How to be Gay

Adam Mars-Jones writes:

David Halperin’s new book, How to Be Gay, addresses the mysterious persistence of discredited elements from pre-Stonewall gay male culture. In theory camp should have been rendered obsolete by the arrival of models of gay behaviour not driven by the old toxic blend of shame and defiance, but there are still careers to be made from the man-sized frock and the killer putdown. Halperin’s argument is that these oddly resilient practices need to be looked at closely rather than swept under the carpet (relegated to gay liberation’s own closet, as he sees it). It is a rather unsettled book, written by a gifted thinker and writer who has come to see that there is not just a political and sexual gay culture (its foundational event the rioting outside the Stonewall Inn in 1969), based on gay identity rather than sensibility, but also a non-sexual gay culture, based on modes of feeling and expressive artefacts.

(LRB 22 November 2012)

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