How to Be Gay

How to Be Gay

Book - 2012
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No one raises an eyebrow if you suggest that a guy who arranges his furniture just so, rolls his eyes in exaggerated disbelief, likes techno music or show tunes, and knows all of Bette Davis's best lines by heart might, just possibly, be gay. But if you assert that male homosexuality is a cultural practice, expressive of a unique subjectivity and a distinctive relation to mainstream society, people will immediately protest. Such an idea, they will say, is just a stereotype-ridiculously simplistic, politically irresponsible, and morally suspect. The world acknowledges gay male culture as a fact but denies it as a truth.

David Halperin, a pioneer of LGBTQ studies, dares to suggest that gayness is a specific way of being that gay men must learn from one another in order to become who they are. Inspired by the notorious undergraduate course of the same title that Halperin taught at the University of Michigan, provoking cries of outrage from both the right-wing media and the gay press, "How To Be Gay" traces gay men's cultural difference to the social meaning of style.

Far from being deterred by stereotypes, Halperin concludes that the genius of gay culture resides in some of its most despised features: its aestheticism, snobbery, melodrama, adoration of glamour, caricatures of women, and obsession with mothers. The insights, impertinence, and unfazed critical intelligence displayed by gay culture, Halperin argues, have much to offer the heterosexual mainstream.

Publisher: Cambridge, Mass. : Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2012
ISBN: 9780674066793
0674066790
Branch Call Number: 306.7662 H1952h 2012
Characteristics: viii, 549 p. : ill. ; 25 cm

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QueenBoadicea Aug 30, 2015

Unfortunately named after his class, Mr. Halperin was stuck with a book whose title makes it seem like a primer about all things homosexual. It is but it isn’t—a contradiction much like homosexuality itself. Using Joan Crawford’s Oscar-winning role in “Mildred Pierce” as inspiration and springboard, Mr. Halperin attempts to lay out the implications of homosexuality, the significance, usage and need for campiness, drag queens, for adoration of all things considered suspect and not-quite manly. He ruminates ruefully on how other people thought they could teach his class better than he could because—even though he himself was gay—he just wasn’t “gay enough”. So what did that even mean? Was he the homosexual equivalent of an Oreo cookie? What constitutes gayness (Gaiety? Gayhood?)? Mr. Halperin dug into the subject with all the seriousness of a dedicated educator. While the prose is dense, almost heavy at times with sesquipedalianism, each chapter engagingly explores a different aspect of homosexuality, its impact on the world and the world’s impact on it. Dating, politics, socializing, dress, manners, culture, subculture—all come in for scrutiny under Mr. Halperin’s probing eye. It’s a serious book and not meant for instruction (it’s nothing like “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy”). It reads like it’s part of his class and therefore not something meant to be breezed through like a comic book. If you ever wanted a serious look at homosexuality—its past, present and possible future—this book is a good place to start.

FindingJane Aug 30, 2015

Unfortunately named after his class, Mr. Halperin was stuck with a book whose title makes it seem like a primer about all things homosexual. It is but it isn’t—a contradiction much like homosexuality itself. Using Joan Crawford’s Oscar-winning role in “Mildred Pierce” as inspiration and springboard, Mr. Halperin attempts to lay out the implications of homosexuality, the significance, usage and need for campiness, drag queens, for adoration of all things considered suspect and not-quite manly. He ruminates ruefully on how other people thought they could teach his class better than he could because—even though he himself was gay—he just wasn’t “gay enough”. So what did that even mean? Was he the homosexual equivalent of an Oreo cookie? What constitutes gayness (Gaiety? Gayhood?)? Mr. Halperin dug into the subject with all the seriousness of a dedicated educator. While the prose is dense, almost heavy at times with sesquipedalianism, each chapter engagingly explores a different aspect of homosexuality, its impact on the world and the world’s impact on it. Dating, politics, socializing, dress, manners, culture, subculture—all come in for scrutiny under Mr. Halperin’s probing eye. It’s a serious book and not meant for instruction (it’s nothing like “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy”). It reads like it’s part of his class and therefore not something meant to be breezed through like a comic book. If you ever wanted a serious look at homosexuality—its past, present and possible future—this book is a good place to start.

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