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Gay


Gay Men: A Distinctive Subculture

Gay men have established a distinctive subculture. Whereas the gay subculture in the United States and elsewhere has been in existence for some time, the AIDS epidemic that began in the early 1980s has particularly propelled it into the limelight.

In recent years, this subculture has come under increased scrutiny by both the general public and scholars in the social sciences and humanities.

Indeed, gay scholars are among the leading figures in an interdisciplinary field now referred to as Gay Studies. This field of research and cultural commentary often takes on a social constructivist perspective, which is sometimes referred to as "queer theory".

Intentional use of terms like "queer" or "faggot" within the gay subculture reflects an effort to assert self-acceptance and deny the derision and rejection suffered by homosexuals in mainstream or "straight" society. Gay Pride marches are an expression of the effort among gays to affirm (both to themselves and to non-gays) their right to be gay and their pride and acceptance of their sexual orientation and various subcultural "scenes" (i.e., diverse recreational and lifestyle subgroups).

While scholars, many of them gay, have given increased attention to the white gay subculture, the gay subculture among persons of color has received comparatively little attention.

The Gay Social Network

The gay community consists of numerous social and cultural institutions, including social and political clubs, community centers, businesses, book stores, publications and other media, cafes, bars, other recreation and vacation institutions, social support and therapy groups, an extensive health education and service structure, and geographically-bounded neighborhoods. It also includes social networks and groups, as well as families or married couples. Because of their stigmatized sexual orientation, gays and lesbians often choose to socialize with each other in a variety of public places, such as bars and cafes.

Due to strong patterns of homophobic or anti-gay discrimination in small cities and rural areas, gays tend to move to and form identifiable communities in large and, to a lesser degree, medium-sized cities.

In the 12 largest U.S. cities, studies have found that 16 percent of individuals report some level of same-gender attraction or desire, and 9 percent report that they are gay or bisexual, compared to 7.5 percent and 1 percent respectively in rural areas. San Francisco, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles appear to have the largest concentrations of gays in the United States.

Within these and other urban centers, gays often choose to reside in specific neighborhoods such as the Castro District in San Francisco, Greenwich Village in New York, West Los Angeles, and New Town in Chicago. Neighborhoods with a high percentage of gay residents are sometimes referred to as "gay ghettos" or "gay-friendly".

Gays have historically constituted a stigmatized social category in U.S. society. In most states and cities a gay person can legally be denied housing, employment, and public accommodations simply because of his sexual orientation. In response, many gays have created organizations that seek to further their rights, in much the same manner that African Americans and other ethnic minorities did during the 1950s and 1960s and women did during the 1970s and 1980s.


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