The Homosexualization of America: The Americanization of the Homosexual

By Dennis Altman | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FOUR
The Movement
and Its Enemies

During the 1981 Lesbian/Gay Freedom Day Parade in San Francisco I was standing in front of a group of gay men on Market Street who groaned every time a political group marched by. "Why," they complained, "do they have to bring politics into everything?"

This should remind us that not everyone, not even every homosexual, sees homosexuality as political or accepts the need for a gay political movement. The 1970s, however, saw a major increase in both the political salience of homosexuality and the size and impact of the homosexual movement, so that in the United States, and to a lesser extent in most Western countries, we can now speak of the politicization of homosexuality as an accomplished fact.

There are a number of ways in which to understand the link between sexuality and politics. The simplest is to point out the role of the state in enforcing particular sexual moralities; there is virtually no established state that does not interfere, through both repressive laws and active policy (support for birth control programs, family allowances, sex education programs, etc.), with the sexual lives of its citizens. As Frank Mort put it:

More generally, we should be aware that throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries the rule of law has occupied a central place in the construction and regulation of sexual and moral definitions--as much as it has in the sphere of capital-labor relations. Fresh legislation in the field of sexuality (such as the recent Bill on child pornography) or significant legal reversals (for example the Gay News trial of 1977) act as a sensitive register of the moral climate. The law occupies a quite particular relation to debates and struggles around sexuality, in that if a specific form of sexual practice is seen to break the law it crystalises and concretises what have previously been constructed as moral debates. The

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