Capitalism Made Gay Identity Possible. Now We Must Destroy Capitalism.

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08/15/2020

Gay identity became possible thanks to capitalism’s emancipatory side: its liberation of the individual from material dependence on the family. But that sexual freedom wasn’t automatic — it required decades of militant struggle. Today, we need more such struggles to combat the oppressive aspects of capitalism, which keep gay and straight people alike from living fully free lives. John D’Emilio wrote the first draft of “Capitalism and Gay Identity” in 1979. Originally delivered as a speech and later published as an essay, the ideas in it were informed partly by D’Emilio’s intensive political self-education in a gay men’s Marxist reading group in the years between Stonewall and the AIDS crisis. Gay activists diligently studying Marx’s Capital together has not necessarily been a frequent occurrence throughout American history, but phenomena of this type did occur more frequently during a few years in the seventies, when activists briefly understood anti-capitalism to be a self-evident component of gay liberation.

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