Safer Sex: Gay Politics and the Remaking of Liberalism in Seattle, 1966-1995
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This dissertation examines the City of Seattle’s incorporation gay politics during the late twentieth century and its effects. City officials recognized moderate, respectable white middle-class gay activists as worthy of inclusion in their efforts to promote Seattle as a liberal, inclusive place. However, the inclusion and promotion of liberal gay politics justified and facilitated criminalizing different populations and advanced capitalist development in the post-civil rights era. Liberal gay politics were safer for city officials to embrace than racial or economic justice, which would have required sustained commitment of public resources and/or a fundamental restructuring of society and the political economy, and queer politics calling for institutional change and broad changes in social and cultural attitudes about sexuality were marginalized as moderate gay activists gained state recognition. City officials rewarded gay men and lesbians who kept their sexual behaviors and practices hidden from public view and prosecuted those who did not. The promotion of “safe sex” in the context of the AIDS epidemic challenged efforts to hide overt sexuality from public view and discourse, requiring a public recognition of queer male-male sexual practices to effectively combat the disease. However, as gay residents who emulated white, middle-class heterosexual norms gained recognition, the city expanded the policing of “deviant” forms of sexuality. Thus, late twentieth-century liberals’ inclusion of some diversity perpetuated and expanded state violence and economic hardship on others.
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