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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 2 Identity

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Any study of gay and lesbian community, whether defined in specific, closely-drawn terms, or primarily discursive or a ‘necessary fiction’, begins with individuals and their personal experiences and understanding – their stories. As Plummer has noted, the stories told by gay men and lesbians are fundamentally connected with both the creation of a public identity and with the furtherance of their rights on the political and social planes. Plummer refers to the ongoing project of storytelling as linked to ‘being, identity and community’ (1995, p. 146), as intimate citizenship where: an array of new personal narratives that may be told about the intimate are emerging, stories which suggest new living arrangements, new families, new ways of thinking about feelings, bodies, representations and identities, and new modes of the erotic. Plummer noted the likely conflicts between some of these emerging narratives and their claims to citizenship, recognition and equality and other narratives which may be equally keen to prevent citizenship entering these traditionally ‘private’ areas. The aim of this work will be to further consider the communitarian option as a possible channel for the incorporation of this expanded citizenship, and to ask whether ‘gay and lesbian community’ is a valid and useful concept in this context. 18 Personal and collective psychohistories These narratives, though, begin with the personal. Community is realised and understood by the gathering together of these individual stories so that the shared experience can be recognised as both collective and individual as different accounts of gay or lesbian living...

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