OUT FOR GOOD by Dudley Clendinen


The Struggle to Build a Gay Rights Movement in America
Email this review


Embedded within this heavily detailed chronicle of the American gay rights movement(s) between 1969 and 1992 are openings of bright clarity onto the complex, sometimes self-divided evolution of gay and lesbian activism. Clendinen and Nagourney, both New York Times journalists, chose their subtitle well: Their book focuses on such political (not social-service or cultural) organizations and their leaders as the Gay Liberation Front, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. However, the authors’ claim for their book, that it uniquely recounts the history of gay activism since 1969, is dated, in view of John Loughery’s Other Side of Silence (1998), which includes within its more intellectually nuanced history of gay male identity some of the political developments described here (such as the Supreme Court case of Bowers v. Harwick, upholding state laws against “sodomy,” and the countervailing passage of gay rights bills). What Clendinen and Nagourney additionally incorporate are: attention to lesbian activism and to such sometimes forgotten midwestern cities as Chicago and Minneapolis; pivotal moments in the rise of gay political consciousness, such as the first national gay fund-raising campaign (to help arson victims in New Orleans, 1973); and the dialectics of political success and failure (Anita Bryant’s antigay rhetoric in Florida energized gay activism nationally). Though the lengthy documentation of personal politics within the organizations discussed is wearing, it contextualizes the tensions the authors expose, with impartial sympathy, between gay men and lesbians, blacks and whites, and conservatives and radicals within the gay rights movements—oppositions that do not often receive, as they do here, the candid discussion they deserve. In that regard, the chapter on Jesse Jackson’s ambivalent speech to the Human Rights Campaign Fund in 1983 is a highlight. Readers who can navigate the journalistic density of sometimes anecdotal fact and quotation will be rewarded with a richer sense of recent gay history.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-684-81091-3
Page count: 704pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1999


NonfictionWHEN WE RISE by Cleve Jones
by Cleve Jones
NonfictionCELLULOID ACTIVIST by Michael Schiavi
by Michael Schiavi