A Supreme Court lawyer and
political pundit details the enthralling
and groundbreaking story of the gay
rights movement, revealing how a
dedicated and resourceful minority
changed America forever.
When the modern struggle for gay rights erupted—most notably at a bar called Stonewall in Greenwich Village—in the summer of 1969, most religious traditions condemned homosexuality; psychiatric experts labeled people who were attracted to others of the same sex “crazy”; and forty-nine states outlawed sex between people of the same gender. Four decades later, in June 2011, New York legalized gay marriage—the most populous state in the country to do so thus far. The armed services stopped enforcing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, ending a law that had long discriminated against gay and lesbian members of the military. Successful social movements are always extraordinary, but these advances were something of a miracle.
Political columnist Linda Hirshman recounts the intertwined events that led to these victories, viewing the gay rights movement within the tradition of American freedom as the third great modern social-justice movement, alongside the civil rights movement and the women’s rights movement. Drawing on an abundance of published and archival material, and hundreds of in-depth interviews, Hirshman shows, in this astute political analysis, how the fight for gay rights has changed the American landscape for all citizens—blurring rigid gender lines, altering the shared culture, and broadening our definitions of family.
From the Communist cross-dresser Harry Hay in 1948 to the visionary senator Kirsten Gillibrand from New York in 2010, the story includes dozens of brilliant, idiosyncratic characters. Written in vivid prose, at once emotional and erudite, Victory is an utterly vibrant work of reportage and eyewitness accounts, revealing how, in a matter of decades, while facing every social adversary—church, state, and medical establishment—a focused group of activists forged a classic campaign for cultural change that will serve as a model for all future political movements.
Advance Praise for
V I C T O R Y
“Victory is the chronicle that the brilliant, unremitting gay movement deserves. Deeply informed with human detail, political theory, and legal analysis alike, it moves fluidly out of the closet an in to the precincts—Washington, the Pentagon, the courts, the laboratories—where the world has been changed, changed utterly. A genuine, sparkling tour de force.”
author of Occupy Nation
“Before he died, gay rights hero Arthur Evans told Linda Hirshman to tell our story. And she does so brilliantly—with insight, passion, and the keen eye of a fierce social scientist. And what a story it is! In Victory we come to discover that the decades-long fight for gay rights is a quintessentially American quest for human dignity, one filled with drama, heartbreak, intrigue, perseverance, and, ultimately, triumph. Arthur Evans would be proud.”
author of Making Gay History and What If Someone I Know Is Gay?
“Victory tells the fascinating inside story of how gay activists changed America for the better, not just for themselves but for everyone. There’s inspiration here for anyone who wants a fairer, more equal society—and plenty of hope as well.”
—KATHA POLLITT, The Nation columnist
“I picked this book up one night and never got to sleep. Victory is an epic account of our movement’s progress; a beautifully written and fast-moving narrative that is poignant, humorous, and inspiring.”
founder of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt
“Linda Hirshman is at her fiery best as she weaves her controversial argument about how the gay rights movement succeeded where others stalled. A compulsively readable mix of philosophy, social history, and journalism.”
author of Big Girls Don’t Cry
“Linda Hirshman has written an important and necessary book that should be read in every school and every home in the country.”
—DR. AMANDA FOREMAN,
author of A World on Fire