Has the gay movement failed?

by Martin B Duberman

Paper Book, 2018


"The past fifty years have seen marked significant shifts in attitudes toward and acceptance of LGBTQ people in the United States and the West. Yet the extent of this progress, argues Martin Duberman, has been more broad and conservative than deep and transformative. One of the most renowned historians of the American left and LGBTQ movement, as well as a pioneering social-justice activist, Duberman reviews the fifty years since Stonewall with an immediacy and rigor that informs and energizes. He relives the early gay movement's progressive vision for society as a whole and puts the Left on notice as having continuously failed to embrace the queer potential for social transformation. He acknowledges successes as some of the most discriminatory policies that plagued earlier generations were eliminated but highlights the costs as radical goals were sidelined for more normative inclusion. Illuminating the fault lines both within and beyond the movements of the past and today, this critical book is also hopeful: Duberman urges us to learn from this history to fight for a truly inclusive and expansive society"--Provided by publisher.… (more)



Call number



Oakland, California : University of California Press, [2018]


User reviews

LibraryThing member frailandfreakish
i was hyped up to read this, being a queer leftist who agrees with most of the author’s takes on things: i am also disillusioned with mainstream, neoliberal lgbt movements that believe in assimilating into institutions like marriage and the military industrial complex without questioning them,
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angry about the commercialization of once-radical pride events, and disappointed by the lack of knowledge some queer communities have about lgbtq history. i’m also trans-nonbinary, jewish, autistic, and korean-american. i am someone who is often left out of those mainstream communities, which often privilege a certain expression of (cis, white, male, abled, upper or middle-class) homo- or bisexuality. all in all, i’m pretty much the target audience for this book

i guess it just... didn’t meet my expectations? i thought it was going to be either a) an accessible, not-extremely-academic synopsis of the revolutionaryness of a variety of older lgbt movements internationally compared to the moderation of current ones, b) an assortment of the author’s personal critiques of modern lgbt movements and where he’d like the see them progress, and/or c) concrete suggestions for how we can de-commodify pride, start collectively looking deeper at the systems we’ve fought to integrate into, celebrate our radical roots and maintain a Generally Leftist Vibe™️

this book was none of those things. it was kind of all over the place and really repetitive at points?

the author does not give an overview of past and present queer revolutionary vs reformist movements as I thought it would- which is understandable, as this isn’t a history book. however, he zooms in on a specific historical example (the post-Stonewall Gay Liberation Front), spending the entire first chapter (out of 4) on its politics, in-group dynamics, etc. he seems to view GLF as the beginning of queer revolutionary thought/action, which just isn’t true. obviously it’s an extremely important example- but one in a long list.

the book is also very americancentric- exclusively so, in fact. there is no mention of gay/queer politics anywhere else in the world, or if there are similar dynamics of revolution vs moderation elsewhere. (hint: there are.)

he also talks in the first chapter about Radicalesbians and the “woman identified woman” second wave, with barely any mention of the TERFism that ideology resulted in and that continues to be perpetuated today, particularly in the UK (again a situation where a more international perspective would certainly be helpful). the closest he gets to discussing TERFism and why trans people are turned off by radical second wave lesbian feminism is when he hints at lesbian “objection to transvestism”, which he doesn’t explore further and instead jumps right back to narrating about GLF.

i had to abandon this after finishing the first chapter and going halfway into the next. might continue later, but am pretty disappointed.
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Lambda Literary Award (Finalist — 2019)



0520298861 / 9780520298866
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