VIRTUAL EQUALITY: The Mainstreaming of Gay and Lesbian Liberation by Urvashi Vaid

VIRTUAL EQUALITY: The Mainstreaming of Gay and Lesbian Liberation

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A seemingly endless disquisition on gay political activism, by a former executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. Vaid contends that the gay movement has sought to assimilate gay men and lesbians into mainstream heterosexual culture by using a faulty civil rights strategy, basing opposition to discrimination on the proposition that homosexuals are really just like heterosexuals. This ""legitimationist"" tactic can result only in slow, incremental change, says Vaid, and does nothing to combat hate- and ignorance-based stereotypes. Vaid prefers a more ambitious, ""liberationist"" alternative: ""Liberation . . . looks for a transformation in social institutions--in government, family, religion, and the economy""--rather than seeking acceptance by the institutions as they are. The legitimationists use established means, like congressional lobbying and the cultivation of wealthy supporters; complete liberation requires community-based organizations that are accountable to the grass roots. Through this ideological dichotomy (which, halfway through the book, she suddenly admits is ""in fact old and tired"") Vaid summarizes the history of the modern gay liberation movement, ascribing its successes to liberationists and its failures to legitimationists. As she frequently reflects on gay rights projects in which she's taken part, such as the attempt to overturn the military's policy on gays, she assails gay lobbyists for assuming that their access to Bill Clinton equaled real influence. The author's lefty sensitivities get an extensive workout: She frets, for instance, about the ""troubling roots in national chauvinism"" of the word ""citizenship."" Vaid proposes an ideal gay movement that would take stands on all kinds of societal problems; since she spends most of the book discussing how difficult it is already to achieve consensus among gay activists, such a goal implies a severe lack of pragmatism about solving immediate problems. A shaggy mix of neohippie idealism, bureaucratic minutiae, and a meandering argument that essentially leads nowhere.

Pub Date: Oct. 6th, 1995
ISBN: 0385472994
Page count: 464pp
Publisher: Anchor/Doubleday