The Notorious 'SLIDE'
In his book Gay New York, George Chauncey identified the 1890s as one of the earliest periods in the city when one very specific, and “notorious,” aspect of the emerging gay male community – the subculture of flamboyantly effeminate “fairies” – became noticed by a wider public. He posited that this subculture was more fully and publicly integrated into working-class than middle-class New York.
Chauncey explains the definition of a fairy in this specific 19th-century context:
The Slide was popularly identified by 1890 as New York’s “worst dive” because of its fairies. A “slide,” in prostitutes’ jargon of the time, was “an establishment where male homosexuals dressed as women and solicited men,” according to Chauncey. Contemporary newspapers, purporting to defend the public’s morals, spotlighted the most sensational aspects of this underworld. The Slide was closed by police in 1892 and the proprietor convicted of keeping a “disorderly house.”