Queer In America: sex, the media and the closets of power

by Michelangelo Signorile

Paperback, 1993


What's it like to be queer in America? Ask Michelangelo Signorile. Called a "sissy" and a "faggot" while growing up in the working-class Italian-Catholic neighborhoods of Brooklyn and Staten Island, he is one of the new breed of lesbians and gay men who decided to bash back. Signorile's signature upper-case invective expressed the anger of a generation in his columns in OutWeek magazine. Queer in America is his story - and the story of a new gay generation that is taking on the American institution known as the "closet." Signorile first came to the media's attention in March 1990, when Time magazine coined the term outing - revealing the homosexuality of public figures. Queer in America is about the enormous controversy that ensued when Signorile reported on the life of deceased multi-millionaire Malcolm Forbes. It is about how, as the author sees it, the media has covered up, and continues to cover up, the truth about lesbian and gay public figures. It is about what Signorile contends is an unconscious conspiracy to keep all homosexuals locked in the closet. Here too is the story behind the expose Signorile wrote for The Advocate in 1991 in which he revealed that then-Assistant Secretary of Defense Pete Williams is gay. The story was the Fort Sumter of the gays-in-the-military debate: It drew the battle lines, defining the issue from then on as one of governmental hypocrisy. The story also forever changed the way outing was viewed by straights and gays alike. But Queer in America is not so much about outing as it is about the closet - the men and women who are forced into it and those who are forced out of it, those who hide within it and those who escape from its destructive clutches. Here are the actors, the casting agents, the studio moguls, the legislators, the editors, the columnists, the government officials, the lobbyists, the congressional staffers, and their painful, often anger-provoking, and occasionally triumphant stories. Through hundreds of interviews with those in and out of the closet, Signorile shows how forces within three American power centers - New York, Washington, D.C., and Hollywood - keep in place what amounts to the conspiracy of the closet, allowing homophobia to continue unabated in the halls of Congress, the studios of Hollywood, and the newspapers and magazines that chronicle our culture. Signorile focuses on the insidious combination of the closet and power: how closeted gays in power, he argues, effectively oppress not only themselves but all those lesbians and gay men who work for them as well as the millions over whom they wield influence. Queer in America is also about the future, about a time when queer activism will be implemented with the touch of a computer key. Signorile takes a look at the companies of Silicon Valley - Apple, Microsoft, Quark - dominated by out-of-the-closet gays and touting enlightened anti-discrimination policies and domestic partnership benefits, and he shows how high technology will be put toward breaking down the institution of the closet in the coming years. Finally, Signorile offers a no-nonsense Queer Manifesto for the nineties for all of those who are determined to dismantle the closet forever. Queer in America takes us on a journey inside the American closet, throws it open, and fixes it so that it will never shut again.… (more)


Random House, New York (1993), 378 pages

Call number

306 SIG


Physical description

378 p.
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