An engrossing gay rights history which examines the movement's many interest groups, their very different priorities and...



An engrossing gay rights history which examines the movement's many interest groups, their very different priorities and organizational dynamics. Enlarging on his Harvard doctoral dissertation, Marotta traces the movement from its staid homophile beginnings through the proliferation of groups in the last twenty years (Gay Liberation Front, Gay Activists Alliance, Radicalesbians, etc.) and shows why the early groups and the umbrella structures they developed succumbed to pressures from within. A central conflict runs through these years: whether to fight for civil rights, stressing similarities to heterosexuals, or to speak out for gay pride, to emphasize and enjoy the differences. All of the groups struggled, at the same time, to organize effectively, to increase their memberships, and to keep the highly varied populations they continued to attract. Inevitably, there were skirmishes: between moderates and militants, radicals and reformists, gay men and lesbians, Marxists and the politically inactive, and so on. (At one Christopher Street Liberation Day march, lesbians objected to transvestites as an example of offensive stereotyping, and gay men were caught in the middle.) Moreover, as Marotta skillfully reveals, organizational styles invariably reflected these basic philosophical differences, some groups establishing traditional forums, others experimenting with more ""appropriate"" arrangements such as rotating leaderships or ""structureless"" structures (which, like their New Left models, rarely survived for long). By the mid-1970s, the most radical activists were burned out, exiled, or regarded as tangential; many lesbians found themselves realigned with the women's movement; and the National Gay Task Force, with its paid staff and national purview, had emerged as the main voice for homosexuals. This is a meticulous, penetrating documentation of a sprawling movement and its competing subcultures, which Marotta represents both fairly and sympathetically even in its most extreme--some would say exasperating--moments. As well written as Homosexuality and American Psychiatry (p. 180), Ronald Bayer's recent account of gay activists and the APA, this covers much broader territory with considerable dexterity.

Pub Date: May 25, 1981


Page Count: -

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1981