AMERICAN GAY by Stephen O. Murray


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 In this intermittently interesting study, Murray (Latin American Male Homosexualities, not reviewed) analyzes the roots of gay identity in America, focusing on various racial and ethnic differences within the gay community. In its mission to foster heterosexuality, contends Murray, society has misrepresented gay life in the media, identifying it almost exclusively with loneliness and death. Enduring same-sex couples are almost invisible, while ``representations of gay men with AIDS in the news media perpetuate the image of gay men necessarily cut off from humanity, dying alone and miserable.'' Relationships between gays are continually devalued and undermined. The care--both financial and emotional--that gay men have shown one another, particularly during the past decade, has largely been overlooked. Therefore, the author concludes, gays must demand acceptance and forge their own institutions. Citing sociological data, Murray draws a well-defined distinction between the terms ``homosexual'' and ``gay.'' Engaging in homosexual acts does not make one ``gay.'' To be part of the gay community involves a consciously chosen acceptance of a certain lifestyle and identity. Whereas all gays find themselves cut off from the mainstream, members of certain ethnic groups are doubly disenfranchised. Among African-Americans, for example, even the most progressive leaders, such as Jesse Jackson, have sought to keep the existence of gays ``invisible,'' while black studies departments have ignored ``African and African American homosexualities.'' Murray draws on sociological research to provide hypotheses about various racial and ethnic groups within the gay community. Asian gays, for example, are more likely to ``keep their gay world separate from their family/community world.'' Unfortunately, Murray's contribution to the field is marred by too many lapses into sociological jargon. (e.g. ``Homosexuality is more polyvalent than either realists or nominalists [particularly special creationists] suppose.'') But despite its ploddingly painful prose, this volume deepens our understanding of gay Americans and their particular challenges.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-226-55191-1
Page count: 296pp
Publisher: Univ. of Chicago
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1996


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