Politic-ing the Body: The Aesthetics of Masculinity During Gay Liberation, 1971-1987
My manuscript is based on my doctoral dissertation, “Pin the Macho on the Man”: Portrayals of Gay Male Masculinity as a “style” in Toronto’s The Body Politic, 1971-1987. My dissertation was successfully defended in January 2018 and was accepted without revisions. This book is currently under contract with University of Toronto Press.
In its manuscript form, my book nuances our understanding of gay liberation by emphasizing the pervasive white able-bodied privilege within gay activism and how that contributed to the fragmentation of gay liberation. Using The Body Politic (TBP) as a vehicle for larger cultural anxieties around gender, sexuality, ability, race, and desire in the LGBT community, this manuscript is the first to show the slow unravelling of a unified image of gay liberation over the course of the 1970s and 1980s through the lens of aesthetics and “queer style.” This book challenges the progressive narrative around activist periodicals by situating gay liberation within an equally pervasive and important culture of aesthetics and desire.
Published in Canada from 1971 to 1987, TBP was the largest gay and lesbian newspaper in Canada, and one read transnationally in Western Europe and North America. TBP not only shaped the political landscape of gay liberation in North America but also mediated understandings and assumptions around gay male masculinity. I argue that TBP was a catalyst in reinforcing and destabilizing manifestations of gay male masculinity and the dressing of the body (up or down) as part of a stylistic presentation of gender. Using Adam Geczy and Vicki Karaminas’s concept of “queer style”, whereby heteronormative understandings of gender and sexuality are challenged through aesthetics and the comportment of the body, this book explores the issues and challenges around the visualization and stylization of masculinity faced by Canadian gay liberationists, particularly those working for TBP. More specifically, this book examines the ways in which discourses of masculinity in TBP simultaneously fuelled and challenged the creation of a hypersexualized white “macho clone,” the inscription of colonial values of effeminacy or hypermasculinity on racialized bodies, and the marginalization of disabled bodies and bodies debilitated by AIDS that did not “perform” a sexualized idea of masculinity.