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Thursday, February 2, 2017

Gay LA: Section 3 "Smash Hits, Devastating Bombs, Stunning Comebacks

            This week’s readings are very interesting and illuminate the importance of identity and intersectionality. The authors of this book entitled the book “Gay LA” in the attempt to describe both the history and presence of gay culture in LA, and its critical positioning at the forefront of LGBT movements.  In their retelling of the history of gay culture and activism in LA the authors present a selective historiography that emphasizes particular experiences, typically excluding the dynamics and issues revolving around race, class, and gender. Instead, the book focuses on the experiences of white middle-class men. At it’s expense, the book fails to fully account for internal discrimination within the gay movement and the full range of experiences of the members of the LGBT community.
            However, in the third section of the book entitled “Smash Hits, Devastating Bombs, Stunning Comebacks” the authors briefly mention the discord among the female members of the first gay and inclusive religious institution in LA (Metropolitan Community Church). The women felt that the language and liturgy of the church was gendered and sexist, and called for a more inclusive language. They claimed the language was filled with “He’s” “Him’s” and “Father’s” and that males in the institution were insensitive to the needs of women. In the next chapter, the authors discuss gay people of color and the dimensions of race and ethnicity. The tenth chapter has an amazing quote by the African American writer Alycee Lane in which she writes that: “a healthy integration of sexuality and ethnicity could be achieved only if people of color dared to “celebrate being lesbian and gay in our own neighborhoods… for often in those alien places we often subsume our blackness for the gay thing, and in our own neighborhoods, we subsume our gayness for the black thing. We divide ourselves into expendable parts. We are those expendable parts.”

            The challenge for the contemporary student of LGBT history is to understand the complex, interwoven, and intersectional nature of identity. We can not subsume one identity for another, given that identity is not made up of expendable parts, but rather a cohesive and layered collection of identities that readily intersect in the daily lives of people. The full and free expression of identity free from discrimination requires that we understand the intersection of our multiple identities/social categorizations and work toward a more inclusive space for people of all genders, races, and classes.

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