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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 4 Politics, Law and Policy

Extract

By definition, this research is political. The respondents have all been selected because of their involvement, either past or present, in working for change, and, as noted in earlier chapters, a broad view of what constitutes ‘politics’ also runs through the research as a central point of reference. For example, the study of identity brought to the fore matters which have political consequences and which help to make up what gay community actually is – without the process of ‘becoming’ a gay person the ability to become, in that process, part of something collective, would not exist. Location and gay public space are closely linked to political decision-making, as has been demonstrated by comparing the cities of Liverpool and Manchester. And the paradoxical situation of a rising profile of gay people and of a gay and lesbian community during an era of limited political change has been followed by a period of significant legal reform and policy inclusion. All of these matters are central to the aims of this book, as we continue to consider the elements which make up gay and lesbian life and experience for those gay and lesbian people working for change in the north-west of England. It remains reasonable, though, to ask why a chapter needs to be devoted to ‘politics’ in a rather more conventional and restricted way. First, it became clear through doing the research that the business of conventional liberal-democratic politics has been, and remains, a method which most of the respondents see as...

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