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Semi Queer

Stories of Gay, Trans, and Black Truckers

The working class is not white. Queer people are not prospering in the 21st century. Though most of us know this at some level, alternative ‘facts’ are still pervasive, shaping policy and activism. By telling stories from a vast, yet somehow invisible, group of workers, Semi Queershatters these myths.

Truckers are at the center of almost every industry, and possess legendary status among American workers. The stories collected here expose a tightening web of regulations, technologies, and surveillance cultures that has clamped down on their daily work life over the last thirty years. In response, the women, gay and lesbian people, transfolks, racial minorities, and immigrants who make up a growing percentage of the trucking industry, have become vocal presences.

Balay trained and worked as a truck driver, recorded oral histories of sixty-six truckers, and spent several years immersed in big rig culture. Semi Queer uses these life stories to understand how truckers feel about government, race, sex, and the future. Working people, especially if they’re queer, black, or otherwise marginal, offer vital critiques of American policies both liberal and conservative, and of queer activism’s focus on rights and families. Semi Queer is our chance to hear their voices, and bring about change.


In a compellingly readable and long-overdue study, Steel Closets explores how sexuality and gender overlap in the sprawling steel mills of Northwest Indiana. Drawing from extensive, detailed oral histories taken of a previously silent and invisible population, it investigates how gay, lesbian, and transgender steelworkers interact with their co-workers, communities and families in the context of their physically demanding, risky work. It explains how and why basic steel mills are inhospitable, even dangerous to queers, and demonstrate that we can’t understand what it means to be GLBT without including working-class, blue-collar voices and stories.

Steel Closets

ISBN 978-1-4696-1400-7

From UNC Press: Even as substantial legal and social victories are being celebrated within the gay rights movement, much of working-class America still exists outside the current narratives of gay liberation. In Steel Closets, Anne Balay draws on oral history interviews with forty gay, lesbian, and transgender steelworkers, mostly living in northwestern Indiana, to give voice to this previously silent and invisible population. She presents powerful stories of the intersections of work, class, gender, and sexual identity in the dangerous industrial setting of the steel mill. The voices and stories captured by Balay--by turns alarming, heroic, funny, and devastating--challenge contemporary understandings of what it means to be queer and shed light on the incredible homophobia and violence faced by many: nearly all of Balay's narrators remain closeted at work, and many have experienced harassment, violence, or rape.Through the powerful voices of queer steelworkers themselves, Steel Closets provides rich insight into an understudied part of the LGBT population, contributing to a growing body of scholarship that aims to reveal and analyze a broader range of gay life in America.

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