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Provincial Queens

The Gay and Lesbian Community in the North-West of England

Mike Homfray

What do we mean by ‘the gay community’? What is the state of ‘gay and lesbian politics’ in contemporary Britain? Have ‘communitarian’ ideas provided a framework for change? And what is the view from outside the capital? Recent years have seen both significant legal and social reform benefiting lesbian and gay people under a government whose communitarian political credo has stressed the importance of ‘community’ and ‘rights and responsibilities’. What effect has this had? What is the influence of identity, space and location, politics, and community itself? On the basis of qualitative research with gay men and lesbians working for change in Liverpool and Manchester, the author examines whether gay and lesbian equality and the idea of ‘the gay community’ can be understood and furthered within a framework of communitarian ideas.

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Chapter 1 Setting the Scene: Investigating Gay and Lesbian Community

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This research examines the gay and lesbian community. From the very start, it faces a central question of whether this ‘community’ exists: much of this book will therefore explore the nature of this community, and what it may mean as an idea and as a reality for those people who associate with it. The theoretical aim and interest of what follows centres around the existence of ‘communitarian’ social and political thinking, and my study examines how a community of interest which has had a predominantly ‘outsider’ – and often ‘deviant’ – status, as far as the law and wider society is concerned, may or may not be able to utilise or be part of that approach. The core of my argument stems from the contributions and insights of the gay and lesbian people I spoke to in the course of my work; it is an ethnographic study whereby I hope to gain an audience for those gay and lesbian people who are working for social change. It is more of an exploration than an attempt to prove or refute a particular statement, and seeks to provide greater insight into what it is like to be a gay man or lesbian working for change in provincial Britain, and into how those people think about and relate to the idea and the reality of a gay and lesbian community. I intend to open the discussion by positing a paradox which will be manifest to anyone who has examined the data on this topic spanning...

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