American Homo: Community and Perversity

Jeffrey Escoffier
Jeffrey Escoffier traces the emergence of a gay and lesbian political identity over the last four decades in this wide-ranging collection of his most influential essays. Situating the development of gay and lesbian communities in a broad sweep of recent American history, Escoffier examines how an urban subculture created by stigmatized and invisible men and women evolved into a vital public community with an activist political agenda and an influential position in contemporary American culture. Detailing what he calls the "political economy of the closet," Escoffier argues that the market process often played a crucial role (for better or for worse) in the emergence of gay and lesbian communities, and conversely, that these new communities have significantly impacted the American marketplace.From the development of a camp sensibility in popular culture--inspired by the erotic exhibitionism of drag queens--to the public reformation of safer-sex guidelines, Escoffier demonstrates how the gay movement has gradually acquired both social authority and recognition as a booming market. Throughout the ongoing struggle for legitimacy, gays and lesbians have had to negotiate the historical tension between the homoeroticism that courses through American culture and periodic outbreaks of homophobic paranoia. Escoffier follows the lesbian and gay movement across the contested terrain of American political life between the poles of multiculturalism and the religious right, to reveal how sexual minorities constitute a challenge to American society even as they are thoroughly integrated as citizens and kin. From McCarthy-era witchhunts to the activism of Queer Nation, Escoffier vividly describes the characteristic American homosexual journey through the tangled political web of authenticity, identity, and community.

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