“Victory” by Linda Hirshman— The Gay Rights Movement

Hirshman, Linda. “Victory: The Triumphant Gay Revolution”, Olive Editions Reprint 2017.

The Gay Rights Movement

Amos Lassen

Linda Hirshman is a Supreme Court lawyer and political columnist who has now given us a history of the gay rights movement in her new book, “Victory”. She shows how a small minority, the LGBT community, in its quest for equality has changed the fabric of America and if you really think about this and look back ten years, you realize just how much.

Generally we look at the summer of 1969 as the beginning of the gay rights movement when several brave persons took their stand at the Stonewall Bar in Greenwich Village in New York City. At the same time, religious organizations and churches condemned homosexuality and psychiatrists regarded homosexuality as a mental illness. Forty-nine states outlawed same sex coupling but then in 2011, things began to change. New York State legalized gay marriage, the armed forces of America stopped enforcing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and discrimination was ended in the United States military. The advances made by the gay rights movement are nothing short of miraculous.

There were long roads to get to where we are today and the gay rights movement is significant when we look at the history of civil rights in this country. The author uses both published material and material from archives as well as many interviews to show how the gay rights movement has dramatically changed America by making gender lines more blurred, changing the culture and redefining the family.

The book is brilliantly written and a wonderful example of what someone can do when writing about a vibrant movement that challenged America from all angles—medically, politically, economically and we are presented with a much focused group of activists who brought about a campaign that can be used as an example for all future civil rights movements. It is important to note that it is not the Human Rights Movement (HRC) that is solely responsible for the changes and in affect it played a rather small part in the overall movement although it would like us to think that it did it all.

What also makes this so special is that the history is brought to us in totality and is more than a survey. It is an authoritarian study that is yet unequalled.

The gay rights movement did not just change America for LGBT rights but for everyone and the book is perfect for anyone who want a more fair society. I cannot emphasize how important this book is—both to my community and to yours.

“This exuberant history of arguably the final and most difficult civil rights struggle relates, in surprisingly upbeat fashion, the fight ‘to slowly bend the arc of history toward justice’ for gay men and women. . . . Undeniably inspiring.” (Publishers Weekly ). The book is epic in what it deals with yet it is also filed with wit and understanding and above all, inspiration.

Hirshman takes personal stories of gays and lesbians and weaves them into a thrilling narrative and she goes back one hundred years—not just to 1969. Gay rights did not begin with Stonewall but it was Stonewall that brought it out of the closet. I could not help but be proud last Saturday when I participated in the Boston Pride parade for the first time. I just moved to Boston but I have been working very hard for the past few years to ring awareness to our books and movies but I have never experienced a state of elation that I felt when we turned onto Boylston Street and I saw people—straight people, gay people, lesbians, transsexuals and everything else—some six and seven deep cheering loudly. I had tears in my eyes as I thought of how far we have come and I felt a huge sense of pride that I had a little something to do with it. There were 50,000 marches in the parade and the  estimates are  that 1,000,000 million watched the parade pass. We have certainly come a long way but it s important to know how and why we did. Let Linda Hirshman tell you.

“’Victory’” is a fine book and a great attempt to write a cohesive narrative about the gay rights movement that can be enjoyed by the casual (i.e. non-academic) reader. Well worth picking up and enjoying during Pride Month – when the triumphalism won’t feel too out of place!”

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