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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 5 Community


‘Community’ is a term which is used frequently in contemporary life. Indeed, it can sometimes be difficult to avoid the term in popular discourse. Community care … community charge … community development – a sceptic may argue that preceding a word with ‘community’ enables a relatively unpleasant and unpopular concept to be ‘humanised’ and presented in a much more acceptable and ‘cuddly’ way. The final chapters of this study will turn to the topic of community, with the last chapter concentrating on thinking through the idea of gay and lesbian community within the context of the rise of political or ‘low’ communitarianism, recently popularised by Amitai Etzioni (1993, 1995, 1997, 1998) and of their contribution to the ideas of New Labour and of ‘third way politics’. So far this book has considered issues which constitute or illuminate different aspects of gay and lesbian community and of the experiences and understandings of gay and lesbian people based in the north-west; but it is the actual idea of gay and lesbian community which needs further consideration. Certainly as a term it is used frequently, and in common parlance ‘gay community’ is used without any great question, usually describing either the gay and lesbian population as a whole, or an obviously visible part of it, whether that is an organised group or the commercial gay scene. Politically, the use of ‘community’ has become particularly prominent under the Labour government. As will be demonstrated, there have been some attempts to begin to think through the social meanings,...

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