How have gay men interacted with and regarded lesbians, and vice versa
August 29, 2012 9:02 AM   Subscribe

Would like insight and education into the various ways that gay men -- both as individuals and as a group, both historically and currently -- relate to, regard, and interact with gay/lesbian women, and vice versa.

[I've tried to be thoughtful in my wording, but I've not had all that many occasions in my life to discuss LGBT topics. So I'm nervous that I might misspeak or expose my ignorance. If I do please correct me and accept my sincere apologies.]

Looking for in-depth readings and histories and seminal texts that would give a good overview of these group dynamics. I'm most interested in learning about the U.S. in the 20th/21st century, but if there are pieces that also address this dynamic in other cultures or other times, then all the better.

My (uninformed and simplistic, and possibly irresponsible) perceptions -- and here is where I'm afraid of sounding like an ass -- are that while the two groups have had every reason to form a coalition in the ongoing struggle for their safety and their civil rights, it doesn't seem to me that there is all that much overlap in their various subcultures' interests or arts or patterns of consumption or recreation -- it just doesn't seem like they have that much in common outside of their shared struggle.

Looking, also, for feminist critics' assessment of any patriarchal systems at work within the gay/lesbian cultures.

I know that there will no doubt have been a spectrum of opinions and a healthy, ongoing internal debate; I'm not afraid of readings that address or embrace this complexity.

Are there seminal works addressing this relationship? Great essays? Contentious works of art or fiction? Watershed academic studies? I'm very willing to read long-format or challenging pieces.

Many thanks... and again, please, please correct me if I've said anything ignorant; I'd consider it a huge kindness to me if you would.
posted by jjjjjjjijjjjjjj to Human Relations (8 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
John D'Emilio's Sexual Politics, Sexual Communities: The Making of a Homosexual Minority in the United States 1940-1970 goes over the history of how gay men and lesbians began organizing together (and separately) (and then somewhat together again) and might be interesting to you. He discusses the fact that gay men were very interested in organizing against police harassment and entrapment for the public solicitation of sex at the beginning, which was of much less interest to lesbians and caused friction and separate organization.
posted by besonders at 9:18 AM on August 29, 2012

This is a big question. You might want to join or peruse the web site of the LGBT historical society geographically nearest to you. It is often said that lesbians and gay men became politically and socially close/closer during the most terrible years of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s and 1990s. On the other hand, there were "sex wars" (re pornography, re sex work, re BDSM) that split the lesbian world and that presumably alienated gay men as well as many lesbians.

A book I am reading now about some of this historical stuff is a collection of essays (some written years ago) by Gayle S. Rubin called Deviations.

I'm sure others will chime in with more recommendations.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 9:25 AM on August 29, 2012

You might be interested in reading more about the Lesbian Avengers. From wikipedia: "Newsweek reporter Eloise Salholz, covering the 1993 LGBT March on Washington, believed the Lesbian Avengers were so popular because they were founded at a moment when lesbians were increasingly tired of working on issues, like AIDS and abortion, while their own problems went unsolved. Most importantly, lesbians were frustrated with invisibility in society at large, and invisibility and misogyny in the LGBT community."
posted by valeries at 9:46 AM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

This is probably not as in-depth as what you are looking for, but this topic comes up in the AIDS documentary We Were Here. Several of the men who were interviewed talked about how lesbians had been marginalized/ignored by the male gay community in SF, until the advent of AIDS when lesbians stepped up en masse to take care of the dying men.
posted by cairdeas at 10:07 AM on August 29, 2012 [5 favorites]

Yes I came here to mention the We Were Here documentary, which ismavailableon Netflix Instant.
posted by onlyconnect at 2:13 PM on August 29, 2012

You might also take a look at Audre Lorde and bell hooks because they have both spent time on this.

bell hooks, in The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love - Most gay men are as sexist in their thinking as are heterosexuals. Their patriarchal thinking leads them to construct paradigms of desirable sexual behaviour that is similar to that of patriarchal straight men.

Audre Lorde, A Burst of Light: Essays by Audre Lorde - Who profits from lesbians beating each other? White men have been raised to believe that they’re God; most gay white men are marginal in only one respect. Much of the gay white movement seeks to be included in the American dream and is angered when they do not receive the standard white male privileges, misnamed as “American democracy.”

posted by cairdeas at 2:35 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

You might find George Chauncey's work useful, especially Gay New York. It's more about gay male communities than the interaction between gay and lesbian communities, but it's an important book and would probably provide some insight into your question.
posted by dizziest at 4:28 PM on August 29, 2012

Also, maybe Michael Warner's The Trouble with Normal, which is also not directly about what you ask, but is about the structure and theory of queer politics in the 20th century, and is a pretty quick read.
posted by dizziest at 4:31 PM on August 29, 2012

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