Conclusion: The Struggle of Identity Politics

Daniel Hurewitz

in Bohemian Los Angeles

Published by University of California Press

Published in print January 2007 | ISBN: 9780520249257
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520941694 | DOI:
Conclusion: The Struggle of Identity Politics

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Harry Hay and Julian Eltinge framed a moment of transition in the American life. Similar in many ways, particularly in their predilection for sexual activity with men, neither man let this fact define his public life. For Eltinge, this public life appeared onstage, whilst for Hay, public life meant politics and the Communist Party. For both, their sexual activities did not constitute some essential part of themselves. However, in the wake of growing attention to self-expression, to political expression of emotion, to racial groups, to racial interaction, and to the growing prosecution of homosexuals, this shifted. Harry Hay and his colleagues in the Mattachine argued that their sexual lives were fundamental and a piece of who they were. They insisted that sexual essence had political implications which made homosexuals equivalent to Jews, Mexicans, or blacks. The placing of personal identity toward the center of American politics did not however amount to the acceptance of shared notions of personal identities. Hay and Mattachine represented the opening of a new chapter in gay history and American political history, in which the very ideas of identification and minority group definition became subjects of heated controversy. American identity politics have been defined by ongoing battles on who counts as a minority and what the politics of minority groups should be. The notions of gay identity and gay community have never been well agreed upon, and gay politics did not move forward. While Mattachine and Hay launched a decades-long battle for the significance of homosexuality, the very notion of homosexual identity and minority has remained heavily contested, even among those who have led homosexually active lives.

Keywords: Harry Hay; Julian Eltinge; Mattachine; American politics; identity politics; politics of minority; gay politics; gay identity; homosexual identity

Chapter.  5683 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of the Americas

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