Chicago and the Rise of Gay Politics
University of Pennsylvania Press 2016
New Books in American StudiesNew Books in Gender StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Political ScienceNew Books in PoliticsNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books Network May 13, 2016 Lillian Calles Barger
Timothy Stewart-Winter is an assistant professor of history and women and gender studies at Rutgers University. Newark. His book Queer Clout: Chicago and the Rise of Gay Politics (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016) traces the rise of gay urban politics from the silence of the closet in the 1950s to the halls of power in the late 1980s. The city of Chicago, with its machine politics and Richard J. Daley’s breadwinner liberalism, reflects the national movement toward gay and lesbian rights. In post-war America, homosexuals flocked to urban centers seeking anonymity forming gay enclaves and creating a system of mutual aid. Regarded as deviants and associated with crime and political subversion they were under constant threat of harassment by police. Exposure meant the loss of jobs, family rejection, and vulnerability to extortion and blackmail. In the 1950s, a limited homophile movement formed to educate and advocate for the de-criminalization of same-sex intimacy. After Stonewall in 1969, gay pride parades and the process of coming out fueled gay liberation. An ethnic group strategy of a self-identified gay community found common cause with the black civil rights movement. Black politicians courted the gay vote in a progressive coalition. The passing of gay rights ordinances and the election of the first black mayor Harold Washington in 1983 cemented the inclusion of gays in Chicago politics. Yet the gay community suffered divisions of gender, class, and race. Lesbian women, emerging from the ranks of radical feminism, experienced greater job and pay discrimination due to traditional gender expectations. Blacks suffered multiple forms of discrimination escaped by white males. The devastation of the AIDS crisis of the 1980s accelerated the professionalization of gay advocacy and fund-raising. By the 1990s, gay politics resembled the politics of previous ethnic groups and white gay men became respected symbols of economic and social privilege.
Lilian Calles Barger, www.lilianbarger.com, is a cultural, intellectual and gender historian. Her current book project is entitled The World Come of Age: Religion, Intellectuals and the Challenge of Human Liberation.