History, Narrative, and Sexual Identity
Gay Liberation and Postwar Movements for Sexual Freedom in the United States
This chapter reviews competing narratives of queer sexuality during the postwar years. It begins with the intermingling Cold War red and lavender scares over communism and sexual perversion, juxtaposed with calls for civil tolerance of homosexuals by the Mattachine Society and other early homophile groups in the 1950s. By the 1960s, narratives had shifted from treatment of homosexuals as second-class citizens—based on criminal and mental illness models—toward civil rights discourses centered on citizenship. By the 1970s, narratives had shifted toward a more assertive call for personal and sexual freedom. With the dawn of the acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) pandemic in the 1980s, narratives of gay life shifted once again, as homosexuality was again linked with images of illness. By the 1990s, panic narratives had become part of the ongoing debates about AIDS, sex, and pleasure as conservative and radical camps debated the contemporary meanings of queer sexuality.
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