In A New Century: Essays on Queer History, Politics, and Community Life
John D’Emilio’s "In A New Century - Essays on Queer History, Politics and Community Life" will not be the hot beach book of the year, but it should make its way to your GLBTQ shelf at some point.
’New Century’ surveys the state of gay socio-political GLBTQueer America of the past 60 years. He writes with insight with a long-view perspective that is not without some cynical conclusions.
D’Emilio dissects aspects of gay rights victories of the last few years, but is equally illuminating about the pre-Stonewall activism of pioneers, such as lesbian novelist Valerie Taylor, and why that matters now.
A teacher as well as an historian, in his essay ’Writing History, Making Change’ D’Emilio describes being one of the first college professors to include queer curricula in his syllabus. In North Carolina in 1984 the local paper referred to him as "the fag doctor." He was not intimidated or silenced from such slurs.
Over the years D’Emilio was on the front lines as an activist in college communities and nationally with umbrella organizations like the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. He writes passionately on the years of GLBTQ unity in the years of grass-roots AIDS activism, and warns of growing apathy in the GLBTQ movement.
In ’The State of our Movements’ D’Emilio points out that now pride events have turned into corporate parades and excuses for partying instead of demonstrations of gay solidarity. He reminds that the fight for freedom is never over, that seeming unprecedented advances in the gay civil-rights movement are not assured everywhere.
With visibility and political victory comes the antigay, bigoted opposition, who are building their movement around so-called American ’traditional values. If gay America does not have a 40-year plan of activism, our enemies will use any means necessary to deter pro-gay legislative victories. If there is a codified gay agenda, D’Emilio asserts, it is to make sure that there are no retreats to the closet or acceptance of oppression in government, work, home or the street.
D’Emilio also sees inequities in the success of a movement that places him in a salary secured, respected position in the same city that police routinely harass young transgender people of color. He sees other inequities, what relevant issues he questions in ’The Campaign for Marriage Equality’ get pushed to the side when the movement focuses on single issues. Many of the essays have a lecture feel, but the academic approach doesn’t dampen the potency of D’Emilio’s vital analysis.