Contested Minority Identity and the Religious Right
Chapter 5 analyzes the third “moment” of the gay movement in the United States: the embattled gay rights movement and its subsequent embrace of a decentered and contested minority identity from approximately 1983 to 1999. This period witnessed a backlash to the movement led by the Religious Right that reintroduced a discourse of immoral practices and a “not born that way” logic to those attacks. It also witnessed internal challenges over the salience and meaning of a minoritized gay identity by individuals marginalized by the mainstream movement. These features of the movement and the contested identity constructed by it emerged in the context of the erosion of the social contract between capital and labor and the manifold changes in political economy that accompanied that erosion. Economic inequalities grew both in the dominant society and in the lesbian and gay community. These inequalities bred anxieties, and business elites joined with the Religious Right to channel those anxieties onto already vulnerable groups. In response, the movement “circled the wagon” around its minority identity to thwart these challenges, even as internal challenges–such as a new queer movement–were disrupting these efforts. The chapter analyzes these developments through the lens of the movement’s response to the AIDS epidemic.