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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 6 Towards a Communitarian Theory of Gay Equality

Extract

In the opening paragraphs of this book its aim was stated to be an examination of the way that gay men and lesbians experience and think about community: the related issues of politics, identity and location have also been considered. This was of particular interest in the context of the increasing use of ‘community’ as part of political discourse – notably in the guise of ‘communitarian’ thinking – which seems to be favoured by the current government. How then might ‘gay and lesbian community’ be utilised in the political arena, particularly as a way of furthering gay and lesbian equality within the communitarian context? The data presented so far suggests that there is no simple picture of gay and lesbian community, and that a complex and diverse pattern of existence and experience is apparent. Some of the key findings indicate • that gay or lesbian identity is both individual and collective, and is influenced by psychological and sociological factors, personal and social. The issue of ‘coming out’ and ‘becoming’ gay has an equally significant impact on both gay and lesbian identity, and casts doubt upon the pure doctrine of social constructionism. Gay or lesbian identity largely maintains a primary and central place in the self-understanding of those I talked to, although this is not a static notion and can change with age and, in some cases, due to the existence of other important personal identities. Both the emergence of HIV and the presentation of gay and lesbian people in the media were viewed...

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