The Homosexualization of America: The Americanization of the Homosexual

By Dennis Altman | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SEVEN
A Personal Conclusion

I wrote my first book, Homosexual: Oppression and Liberation, exactly ten years before finishing this one. In the intervening period a great deal has happened, both to me and to the gay movement. Neither of us anticipated how the seventies would turn out nor how the eighties would begin. A comparison of the indexes of the two books shows some of these changes; ten years ago the most often cited names were James Baldwin, Norman O. Brown, Eldridge Cleaver, Jean Genet, Paul Goodman, Christopher Isherwood, Norman Mailer, Herbert Marcuse, Kate Millett, and Gore Vidal. Apart from Millett, these all belong to generations older than mine; in the ensuing ten years, the creation of a new gay community and culture has been largely the work of my contemporaries, some of whose names are mentioned in this book.

There are also, it should be noted, references to very many more women writers in the present work. Perhaps my biggest single problem in writing this book has been to include women, not just as an afterthought but as an integral part of the analysis. The very process of constructing the new gay identity has tended to separate the experiences of gay women and gay men, making this a difficult task. Yet to state that only women are capable of writing about women seems to me too easy a way out. This does not mean that a gay man should write about gay women in the same way as would a woman. As Rosemary Pringle suggested: "Rather than tacking lesbians onto the gay world, we need to draw on the lesbian experience to interpret the gay world more generally, to help us make sense of the contradictions implicit in the identity of gay males, and of the resistance of most heterosexual men, including those on the Left, to gay critiques of masculinity and of sexuality in general." 1

The changes of the past decade have not, of course, been quite what we expected. My first book was written at a time when radical change, at least in the United States, seemed far more possible than

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