution to an inspiring tradition of activist queer and trans public history scholarship. It’s about people marginalized by gender and sexuality finding each other in abjected urban places, sinking down and rising up over and over again, individually and collectively, each time with a promise—partially fulfilled yet never fully realized—of forging new socialities that repair the injustices of the dominant social order.” — Susan Stryker, author of Transgender History

“Representing an innovative approach to queer history, Kids on the Street challenges LGBTQ historiography that often privileges trajectories of community formation and political development that fail to capture the experience of people living in precarious circumstances. Writing with fluidity, beauty, and clarity, Joseph Plaster offers a stunning analysis of the contested processes of memory making and public historical and preservation practices in the context of neoliberal urban development. One of the most exciting and innovative interdisciplinary queer historical works I’ve read recently, this fascinating book makes a major contribution.” — Kevin P. Murphy, author of Political Manhood: Red Bloods, Mollycoddles, and the Politics of Progressive Era Reform

About the Author:

Joseph Plaster is Curator in Public Humanities and Director of the Winston Tabb Special Collections Research Center at Johns Hopkins University.