Gay Politics, Urban Politics: Identity and Economics in the Urban Setting

Gay Politics, Urban Politics: Identity and Economics in the Urban Setting

Gay Politics, Urban Politics: Identity and Economics in the Urban Setting

Gay Politics, Urban Politics: Identity and Economics in the Urban Setting

Excerpt

This book has three purposes. First, it assesses the social and political impact of lesbians and gay men on urban America, a subject that has largely been ignored by political scientists. The struggle toward self-empowerment by lesbians and gay men has been one of the most compelling stories in American urban politics over the past three decades. It has contributed to change in the political language of our cities, influenced electoral coalitions, altered public policy, and introduced its values and vocabulary into the social organization of urban governance. Although these effects have been most conspicuous in New York and San Francisco, they now are evident in most large and medium-size cities of the United States.

Second, this book attempts, as older empiricists might have said, to “operationalize identity.” What are the specific characteristics of the category “identity,” and how does this category differ from the interest groups or pure economic models that now dominate discussions of public policymaking in our cities? Some political scientists have explored many of these issues in the framework of comparative politics, but few American urbanists have explored identity in our cities. Anyone who has ever driven up Shankhill Road in Belfast or walked through the streets of Old Jerusalem or from the French to the Anglo sections of Montreal knows implicitly that identity politics is a factor—in some cases the dominant factor—in urban politics. Americans have often tried either to subsume identity under the category of “ethnic politics” or to equate it with racial politics. But the women's movement, the gay rights movement, and, increasingly, American Islam no longer allow us to relegate the complexity of urban politics to euphemisms of the past. It may be true that no American city will ever reach the point of a divided and then reunited Jerusalem, but the analogy differs only in degree, not type.

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