chapter  3
30 Pages

The Homophile Movement and the Making of a Psychiatric Collective Identity

WithStephen Valocchi

Chapter 3 analyzes the first of four “moments” of the movement in the United States: the homophile movement and its embrace of a psychiatric collective identity. The homophile movement focused on psychological health, discretion and middle-class respectability from approximately 1953–1968. The chapter argues that these features emerged out of the contradictions of monopoly and reform capitalism in the first half of the 20thcentury. Monopoly capitalism generated gender and class anxieties around the expression of same-sex desire among a middle class that felt threatened by a growing working class on the one hand and by its loss of power in workplace structures by corporate elites on the other hand. As a response, it embraced a definition of sexuality advanced by psychiatrists defined by object choice rather than gender performance but sought to “reverse the discourse” surrounding it. The reform capitalism in the 1920s addressed these class, gender and sexual anxieties as part of its larger agenda of rationalizing capitalism: solving production problems, controlling labor and maintaining public order. Activist middle-class reformers in these “rationalizing” efforts were among the founding members of the homophile organizations.