Friday, April 8, 2011

Boucai reviews Fejes, "Gay Rights and Moral Panic"

Catching up on my reading, I came across this review, from the Winter 2010 issue of the Journal of Social History: Fred Fejes, Gay Rights and Moral Panic: The Origins of America's Debate on Homosexuality (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008).

Here's an excerpt from the review, by Michael Boucai (UCLA Law):

Between the Stonewall riots of 1969 and the outbreak of AIDS in the early 1980s, the gay movement in the United States achieved a number of successes. More than thirty municipalities and over a dozen large corporations banned discrimination against gay people; the first openly gay politicians were elected to public office; and the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its manual of mental disorders. Rut it was a resounding defeat of gay rights that marked the movement's coming-of-age.

In 1977, singer and horn-again Christian Anita Bryant successfully led a campaign in Dade County, Florida, to repeal an ordinance prohibiting discrimination on the basis of "sexual preference." Fixating on a single context--classrooms--Bryant's organization, called "Save Our Children," framed the law as an endorsement of immorality and a license for homosexual "recruitment." Dade County's gay activists, divided between the sexual-liberationist Miami Victory Campaign and the liberal Coalition for Human Rights, proved no match for Save Our Children, whose rhetoric capitalized on the public's deep antipathy to homosexuality and its profound ignorance of actual homosexuals.

Other than Bryant's own memoir, rushed to publication months after her victory, (1) Fred Fejes' Gay Rights and Moral Panic (2008) is the first book devoted primarily to this pivotal moment in American history. Let us hope that it is not the last.

The full text of the review is available here.

Hat tip: bookforum