The past fifty years have seen significant shifts in attitudes toward LGBTQ people and wider acceptance of them 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 the LGBTQ movement, as well as a pioneering social-justice activist, Duberman reviews the half century since Stonewall with an immediacy and rigor that informs and energizes. He revisits the early gay movement and its progressive vision for society and puts the left on notice as failing time and again to embrace the queer potential for social transformation. Acknowledging the elimination of some of the most discriminatory policies that plagued earlier generations, he takes note of the cost—the sidelining of radical goals on the way to achieving 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 2012 Duberman received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Amherst College and in 2017 an honorary Doctor of Letters from Columbia University.
“For decades, Martin Duberman has been a voice of conscience and reason on all issues of social justice. He brings to current debates a historian’s sense of where we have come from and how that matters to where we are. Has the Gay Movement Failed? is a wide-ranging assessment remarkable for its clarity and balance. It analyzes progress while upending the triumphalist story that the only goal that mattered was marriage. It should be required reading for those of any generation, queer or otherwise, who care about LGBTQ struggles.”—Michael Warner, author of The Trouble with Normal
“Martin Duberman offers us an important provocation with Has the Gay Movement Failed? Raising crucial questions about our movement’s direction in the half century since Stonewall, he also asks how the left and queer activists can work together now. Duberman’s long experience and humane vision offer us both tough love and hope in this time of renewed crisis.”—Lisa Duggan, author of The Twilight of Equality?
“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 LGBTQ 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 his 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
“By starting the book with a history of the Gay Liberation Front, an origin of the radical gay left, Duberman provides a key to seeing the limits, considerations, and failures that followed. But beyond the missed opportunities and unfinished agenda, he offers a road map of possibility, with tactics for those who feel, dream, and organize toward a world of more radical love.”—Theodore (Ted) Kerr, founding member of What Would an HIV Doula Do? and former program director of Visual AIDS