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Author James Sears discusses new book 'Queering Rehoboth Beach'

The Rehoboth Beach Water Tower.
Delaware Public Media
The Rehoboth Beach Water Tower.

Historian and author James Sears' new book “Queering Rehoboth Beach: Beyond the Boardwalk” chronicles the town's transformation into an attraction for queer residents and tourists.

Delaware Public Media’s Rachel Sawicki caught up with Sears this week to discuss his book.

Author James Sears discusses his new book 'Queering Rehoboth' with DPM's Rachel Sawicki

Delaware trails only Hawaii as the highest state per capita for gay and lesbian households, and much of that is thanks to Rehoboth Beach, which ranks as the fourth ‘small city’ in the country for same-sex couples.

In his new book, “Queering Rehoboth Beach, Beyond the Boardwalk,” author and historian James Sears explains how the town was created with Methodist roots.

“It’s neither simply about queers nor is it simply about Rehoboth Beach," Sears says. "You can read a lot about Rehoboth Beach which has nothing ostensibly to do with homosexuals, lesbians, [transgender people], and the reason is, to understand any town, I believe, you have to understand the entire town, you can’t just understand the little aspect that you are looking at.”

Sears says gay visibility in Rehoboth became more prevalent in the 1970’s and 80’s, mainly through businesses like restaurants and nightclubs in and around city limits.

“And in fact during that period of time in the early 80’s, mid 80’s, it was not unusual for example, for youngsters to be driving by in their cars and tossing beer bottles or eggs or whatever," Sears says.

He explains how Rehoboth Beach’s mayor, Board of Commissioners, and even the homeowners association targeted these establishments, proclaiming Rehoboth would remain a “family town.”

Sears also explores how cis gay men were catered to and quicker to be accepted than lesbians, transgender people, and people of color.

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Rachel Sawicki was born and raised in Camden, Delaware and attended the Caesar Rodney School District. They graduated from the University of Delaware in 2021 with a double degree in Communications and English and as a leader in the Student Television Network, WVUD and The Review.