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How to Be Gayby David M Halperin
Synopses & Reviews
No one raises an eyebrow if you suggest that a guy who arranges his furniture just so, rolls his eyes in exaggerated disbelief, likes techno music or show tunes, and knows all of Bette Davis's best lines by heart might, just possibly, be gay. But if you assert that male homosexuality is a cultural practice, expressive of a unique subjectivity and a distinctive relation to mainstream society, people will immediately protest. Such an idea, they will say, is just a stereotype-ridiculously simplistic, politically irresponsible, and morally suspect. The world acknowledges gay male culture as a fact but denies it as a truth.
David Halperin, a pioneer of LGBTQ studies, dares to suggest that gayness is a specific way of being that gay men must learn from one another in order to become who they are. Inspired by the notorious undergraduate course of the same title that Halperin taught at the University of Michigan, provoking cries of outrage from both the right-wing media and the gay press, How To Be Gay traces gay men's cultural difference to the social meaning of style.
Far from being deterred by stereotypes, Halperin concludes that the genius of gay culture resides in some of its most despised features: its aestheticism, snobbery, melodrama, adoration of glamour, caricatures of women, and obsession with mothers. The insights, impertinence, and unfazed critical intelligence displayed by gay culture, Halperin argues, have much to offer the heterosexual mainstream.
"Rather than the how-to guide his title suggests, Halperin (Saint Foucault), a professor of the history and theory of sexuality at the University of Michigan — Ann Arbor, offers a response to the controversy surrounding a class he taught there in 2000. While conservatives charged Halperin with 'initiating' straight students into a new sexual orientation, some gay rights advocates saw him as reinforcing hurtful stereotypes. This long-delayed answer proves to be not a polemic but an attempt to unpack his basic observation that there's far more to gay male American identity than a same-sex preference. Halperin interprets gayness through traditional pop culture preoccupations like golden age Hollywood, opera, and Broadway musicals, focusing on Joan Crawford (in particular her role in Mildred Pierce) and Faye Dunaway's notoriously over-the-top portrayal of the star in Mommie Dearest. Identifying the source of the camp appeal exerted by these ostensibly serious films, Halperin asks why gay men continue to be drawn to coded representations of their experience. He arrives at an apologia for such clichÃ©d signposts of gayness in an era of domestic partnerships and Born This Way. Halperin persuasively defuses charges of misogyny lobbed against gay male culture, but may alienate some by too narrowly defining his vision of what that culture should be. Nonetheless, this book should appeal to specialists and general readers alike with its academically rigorous but accessible argument." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
A pioneer of LGBTQ studies dares to suggest that gayness is a way of being that gay men must learn from one another to become who they are. The genius of gay culture resides in some of its most despised stereotypes--aestheticism, snobbery, melodrama, glamour, caricatures of women, and obsession with mothers--and in the social meaning of style.
Finalist, 2013 Lambda Literary Award, LGBT Studies
Finalist, 2012 Randy Shilts Award for Gay Nonfiction, Publishing Triangle
About the Author
David M. Halperin is W. H. Auden Distinguished University Professor of the History and Theory of Sexuality at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
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