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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 3 Place, Space and Locality

Extract

The research for this book was carried out in the geographical area of the north-west of England, with its focus on the two cities of Manchester and Liverpool. In the previous chapter a number of respondents indicated that location makes a crucial difference both to the initial gaining of gay or lesbian identity and to the way that identity is expressed and experienced. So where he or she lives can affect whether or not a person ‘comes out’, and how they choose to do it. Similarly, the incorporation of people into gay community groupings, or even the practical ability to meet other gay people, can be radically affected by geographical setting. A rural village in Scotland clearly offers fewer opportunities simply because of lack of critical mass; even the maximum number of possibly gay individuals, using the most optimistic estimates, would be relatively small in actual numerical terms, and the evidence already presented from Cant (ed.) (1997) indicates the existence of migratory patterns which concentrate gay and lesbian people within particular urban centres. To build upon the study of gay identity and its impact upon the experience of gay and lesbian community, I intend to look at the question of location: place, space and its influence. Gay public space in the north-west of England Within the mainstream, the term ‘gay community’ often incorporates an assumption of ‘gay space’; with the commercial ‘scene’ of pubs, clubs and commercial spaces being used as a synonymous term for ‘community’. If there is no...

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