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.
Martin Duberman is Distinguished Professor of History Emeritus at City University of New York, where he founded and directed the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies. He is the author of numerous histories, biographies, memoirs, essays, plays, and novels, which include Cures: A Gay Man’s Odyssey, Paul Robeson, Stonewall, Black Mountain: An Exploration in Community, The Worlds of Lincoln Kirstein, and more than a dozen others. He is the recipient of the Bancroft Prize, multiple Lambda Literary Awards, and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Historical Association, and he has been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award.
“In just over half a century the United States has moved from criminalizing homo-sex to marriage equality, from enforcing sexual psychopath laws to appreciating sexual and gender fluidity, from demonizing same-sex relationships to accepting lesbian and gay families. Yet, with all of these gains has something been lost? Do we have a queer movement of which we can be proud? Surveying culture, politics, science, technologies, legal strategies, and fundamental concepts of personal and political freedom, Martin Duberman gets to the heart of what has gone wrong with the LGBT movement and why it has not fought for a comprehensive vision of freedom for everyone—or has even impeded it. Has the Gay Movement Failed? is Martin Duberman’s most challenging, provocative, and visionary book to date. It is an imperative read for anyone interested in a truly liberated queer future.”—Michael Bronski, author of A Queer History of the United States