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Friday, February 24, 2017

Week 3: Gay L.A. Part II

Hi All,

Upon completing week 3's readings, I was filled with a strange sense of wonder. Everything that I was currently taking in in section II of Gay L.A. is exactly what my generation is currently obsessed with. With the co-optation of working class fashion, style, and culture in this day and age, I merely had a shallow understanding of what the 60's-80's were truly about.  It feels satisfying to understand L.A. through Timmon's recounting since he covers a large portion of the counterculture and how that largely intersected with LGBTQ people in a variety of ways.

For section II, what I really admired was the sense of cultural nationalism occurring across all communities that was born from the intense marginalization of various communities, as well as their political polarization. More specifically, I enjoyed reading about how the various historical events in L.A. played a role in kicking off this era's countercultural upheaval. For example, in chapter 5, it discusses the ways in which cultural nationalism came into being. With the rise of the Black Power Movement, Brown Berets, and other groups, so too came the Gay Revolution. During this time in L.A. there were several unethical laws that were passed with the intention of criminalizing LGBTQ existence. For example, dressing in attire that did not belong to your gender assigned at birth was a punishable by law. People who fell within the swinging range of this unjust law were lesbians, gay men who did drag, and transgender people. Besides the law being on the side of the oppressor, the L.A. locals were very opposed to the sexually liberated mode of living often offered up in LGBTQ spaces back then. Painted as heathens or abominations, it was no wonder that the LGBTQ community in L.A. began to politically mobilize.

When political mobilization occurred in the Gay Rights movement, it gave rise to two different types of politics. One was the of reformists, LGBTQ people who sought to assimilate into society. Their appeal to their oppressors was through respectability politics which was demonstrated through protests in which all attendees were suited up to seem relatable to the common person. The other type of politics present was that that surrounded anti-assimilationist. These groups did not care to appeal to the average person, instead, they demanded equal treatment. These radical groups were filled with a type of unapologetic queer militancy.

Upon reflecting on this history and the rise of the Gay Revolution, it makes me realize how politics appealing to the assimilation of LGBTQ individuals has largely dominated the movement present to this day. Though there are still radical LGBTQ groups present in the United States who engage in direct action rather than in the political system, it is apparent that a certain type of politicking has been devalued. That is not to discount the work that these radical activists do, but rather it proves how neoliberalism has effectively co-opted the LGBTQ rights movement in a way that has stifled efforts in actual LGBTQ liberation. I am not at all surprised at the uprise in direct action movements that have sprung forth during the Tr*mp presidency. As someone who studies political science, I find that having reflected on the Queer history of L.A. has contextualized the politics behind the organizing that are presently ongoing.

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