Re-evaluating the French Gay Liberation Moment 1968-1983
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The thesis offers a reappraisal of the process of ‘liberation’ for homosexual men in France from the events of May 1968 until the onset of the AIDS crisis in 1983. I argue that what we have come to call gay liberation was in fact a complex and contentious process of transformation in the place of homosexual men in French society, a decade marked as much by continuity as it was by change. Gay liberation has been previously understood as a political movement that brought the gay man onto the political stage in spectacular fashion, beginning in the US and sweeping across Western Europe. New political activism is said to have provoked the changes that led to legal equality, culminating in recent marriage legislation. This narrative has solidified into a liberation ‘mythology’, written mainly by activists themselves, replete with its founding events, language and metaphors. A re-evaluation of the 1970s as a historical moment reveals not the beginning of a triumphant march to equality led by activists, but a transformation in the place of homosexual men in society that contains its own fits and starts, successes and dead ends. The thesis is divided into three parts: Ruptures, continuities and life stories. Part one focuses on aspects of change, the emergence of radical political groups and the burgeoning market catering to gay men. The second part moves to aspects of continuity: the repression of homosexual activity and the persistent stereotyping of homosexuality as the realm of a Parisian literary elite. To close the thesis, part three uses oral history to consider the life stories of men who experienced the period.
- Theses