First published in 1932, A Scarlet Pansy is an extraordinarily vivid and richly textured depiction of American queer life in the early twentieth century, tracing the coming-of-age of androgynous Fay Etrange. Born in small-town Pennsylvania and struggling with her difference, Fay eventually accepts her gender and sexual nonconformity and immerses herself in the fairy subculture of New York City. A self-proclaimed "oncer"--never tricking with same man twice--she immerses herself in the nightclubs, theaters, and street life of the city, cavorting with kindred spirits including female impersonators, streetwalkers, and hustlers as well as other fairies and connoisseurs of rough trade. While reveling in these exploits she becomes a successful banker and later attends medical school, where she receives training in obstetrics. There she also develops her life's ambition to find a cure for gonorrhea, a disease supposedly "fastened on mankind as a penalty for enjoying love."
'Robert Scully' is believed by some scholars to be the pseudonym of gay publisher and writer Robert McAlmon, whose life and friends are fictionalized in the novel.
Gertzman Collection copy presented to the Penn Libraries in 2016 by Jay. A. Gertzman. Gertzman Collection copy has many handwritten notes on inside front cover, and first leaf; and additional notes thoughout the book.