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The Politics of Global Gay Identity: Towards a Universal History

Constantine Chatzipapatheodoridis, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece

Abstract

Through the years, the LGBT community has established a universal network of social relations for homosexual people, defying social, cultural and political borders. What is promoted is a global community that shares a common historical past and an array of invented/established traditions that venerates it. Historically, the LGBT community has valorized the Stonewall riots of 1969 as the nodal point of gay and lesbian politicization and June has been set up as the month of LGBT Pride in order to keep the memory of homosexual revolution and liberation alive. Yet, the Stonewall riots along with the impulse of the LGBT movement and its subsequent traditions have been defined as solely Western practices that predominantly derive from the American experience of the incidents, thus excluding non-Western perspectives. Furthermore, the ideal global community often requires a common, unified identity based on codes and symbols of LGBT history. In my paper, I would argue that the politics of the gay community, despite its Western-oriented milieu, have managed to promote and affirm a universal gay identity through invented traditions in order to provide a “home,” to project an imagined community that evades cultural, social, and racial frontiers, but above all to make this idea of “home” an available option.

Perceiving the world as a global village where cultures converge and information is freely shared has been contested. Indeed, the conundrums posed from the effect of globalization have redefined this idea of the global village and nations have turned to set up physical and cultural barriers again in order to protect their own cultural heritage from external corruption. Glocalization is now forwarded as the ideological discourse that moves towards supporting ethnic distinctiveness, yet does not completely obstruct intercultural exchanges. Nevertheless, it is still hard for people to shake off the remnants of globalization and the need to belong in the vast global village is still prevalent. This sense of belonging, as inextricably tied to bonds within communities – where one “feels at home” – is an idea based on and solidified by common experiences between groups of people. The LGBT community – or simply gay community – stands paradigmatic to the realization of this idea, hence promoting a universal history for the formation of a global identity. Seeing the 1969 Stonewall riots as the nodal point of the gay and lesbian movement, the history of LGBT culture has been rendered universal, thus embracing social, political, cultural and racial diversity through practices of established traditions and codes. However, the Western impulse in the historicity of the culture is hard to miss, a matter that has instigated sociological and academic debates in defense of non-Western cultures threatened by homogenization. In this paper, I would argue that the politics of the gay community, despite its Western-oriented milieu, has managed to promote and affirm a universal gay identity through invented traditions in order to provide a “home,” to project an imagined community that evades cultural, social, and racial frontiers, but above all to make this idea of “home” an available option…Access Full Text of the Article


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