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I've been wanting to read Linda Hirshman's new book Victory: The Triumphant Gay Revolution ever since it came out in June. But, being a poor grad student, I wasn't about to shell out the money for a new copy, so I patiently waited for the library to get it. It was a long wait. I checked the library catalog this past weekend, and it was finally in. I rushed to the library and was the very first person to check the book out. I then blew through it in a day. Immediately, I knew I wanted to talk about Victory in today's already-scheduled LGBT Literature diary. It's new, somewhat fresh, and a good opportunity for those not well-read in gay history to learn the basics.

But I'll admit, I was skeptical. As a history grad student specializing in LGBT history, I was prepared for all kinds of problems in this "popular" history of the American gay movement. Reading this sloppy quote by Hirshman did not inspire any confidence in the new book. A large part of the reason I wanted to read it so badly was so I could rip it apart. Hirshman, a straight lawyer (albeit, a lawyer with a PhD in philosophy who wrote a dissertation on social organizing in the work of Thomas Hobbes), was not a participant in the gay movement, nor did she spend her life studying the history. Writing what amounts to a sweeping history of gay activism in twentieth-century America is a pretty lofty task for an "outsider."

But, in the end, her work has left this gay historian impressed.

That doesn't mean I have nothing but good things to say about Victory. No, believe me, I have my issues with the book--some minor, some major. But before I get into all of that, let me discuss what the book was all about.

In a nutshell, Hirshman is trying to describe how gays went from this

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to this

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The book's sub-subtitle puts it this way:

How a Despised Minority Pushed Back, Beat Death, Found Love, and Changed America for Everyone
When you think about how far gays have come in twentieth-century America, it really is quite remarkable. The transition from gay street youths throwing pennies and rocks at the NYPD in 1969 to Joe Solmonese standing with the President of the United States at a Human Rights Campaign dinner is not a small one. This is what the book is about: how gays transformed themselves from a minority of sexual deviates and perverts into a political force to be reckoned with. As much Victory is about the history of the gay community in the United States, it is also about the making of the gay establishment. Love the HRC or hate it (let me put it this way: I don't have an HRC sticker on the back of my car), the clout it has in Washington is a sign of political maturation and growth. That is what Victory attempts to describe. Hirshman shows how we came from the bathhouse raids of the early twentieth century, through the McCarthyite witch hunts, through AIDS, to having enough political muscle to pass marriage equality in New York (which is where the book ends). It's a book about gays demanding (and gaining, little by little) inclusion in the liberal state. Says Hirshman:
Morally ambitious and clearly identified as different, the gay movement came from further behind than either the civil rights or the feminist movements had done. It took on the liberal state and achieved formal equality, as did the other two movements. During the AIDS epidemic, it took on not just oppression, but neglect. And then it took on the traditional institutions of heterosexual morality--marriage and the military--and is rapidly conquering both.
Emphasis on "is rapidly conquering." Despite the title she chose, Hirshman is not literally declaring "victory" for the gay movement. She apparently anticipated this criticism and addressed it in the epilogue:
Of course there is a lot left to be done. While things are improving on the coasts and in the upper Midwest, twenty-eight states have little or no affirmative law on any aspect of gay victory. In these states, there is no recognition of gay couples of any sort, no antidiscrimination laws or acknowledgement of bullying of gay kids in the schools. Nineteen of the antigay states have super DOMAs, forbidding recognition not only of marriage but also of civil unions or any consensual relationship, including any claim to the couples' children. Almost a half century after Bella Abzug dropped the first gay antidiscrimination bill in the hopper in 1973, Congress still has not passed a national employment antidiscrimination law. And for the transgendered people, often not covered by even the existing gay and lesbian antidiscrimination and hate-crimes laws, the situation is even worse. In so many states, it's as if the gay revolution has taught the society little or nothing.

[...]

So celebrating the Victory of the gay revolution does not mean an imaginary gay commander in chief should land on an aircraft carrier in a flight suit with a "Mission Accomplished" sign behind him.

Yet, the theme stringing together the chapters of Victory is...well, victory. This is not a downer of a book. While it recognizes the incredibly difficult times and the immense setbacks the gay movement has dealt with in the uniquely anti-gay twentieth century, Victory is ultimately about how gays have a long history of overcoming.

Hirshman begins Victory in the early twentieth century. This was a strange decision, in my opinion, since there is enough literature for her to begin in the 1800s, when sexology first termed same-sex-attracted individuals "homosexual." Hirshman deals only briefly with this (but long enough for the reader to discern that she is a social constructionist in the Foucauldian mold), moving quickly to urban gay life in the 1910s and 1920s. Drawing heavily from gay historian George Chauncey's masterful book Gay New York, she talks about gay life in the earliest part of the century after gays started migrating in large numbers to the cities to find a world they couldn't have even imagined in rural America. Gays essentially created a society and culture out of nothing, one in which camp reigned and codes were necessary to remain under the radar. But it was a surprisingly tolerant time, despite the occasional bathhouse raids and arrests. That semi-tolerance would not last long.

The book then uses Allan Berube's work in Coming Out Under Fire and discusses the importance of World War II in forging gay identity. Hirshman talks about how, under the influence of psychiatry, the military issued "blue" discharges for homosexual conduct, effectively ruining the lives of many gays and lesbians by outing them to their families, communities, and future employers, not to mention denying them of G.I. Bill benefits. It was puzzling to me that Hirshman jumps right to World War II to discuss the emerging oppressiveness of the state. Even though she lists Margot Canaday's groundbreaking book The Straight State in her bibliography, Hirshman does not deal with anything Canaday has to say. Canaday shows in her work that the federal government's regulation of homosexuality began much earlier than World War II and can be found in New Deal-era immigration law excluding gays, as well as in the emerging welfare state, which was very gendered indeed. Much of the story is lost when Hirshman skips over an entire decade and does not examine the roots of the state's anti-gay oppressiveness that would manifest itself in a much uglier form in the 1950s.

It is this period that Hirshman turns to next when she talks about the Red and Lavender Scares, drawing from David K. Johnson's book The Lavender Scare. In this section, she details the founding of the first major gay rights organization (although there was another she doesn't mention: the Society for Human Rights in 1924), the Mattachine Society, and with it, the rise of the homophile movement. Mattachine was founded by communists and was, in fact, modeled after the Communist Party structure, but, as Hirshman explains, McCarthyism tamed the organization's radical "homosexual minority" language and pushed it toward a much more conservative, education- and research-oriented agenda. The Daughters of Bilitis, which represented the lesbian side of the homophile movement, played a similar role, although the two organizations had very real differences over approach. During the upheaval of the Sixties, the homophile movement became more radicalized, but Mattachine (and DOB, for that matter) remained largely in the grips of its conservative faction.

Then, of course, there was Stonewall. It is to Hirshman's credit that she does not treat Stonewall as the beginning of the gay movement. Because it wasn't. But she gives the riots their due, without mentioning Judy Garland (thank God). We then read about the rise of the radical Gay Liberation Front (and its death mere months later) and the formation of the more reform-minded Gay Activists Alliance. Hirshman does an admirable job discussing the evolution of the gay liberation movement in the 1970s without losing its complexity. She rightly gives credit to the movement for pushing the "gay" issue out of the proverbial closet and eventually driving a stake through the heart of psychiatry's idea that homosexuality was a disease.

The rise of modern conservatism and the onset of AIDS are tackled next. Hirshman does an admirable job detailing the appearance of AIDS, the Reagan administration's neglect, the rise of Gay Men's Health Crisis and ACT UP, and the struggle to get the government and broader American society to give a damn about the epidemic. She covers all the bases of 1980s AIDS activism. What she does not do, in my opinion, is take her analysis to the next level and explain what AIDS means from a broader historical perspective. AIDS, of course, was a turning point for the gay movement. Not only did gays realize how important federal recognition was, but they were also faced with the harsh reality of just how inferior they were under the law. Nothing quite drives that point home like watching your partner die of AIDS and then having no legal say as his family hauls his body away, gives him a church funeral, and leaves you out of the obituary. Hirshman does a fine job chronicling the events of the 1980s, but she falls short when it comes to showing just what it meant to the larger trajectory of gay activism. She does, however, give ACT UP credit for inspiring everything from Queer Nation in the 1990s to GetEQUAL today (although, as she correctly notes, the inspiration can actually be traced back to the GAA).

The rest of the book is spent on the period from the 1990s to the passage of marriage equality in New York (or, what some might call "current events"). We see how military service and marriage became mainstream gay concerns, how DADT and DOMA came about, the handing-down of Lawrence v. Texas, the anti-gay 2004 presidential campaign, Prop 8, the Obama administration's handling of gay issues, the repeal of DADT, and the multiple court battles for gay equality (some still ongoing). My biggest gripe in this section is Hirshman's telling of the DADT repeal story. Even though she includes a picture of our own Scott Wooledge and the other twelve GetEQUAL activists chaining themselves to the White House fence to protest inaction on repeal, she does not discuss the importance of the GetEQUAL activism at all or the fact that GetEQUAL activists pushed the issue into the spotlight when repeal was not even on the lame-duck agenda. Instead, based on Hirshman's account, repeal just appeared out of nowhere thanks to Democratic leaders in Congress. The leadership of figures like Kirsten Gillibrand and Joe Lieberman played a role, but Hirshman loses a huge part of the story by all but ignoring the role of activists on the ground.

Victory covers so, so, so much more that I haven't mentioned. Frank Kameny, Harvey Milk, Bowers v. Hardwick, Romer v. Evans, and more. The rise of the gay blogosphere--from Andrew Sullivan to John Aravosis to Andy Towle--is also detailed, something that will be increasingly important to current and future generations of gay historians. Over ten pages are even dedicated to hate crimes and the struggle for federal protections against anti-gay violence. As a PhD student who will likely be writing a dissertation historicizing anti-gay violence, I was particularly interested in this, especially since so many other gay histories don't even talk about the role of violence. All of this while methodically showing the many ways in which the gay movement has grown and matured since the making of gay culture in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Overall, Victory exceeded my expectations. As a history grad student, I found much to critique, of course. For example, it seems to be very much an urban, white, gay male story. Lesbians play a role, but they are largely given short shrift. Transgender people are almost nowhere to be found. Communities of color are not explored (E. Patrick Johnson's book Sweet Tea: Black Gay Men of the South comes to mind). And then there's Hirshman's focus on the coasts. Now, to be sure, a lot of the "action" in the gay movement happened in New York and San Francisco. But there is a much more complicated story to be told, one that includes places such as Philadelphia, Houston, the rural South (John Howard's very important book Men Like That: A Southern Queer History is not even listed in the bibliography), the Midwest, and elsewhere. Truth be told, we probably don't need another survey of gay history. Michael Bronski and John Loughery have done incredible jobs in that department already--in much richer, more complex ways.

Of course, there's only so much one can do in 340 pages. But the point is that the urban-centric, transgender-excluding, white-male-heavy approach has already been done. Hirshman does not add much new to the literature. What we have in Hirshman's book is a history of gay institutions in the United States--a history very familiar to scholars. But there's something to be said for its simplicity, its freshness (discussing very current events, for example), and its argument. It's definitely a book for those not completely familiar with gay history. For those who don't know the names and events, there is much to be gleaned from it. And even those who are well-read on gay history will find something in the book, even if you skim over much of it.

What I like most is Hirshman's seamless connection between gay history and events that are still unfolding today. By connecting today's battles with our history as a despised minority, she reminds us that our struggles today aren't new, but are rather an extension of our history fighting for inclusion in the liberal state. We've won before, and we will win again. And, I would argue (perhaps more than most), we've already largely won the battle for equal rights due to the significantly more accepting views on homosexuality the younger generations hold.

Despite its very real limitations and flaws, Victory is a solid, well-written book that deserves a wide readership. As for me, I'll be ordering a copy for my shelf. If I were you, I'd order a copy, too.

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Originally posted to Readers and Book Lovers on Tue Sep 18, 2012 at 05:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Remembering LGBT History, LGBT Kos Community, and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I shall order one (12+ / 0-)

    I always enjoy seeing  how people treat history and events that are in the "now."

    Thanks for the insight and I can't wait to read it. I find myself thinking how bittersweet many of these events feel. So very happy that progress is being made, but tired and sad about how hard it feels at times.

    Thanks for the excellent diary, Chris!

    The Spice must Flow!

    by Texdude50 on Tue Sep 18, 2012 at 05:11:43 AM PDT

    •  I do, too (7+ / 0-)

      I just hope her treatment of DADT repeal isn't an indication of how historians are going to treat it in the future. She makes it so one-dimensional. I really hate that part of the book.

      I feel the same way. This book does do a good job of putting it all into perspective and showing how far we've really come in a century. But you're still left with the feeling that there is so, so much more to be done.

      Thanks for stopping by! :)

      Homosexuality is found in over 450 species. Homophobia is found in only one. Which one seems unnatural now?

      by Chrislove on Tue Sep 18, 2012 at 05:21:43 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I hope the history of DADT repeal . . . (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Chrislove, legendmn

        will be written like Scott Wooledge's superb diary, The Triumph of a Movement.  Because DADT repeal was indeed the triumph of a movement.  Far too much credit for the repeal of that odious statute has been given to politicians and far too little to the brave men and women who risked their careers (and yes, sometimes their lives) fighting against the injustice it represented.

        Kameny, Matlovich, Watkins, Ben-Shalom, and others far less famous but no less courageous -- they are the ones who deserve our thanks.

        "Ça c'est une chanson que j'aurais vraiment aimé ne pas avoir écrite." -- Barbara

        by FogCityJohn on Tue Sep 18, 2012 at 11:04:54 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Gay 101-102, maybe? (11+ / 0-)

    Excellent review, Chris, and anything that challenges the "it all started with Stonewall" narrative is fine with me.

    I think the minimization of Lesbians in this might have to do with the fact that during the 1970s it really seemed as if we had different histories and only worked together on rights issues (not that there weren't enough of those to create a community, but feminist Lesbian separatism had a much greater impact than you would expect). It's not so easy to introduce that into a seamless narrative.

    As for the men she leaves out, well, I think it might be more a question of what she found in the archives.

    Thanks for bringing the book to DKos!

    -7.75, -8.10; All it takes is security in your own civil rights to make you complacent, and we are all Wisconsin.

    by Dave in Northridge on Tue Sep 18, 2012 at 05:56:38 AM PDT

    •  That's true (5+ / 0-)

      that Lesbian feminism would be difficult to include in a seamless narrative (at least, the narrative Hirshman was writing). But even the DOB received scant mention. When she was talking about urban gay culture, very little attention was paid to lesbian bar culture (even though Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold is listed in her bibliography, so she must have been aware of it).

      I'm also looking for things to nitpick. :p I haven't seen very many books that easily blend gay and lesbian history. Because, as you said, we were to a certain extent on completely different trajectories until the latter part of the 20th century.

      I agree, she would have had a tough time finding "the people" in the archive. It's the same problem I have...I'm told to find more of the voice of "the people," but it's just not there. If you want that, oral history is the route you'll have to take. Although, there are extensive oral histories in Sweet Tea and also Farm Boys (which I have yet to read). But it's probably a matter of what type of history she's trying to write. Guess we can't criticize her for the book we think she should have written, lol

      Homosexuality is found in over 450 species. Homophobia is found in only one. Which one seems unnatural now?

      by Chrislove on Tue Sep 18, 2012 at 06:14:20 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Lesbians lived separate lives until the 80's (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FogCityJohn, Chrislove

      Until the 80's AIDS crisis, where lesbians helped care for their gay brothers, which is well covered in the film We Were Here.
      Since then, lesbians and gay men have often fought together in battles meaningful to each group. That unity has changed the battle for gay rights for the better.

      “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom” - Anais Nin

      by legendmn on Wed Sep 19, 2012 at 08:54:43 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  They call it "Gay Pride" for a reason. (18+ / 0-)

    It's amazing what an oppressed (sub)culture can do when it stands up for itself. My whole life I've listened to the religious hatred directed at gays. At the same time I was also hearing powerful messages of empowerment and pride coming from the gay community.

    •  Silence = death.

    •  Hate is not a family value.

    •  We're here. We're queer. Get used to it.

    Love wins.


    Not this mind and not this heart, I won't rot • Mumford & Sons

    by jayden on Tue Sep 18, 2012 at 06:18:13 AM PDT

  •  Thanks for the review. (8+ / 0-)

    Two things that struck me, one a detail, the other a big-picture thing:

    Even though she lists Margot Canaday's groundbreaking book The Straight State in her bibliography, Hirshman does not deal with anything Canaday has to say. Canaday shows in her work that the federal government's regulation of homosexuality began much earlier than World War II and can be found in New Deal-era immigration law excluding gays, as well as in the emerging welfare state, which was very gendered indeed.
    Chauncey himself does a pretty good job of explaining the shift from the 1920s to a more repressive Depression-era climate in his book. Odd that this would get short shrift.

    The other thing is that Hirschhorn's book itself is a remarkable sign of the times: an outsider's look at the LGBT movement that is (presumably, as I haven't read it) not polemic. Outsiders may miss some important things, but their point of view can offer something of value. :-)

    There are, in every age, new errors to be rectified, and new prejudices to be opposed. ~Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

    by slksfca on Tue Sep 18, 2012 at 06:54:31 AM PDT

    •  I definitely appreciate (6+ / 0-)

      "outsiders" taking an interest in our history. And Hirshman definitely has an active interest. You're right, it is a sign of the times that a straight lawyer with an interest in social movements recognizes the very important role the gay movement plays in the broader scope of twentieth-century American politics.

      Homosexuality is found in over 450 species. Homophobia is found in only one. Which one seems unnatural now?

      by Chrislove on Tue Sep 18, 2012 at 07:08:18 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you, Chris. (11+ / 0-)

    It has the feel of being void of transgender concerns or our part in the history.

  •  An excellent book review (8+ / 0-)

    !! Four more years !!

    by raincrow on Tue Sep 18, 2012 at 08:18:53 AM PDT

  •  Done. Ordered from Queen Amazonia... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Chrislove, commonmass

    Thanks Chris.  Your review made me want to read it for myself.

    I play for keeps. Kindness, Equality, Enlightenment, Peace, and Sustainability.

    by QDMacaw on Tue Sep 18, 2012 at 09:49:23 AM PDT

  •  we can celebrate some victories (5+ / 0-)

    thanks, Chris, for the review.

    I was wary of this book both for its presumptuous title (Victory? ... if only), and for what I was afraid would be a breezy glossing over of much I already knew. Not to say I wouldn't mind having my suspicions proved groundless.

    Sounds like it's worthwhile. Good.

    As to what victory means in one battle, the marriage one:

    they were also faced with the harsh reality of just how inferior they were under the law. Nothing quite drives that point home like watching your partner die of AIDS and then having no legal say as his family hauls his body away, gives him a church funeral, and leaves you out of the obituary
    Changing this official legal shunning to one of acceptance and inclusion is a damn important goal. (I'd add to your list the before death difficulty of getting your life partner included in treatment decisions.) When I hear fellow gays deride marriage I just don't get it. As with abortion - you don't want one - don't get one! But the idea that the gay community needs the state to hurt us in order for us to have community is pernicious at best and I'd consider it internalized homophobia. Rachel Maddow recently said:
    "I feel that gay people not being able to get married for generations, forever, meant that we came up with alternative ways of recognizing relationships," she told THR. "And I worry that if everybody has access to the same institutions that we lose the creativity of subcultures having to make it on their own. And I like gay culture."
    We will always exist. We will always be a minority; even if accepted, loved, embraced and encouraged, we will always be a minority. We will always need each other. Gay culture - whatever it is - will not be assimilated away because gay men will always need gay men, lesbians will always need the company of women-loving-women, and the dominant culture will never adequately set that up for us. They wouldn't know how. Heck, we have a hard enough time figuring that out. It takes creativity!
  •  Excellent review, Chris. (5+ / 0-)

    The trouble with LGBT history is that we are, as a community, so diverse, it's tough in one volume to touch all the bases--rich, poor, urban, rural, LGBT folks of color and varying ethnicities, Southern, Western, Eastern, Northern, you name it. It's also tough to decide where to start. It seems that Hirshman does do an admirable job of telling the story. I'll see if my library has it, I'm ready for another book after Proctor's Golden Holocaust, a history of the cigarette industry and its goal of addicting the planet.

    I know what Mitt Romney is hiding: Mitt Romney. equalitymaine.org

    by commonmass on Tue Sep 18, 2012 at 12:28:59 PM PDT

    •  Definitely right about that (0+ / 0-)

      You do have to pick and choose who you're going to talk about when you do a synthesis like this. It seems, though, that we're stuck in a rut, with every synthesis telling the same basic story. Then again, as a grad student, it's my job to criticize. Haha. :p

      It's definitely worth a read. But have you read John Loughery's book I linked to above, The Other Side of Silence? As a work of synthesis, that book is masterful. But it only talks about gay males (he's up front about that, though).

      Homosexuality is found in over 450 species. Homophobia is found in only one. Which one seems unnatural now?

      by Chrislove on Tue Sep 18, 2012 at 03:20:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Hmm. (7+ / 0-)

    I've heard good things about the book, but it's worth pointing out that the AIDS crisis isn't in any sense a historical thing. HIV is very much alive, well, and spreading at alarming rates especially among young gay men. If I did the numbers right, at current rates, the number of HIV+ gay men in this country will double in this decade.

    Wrap it up, boys :-P

    Fuck me, it's a leprechaun.

    by MBNYC on Tue Sep 18, 2012 at 12:35:53 PM PDT

    •  Oh, you're definitely right (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ginny in CO, MBNYC

      And that's another thing that bothered me about the book, btw...it reads almost as if HIV/AIDS ended in the early 1990s. Despite the historical significance AIDS has when looking at the broader trajectory of gay activism, it's certainly not "history" by a long shot.

      Homosexuality is found in over 450 species. Homophobia is found in only one. Which one seems unnatural now?

      by Chrislove on Tue Sep 18, 2012 at 03:11:53 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  AIDS activism, not AIDS, ended in the 90s. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Chrislove, MBNYC

        The mainstream LGBT movement now views HIV as either irrelevant or embarrassing.  Gay, Inc. is far more concerned with getting people married than keeping them alive and well.  

        Apparently, the fact that men who have sex with men still represent the majority of new HIV infections in this country hasn't registered with those who attend HRC's cocktail parties.  

        "Ça c'est une chanson que j'aurais vraiment aimé ne pas avoir écrite." -- Barbara

        by FogCityJohn on Tue Sep 18, 2012 at 11:12:35 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  We hit a tipping point somewhere in the middle of (4+ / 0-)

    the last decade.  I've only had any sort of involvement for like the last 37 years and progress seemed so glacially slow all those years.  But it appears that generational change and tens of thousands of people across the country over the years doing many little things and sometimes big things started to get break through.

    I don't know about that beating death part.  I have so many friends who died and friends who have HIV to agree that death has been beaten.

  •  Buried in my Kindle for months. I'll dig it up. (5+ / 0-)

    At 58 -- as I've said before -- I feel confident that Victory is assured as soon as everybody my age is dead. Not an entirely comforting thought.

    Mark Twain said "to a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail." So to a man with a gun, what did Trayvon Martin look like? -- Max Minton

    by teachme2night on Tue Sep 18, 2012 at 01:58:37 PM PDT

    •  Unfortunately, we can't let that stop us. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      teachme2night, FogCityJohn

      I get the idea that the '60s movement gradually gave up on itself largely in the face of the idea that it would take so long that they wouldn't be the ones to reap its full benefits.  Maybe its beneficiaries would be people with their own dreams--people who wouldn't appreciate what was done.  No wonder subsequent generations look askance on it.  

      But I guess that's the way it is with all movements; you're not just fighting for yourself, and you have to keep reminding yourself of that.  Really, all the movements need to help each other, kind of the way the various wings of the conservative movement have actually done a pretty good job of allying (until now) under the HIPPIES MUST LOSE banner.

      But if it's any consolation, when The Revolution comes we can say we were living in its world decades before.  If the '60s-'70s movement had thought of it that way, they might've kept their wits about them.  Fight for your own life, and once that's done fight to make way for others.

      The '60s were simply an attempt to get the 21st Century started early....Well, what are we waiting for? There's no deadline on a dream!

      by Panurge on Tue Sep 18, 2012 at 06:07:04 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  As a teacher, what has engaged me most deeply in (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        FogCityJohn

        activism is seeing the experiences of my LGTB students. It's gratifying still knowing them -- some in their 40's now, all the way down to current 15 year olds -- and seeing the steady change and knowing I've been part of it.

        _____________ "Mitt, your job as president, should you be lucky enough to buy it, is, in fact, exactly to worry about all of the people in this country." -- Gov. Jennifer Granholm

        by teachme2night on Wed Sep 19, 2012 at 08:21:44 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I first learned about the vibrant glbt scene (4+ / 0-)

    during the 1930s from, of all people, my very straight mother, when I ran across a photograph of her aged 18, (dated 1936) in which she's in drag (painted on mustache, and wearing a  tuxedo--she made a really cute boy) surrounded by others in drag

    "Oh, that was the Artists and Models Ball," she said, which was one of many of the balls of the gay/lesbian/drag scene thriving in Chicago at that time. You were encouraged to go dressed as the opposite sex. "It was a real eye-opener," she said. To say the least.

     And I think her introduction to the LGBT scene of the day had a lot to do with her staunch support of marriage equality long before it was fashionable (I think gays and lesbians should be encouraged to get married she would tell her shocked friends as far back as thirty years ago.)

    Out of curiosity I did some research and one of the best books I found describing the whole scene, beginning in the 19th century, is Chad Heap's Slumming which I highly recommend. It focuses mainly on Chicago and New York and while not exclusively about the LGBT community, it gives very good coverage and documentation.

    From it I learned that the so-called sexual revolution of the 1960s actually began around 1910 with the free love movement and that a hundred years ago there may actually have been more gay and lesbian bars in Chicago than there are today.

    There was a lot of sexual and cultural experimention going on and this was surprising popular with many of the social and economic elite, for better or worse (much of it was exploitive as Heap points out.)

    If you haven't read this book, check it out. As my mother would say, It's an eye-opener.

  •  OK, flame away. <SAD SACK> (0+ / 0-)

    I think I'd actually rather be in the first photo.  

    Sometime after 1975, maybe around 1990, the decision seems to have been taken that The Gay Community would go for equality over liberation--this in the wake of the '60s, no less, as the whole movement decided to see itself as having "failed" rather than having made some progress.  I see a slightly changed America, but I see a helluva changed gay community--one that is, to be blunt, a lot more "square", in the sense of conforming to already-existing ideas of traditionalism and conservatism.  ("We just happen to be gay!")  Also to be blunt, that's not anything I have any personal stake in.  Congratulations, but this isn't my victory--it's someone else's, and a victory achieved at my (not entirely inadvertent) expense.  What does it matter that I can marry another dude if I can no longer find a place in the world?  

    </ SAD SACK>

    The '60s were simply an attempt to get the 21st Century started early....Well, what are we waiting for? There's no deadline on a dream!

    by Panurge on Tue Sep 18, 2012 at 05:06:48 PM PDT

    •  Well... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ginny in CO

      I see what you're saying about the gay community having changed. We're certainly not the same community that we were in the 1960s, just like the gay community in the 1960s was not the same community that we were in the 1920s. Quite frankly, I don't see that as a bad thing. I see it as a product of the changing times. Gay culture and identity, to a large degree, have been shaped by the oppression we've faced. I think it's perfectly natural that our community is changing. America, after all, is a very different place than it was a half a century ago.

      I feel liberated in that I'm not in the closet, I'm public about my relationship with my boyfriend, and I don't have to lie about who I am. What I want is job security and the ability to marry my boyfriend one day and live a long, happy life with him. Equal protection under the law. Respect. Acceptance from friends and family. These are the things that are especially important to me.

      Homosexuality is found in over 450 species. Homophobia is found in only one. Which one seems unnatural now?

      by Chrislove on Tue Sep 18, 2012 at 07:29:00 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  This is different. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Ginny in CO

        The gay community used to respond to oppression by trying to get around it.  Now it's responding by bowing to it.  If I have to be someone I don't want to be in order to be treated as an equal, am I really an equal?  

        I'm glad for you, but I can't even get a boyfriend because my type is so rare now and I'm so old I don't attract anyone I find attractive (though I look many years younger than I am).  I don't bother to go to gay bars because it's a sea of crewcuts listening to terrible music.  What's the point?  Despite how the discourse runs, the gay community has decided to decouple sexual appetite from the question of "gender".  It's Tom of Finland's world, I'm just living in it.  It's looking like I'm gonna have to take extreme measures...

        The '60s were simply an attempt to get the 21st Century started early....Well, what are we waiting for? There's no deadline on a dream!

        by Panurge on Wed Sep 19, 2012 at 03:55:45 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  I agree in part. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Chrislove, Ginny in CO

      I'm also somewhat disappointed by the direction the LGBT movement has chosen to take.  Initially, we sought to change the hetero-dominant society we live in.  Now, we seem to have decided to assimilate into it.  Those are two very different approaches.

      Don't get me wrong.  I'm all for gay people being able to get married if they want to.  Sexual orientation should not be used as the basis for withholding any legal status or benefit.  But I think many of those who founded the gay rights movement would be somewhat surprised to see the shift in focus.  We've gone from seeking change that recognizes and accepts our distinct characteristics and mores to trying to modify heterosexual institutions so that they will include us.

      Success at either of these strategies these may represent progress, but very different kinds of progress.

      "Ça c'est une chanson que j'aurais vraiment aimé ne pas avoir écrite." -- Barbara

      by FogCityJohn on Wed Sep 19, 2012 at 09:09:36 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I might go farther. (0+ / 0-)

        We're not "trying to modify heterosexual institutions so that they will include us".  We're trying to modify OURSELVES so that those institutions, in their most traditionalist mode, will include us--and we're succeeding to a startling extent.  And again, this is after a good deal of success from both straights and gays in the '60s and '70s in opening up the boundaries of "gender" for everybody.  Why would we throw that off in a fit of pique just because, say, now straight guys can wear long hair, too?

        Those who oppose gay marriage and gays in the military utterly refuse (or are unable) to see that, so why bother with modifying ourselves?  Maybe there are just a decent number of square gay men, and (like squares everywhere) they're willing to exert coercive force to make other guys be like them.  And we give in.  (Well, not me--at least not completely.)

        OK, so now that we've finally fulfilled the JFK dream, at least socially, can we at last start on bringing the '60s dream up to speed?

        The '60s were simply an attempt to get the 21st Century started early....Well, what are we waiting for? There's no deadline on a dream!

        by Panurge on Wed Sep 19, 2012 at 03:01:50 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  This is true enough: (0+ / 0-)
          We're trying to modify OURSELVES so that those institutions, in their most traditionalist mode, will include us[.]
          I think some gay people are changing their expectations of what their relationships should be to fit the hetero model.  I frankly don't think that many attributes of traditional straight marriage will work for gay men.  Things like lifelong monogamy, for example.  Most straight people can't adhere to that, and I don't know any successful, longterm gay male relationship in which the partners are completely physically monogamous.

          I do wish we could remember what the movement started out to do.  Perhaps then we'd be a bit less enthusiastic about assimilation as a strategy.

          "Ça c'est une chanson que j'aurais vraiment aimé ne pas avoir écrite." -- Barbara

          by FogCityJohn on Wed Sep 19, 2012 at 03:07:57 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  I think l'm starting to accept the reading list (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Chrislove

    will never get shorter. Very interesting what goes into a book, what is left out, and what is really distorted for no understandable reason.

    she does not discuss the importance of the GetEQUAL activism at all or the fact that GetEQUAL activists pushed the issue into the spotlight when repeal was not even on the lame-duck agenda. Instead, based on Hirshman's account, repeal just appeared out of nowhere thanks to Democratic leaders in Congress. The leadership of figures like Kirsten Gillibrand and Joe Lieberman played a role, but Hirshman loses a huge part of the story by all but ignoring the role of activists on the ground.
    I guess it comes under even smart people make dumb mistakes. Plus it was finished pre ows.

    Just curious thinking of learning history. My two great nephews will likely be parents of children close to school age in 15 years. Will their history books have LGBT sections for each era?  I don't think that is unrealistic. LGBT progress has become driven so much by age demographics. The early millennial generation are already sending their children to school, I want to believe they are going to be all over this.  :)

    "People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed and redeemed; never throw out anyone. " Audrey Hepburn "A Beautiful Woman"

    by Ginny in CO on Tue Sep 18, 2012 at 05:28:50 PM PDT

  •  Good diary. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Chrislove

    The book sounds worth reading.

    I used to be Snow White. And then I drifted. - Mae West

    by CherryTheTart on Wed Sep 19, 2012 at 03:55:55 AM PDT

  •  For New Yorkers who are interested... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Chrislove

    There's a symposium at the CUNY Graduate Center September 27th - 30th on the life and legacy of Harry Hay, founder of the Mattachine Society.  There should be a lot of discussion about the pre-Stonewall gay rights movement of the 50's and 60's, as well as the more gender-outlaw Radical Faeries in the 1970's.

    Radically Gay

    I'll be there on the opening night to perform scenes from Jon Marans' play The Temperamentals, which focuses on Hay's early activism in founding The Mattachine Society.  If kossacks do show up, it'd be a nice chance to say hello in person.

    (Apologies if this is thread-jack-y.  It just seemed relevant.)

    •  Not thread-jacky at all (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Zooey Glass

      I saw a call for papers on H-Net for that and thought about going, but I have two other conferences I'll be going to, so I had to prioritize.

      Homosexuality is found in over 450 species. Homophobia is found in only one. Which one seems unnatural now?

      by Chrislove on Wed Sep 19, 2012 at 09:12:23 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  what a smart discussion and . . . thanks (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Chrislove, rserven

    to Chrislove and everyone who gave my book a fair chance.
    Of course I do not love having someone pick it up with an assumption that I won't do a good job, but in some sense the small victory for Victory over that assumption is sweeter than if there had been no obstacle in the first place. Had I been inclined to distance or disrespect, the heroic story would surely have convinced me in short order. But of course no such process was necessary. Like any sensible person who believes in social justice, I was on board even before I put a recorder in front of Frank Kameny and started my journey.
    I would just like to point out my discussion of the Empire and the Rocky Mountain Empire in particular and the picture of Jose Sarria as examples of how respectful I am of the diversity of the movement. I have taken some heat for opening the book with a man in a skirt so to speak, and I have defended that decision forcefully. I would be the last person to write that history out. The opening of the various transgender legal centers is in there, as well as a note that it would likely be the next frontier. Similarly with the role of Dan Choi and Robin and Get Equal in the DADT chapter. If I low-balled any of those aspects of the story, it was certainly not intentional or from a lack of respect for what they accomplished.
    Bravo to you all; the quality of the probing and dialogue in these comments is a reflection of the quality of the community. It's a model to us all.
    Linda

    •  Wow, thanks for popping in! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      rserven

      This was quite unexpected.

      I do have to say, again, that I was quite impressed with your work. Any assumptions I had when I picked up the book result from it being so difficult, especially for somebody who is not a gay historian, to cover such a broad, complicated sweep of history in a single book. Of course, it's not exactly a fair assumption, because one should not pre-judge a book. But like I pointed out in the review above, your work did a powerful thing in overcoming those assumptions.

      There is always something to critique in every book. And for somebody who has read the history over and over again, it's even easier to criticize. As much as I had to say above about what I felt you didn't emphasize enough, you did an admirable job for the history you were trying to tell. And, based on your work and your record, I am sure you would not have a lack of respect for any part of the movement. The fact of the matter is that, critiques aside, you have written a highly accessible and fair history of the gay movement that I would recommend to anybody, and especially those not familiar with the history. It really is excellent, and I hope my criticisms did not take away from my strong recommendation of the book.

      Thanks again for stopping by and responding--I really do appreciate that.

      Homosexuality is found in over 450 species. Homophobia is found in only one. Which one seems unnatural now?

      by Chrislove on Thu Sep 20, 2012 at 12:04:38 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I have not yet read your book... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Chrislove

      ...so my questions to Chris about the treatment of transgender issues is all I had to go on.

      I have assigned myself the task of educating this community...and as many other people as I can reach...about us transgender people, our culture, our issues, and our history.  It was not too long ago that I wrote extensively about the role of transpeople in many of the initial protests...including Stonewall, Compton's Cafeteria, Cooper's Donuts, The Black Cat Club, and the Patch (Link).  My reason for doing so was to point out that we shouldn't be "the next frontier".  We should have been included all along.

      Tonight I will be publishing a piece entitled Unfit to Serve, about the military and transgender people.  I hope you can fnd time to stop by.

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