I WROTE Homosexual: Oppression and Liberation after six months of living in New York City over the winter of 1970–71, when I was lucky enough to become part of the emerging gay liberation movement, and to work for a time on the newspaper Come Out! Thanks to a lukewarm review in Time magazine, and a more enthusiastic one by Martin Duberman in The New York Times, the book survived its first publication by an obscure publisher to become a mass market paperback and subsequently to be translated into several languages. The book was reissued in 1993 by New York University Press, with a forward by my British colleague and friend, Jeffrey Weeks, and is coming out later in this year in a Japanese edition, published by Iwanami Shoten.
Homosexual was written in a particular historical moment, when the gay liberation movement in a few Western countries emerged from the radical mix of politics, culture, and lifestyles of the early 1970’s. Like other movements of its time, it soon would change, and the movement that existed ten years later seemed far more staid, limited in its aims—and successful. (I wrote at length of these changes during the 1970’s in my book The Homosexualization of America.) At that point it seemed as if homosexuality would gradually become an accepted basis for identity politics and communal organization, at least in those countries with strong liberal and secular traditions. Both the radical rhetoric of gay liberation and the extreme stigma and social disapproval against which we fought seemed to be vanishing faster than anyone had foreseen in the halcyon days of gay radicalism.
Dennis Altman’s other books include The Homosexualization of America (1982) and Global Sex (2001); he is a professor of politics at La Trobe University in Australia. This essay is adapted from the introduction to a new Japanese translation of the book.[/groups_member]