Capitalism and Gay Identity

Capitalism and Gay Identity

Lildrummrgurl7 Lildrummrgurl7
Today in my Queer Studies class, we read and analyzed John D'Emilio's essay "Capitalism and Gay Identity". If you've never read it, D'Emilio argues that capitalism has created a social space for a gay identity. Prior to a capitalist economy, the family unit was so important to survival (family members needed to work on farm, etc.) and sexuality was used for procreation. Any other sexual expressions were seen as deviant. While homosexual acts took place, there was no social space for a homosexual identity because a heterosexual family unit was the basis, more or less, of the economy. When the capitalist economy became popular, individuals were free to work outside of the home and sell their labor, the family unit lost it's importance and a social space for a homosexual identity was created.

"...capitalism continually weakens the material foundation of family life, making it possible for individuals to live outside the family, and for a lesbian and gay identity to develop. On the other hand, it needs to push men and women into families, at least long enough to reproduce the next generation of workers. The elevation of the family is ideological preeminence guarantees that capitalist society will reproduce not just children, but heterosexism and homophobia. In the most profound sense, capitalism is the problem." (Capitalism and Gay Identity, D'Emilio)

Anybody have any thoughts on this? I found this essay very interesting, it's not a connection I've ever drawn before. I'm curious to hear what you guys have to say.
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Lildrummrgurl7 Lildrummrgurl7
Awww man, no takers? No one wants to begin a lively theoretical discussion with me?
Ansley Ansley
That is quite the interesting argument. I have a few of my own on what capitalism has done to the nuclear family in general. One being that the housing market is probably one of the sole reasons American families have to have two working parents in order to support the American dream.

But, that's not what you, sure the argument is very valid. Whether we want to address this as a good thing or a bad thing really depends on which side of the arguments you sit.

Pro-capitalism and anti-gay? Well, boy aren't you screwed?

Pro-gay and anti-capitalism...yeah that's not a win-win, either.

Pro-gay, pro-capitalism? SCORE!
Khanner Khanner
You should read "The Myth of Heterosexuality." It talks about how the labels of homosexual and heterosexual came about in our culture.

Basically, at the turn of the century, Freudian psychology began to demonize same-sex relationships. At the time, it was quite possible to have a family and a gay lover (or lovers) on the side without it being considered too much like adultery. It is also common to have gay lovers in adolescence before you have marriage thrust upon you, which is where Freud got the idea that it's "immature" behavior.

What you have to remember about the original practice of marriage is that it is a means to an end for reproduction, and a legitimization of patriarchal fatherhood. If you refused to carry out your family line, you became a pariah. Sometimes you even had no control at all whether you were married. He has a good point in that the leisure that capitalism brought to the middle class "modernized" love by separating it from the large families that were no longer needed.

The notion that marriage is the ultimate expression of true love is very modern. Under this modern definition of love, gay relationships are legitimized in such a way that being married AND having a gay lover does not jive with monogamy. Ignoring individual orientations for sexual attraction, separation from the need of a family makes the choice of a same-sex life partner as practical as an opposite-sex life partner. I think this is the mindset that the author is coming from.
Happenstance Happenstance
Capitalism commercialized our Pride parades and celebrations and protests and made them about money and companies and sponsors instead of us. It also made the mainstream "gay" movement extremely narrow-- appealing only to white, middle and upper-class gay men by focusing on issues like marriage equality instead of the lack of safety or consideration for trans* people of color or the abuse of elderly LGBT people in nursing homes, or how more than 33% of homeless youth are queer. Capitalism did the white, gay movement a ton of favors. It does nothing for the rest of us.
thisisadeletedaccount thisisadeletedaccount
Originally posted by Happenstance
Capitalism commercialized our Pride parades and celebrations and protests and made them about money and companies and sponsors instead of us. It also made the mainstream "gay" movement extremely narrow-- appealing only to white, middle and ...
I don't have much to add, I just wanted to provide some applause for your concise and eloquent post. *claps enthusiastically*
ToyGeek ToyGeek
There have been many cultures throughout history that have included homosexuality in different ways -- those most dependent on nuclear families were less likely to include homosexuality as an identity over an activity, but it wasn't always stigmatized. And in some societies, being born homosexual or genderqueer set one apart as having a special position in the community. Then there's always the arrangement in Papua New Guinea, where men sleep with their wives only to procreate -- and rarely, and sleep with men the rest of the time. Heterosexuality is considered more taboo than homosexuality, and what makes that culture interesting is that it seems to be a response to a need for population control.
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