“Has the Gay Movement Failed” by Martin Duberman— The Cost

Duberman, Martin. “Has the Gay Movement Failed?”, University of California Press, 2018.

The Cost

Amos Lassen

I love to read anything that Martin Duberman writes and that is because of the way he structures his life. I find that every book is well written and educative. He might be shocking but above all else he is honest in his topics. This new book is bound to generate discussion.

We are certainly aware that in the last fifty years there have been significant shifts in attitudes toward LGBTQ people and wider acceptance of them in the United States and the West. Duberman states that the extent of this progress has been “more broad and conservative than deep and transformative.” He looks back over the fifty years since Stonewall and does so with an immediacy and rigor that both informs and energizes. He looks again at the early gay movement with its progressive vision for society and sees it as failing time and again to take on the queer potential for social transformation.

Duberman acknowledges the elimination of some of the most discriminatory policies that plagued earlier generations. The cost of this has been dear. We see the sidelining of radical goals on the way to achieving more normative inclusion and he shows us the fault lines both within and beyond the movements of the past and today. Yet Duberman is hopeful and urges us to learn from this history so that we can fight for an inclusive and expansive society. As a historian, Duberman’s voice has been our public conscience and reason regarding social issues and as a historian he brings a historian’s sense of where we have come from and how that relates and matters as to where we are. He analyzes progress while showing that marriage equality is not the only or even the main goal. The issues that are raised here are crucial and he wonders how the left can work with the activists today.

Are we really proud of what the movement has done? To answer this Duberman takes us through culture, politics, science, technologies, legal strategies, and fundamental concepts of personal and political freedom and as he does, he finds what is wrong with the LGBTQ movement and why it has not fought for a comprehensive vision of freedom for everyone. He points to the missed opportunities and beyond and shows us an unfinished agenda. Yet he has hope and provides a way for us to use tactics that come out of love and emotion. Like Duberman, I have always felt that until we love ourselves totally and completely, nothing will ever be finished.

Leave a Reply