The Invention of the
By the beginning of the eighties a new type of homosexual man had become visible in most large American cities and could also be found, to a somewhat lesser extent, in most other Western urban centers. No longer characterized by an effeminate style, the new homosexual displayed his sexuality by a theatrically masculine appearance: denim, leather, and the ubiquitous key rings dangling from the belt. The long-haired androgynous look of the early seventies was now found among straights, and the super-macho image of the Village People disco group seemed to typify the new style perfectly, even if the group strenuously denied this identification 1 and later abandoned the style to make it in Las Vegas.
For homosexual women the changes were more complex. As with homosexual men, there was a considerable shift in self-image, even if this was less reflected in external appearances. For gay women, however, this shift was closely bound up with very major changes in self-perception brought about by the feminist movement, which itself had allowed large numbers of women to discover a capacity for sexual and emotional involvement with other women. In a quite new way one's sense of gender identity was important for homosexuals, both women and men, who no longer felt it necessary to adopt the characteristics of the opposite sex as a sort of apology for failing to act out conventional sexual norms. If some women now adopted a butch style, or men wore earrings, it was no longer due to a sense of inadequacy in meeting conventional expectations.
The new visibility of homosexuals was not exactly what gay liberationists had envisaged in the early days of the radical gay movement at the beginning of the seventies. Their views of the change were summed up in an editorial comment of the English journal Gay Left that "the ghetto has come out," 2 seeing in this new visibility a lack of any real challenge to the dominant social order. Yet it was partly the demands and activities of the early activists that