Sexing the city : lesbian and gay municipal politics 1979-87
This thesis explores the relationship between local government and social change strategies. More specifically, it examines the series of highly contested attempts during the 1980s to deploy local government in order to challenge the discrimination and prejudice facing lesbians and gay men. Whilst, much of the effort was directed at making council services more responsive to lesbian and gay needs, a key aspect of the project concerned the transformation of dominant sexual meanings. Four questions provide a theoretical and empirical framework for this research. First, why did some local authorities address lesbian and gay issues? Second, how successful were they in doing so? Third, what factors constrained or limited their attempts? And fourth, why were lesbian and gay municipal initiatives so controversial? The first section of this thesis examines the reconstitution of lesbian and gay issues on the local government agenda, and the subsequent trajectory of their development within particular authorities. The thesis then goes on to examine the impact of bureaucratic processes and right-wing opposition on lesbian and gay municipal discourses. I argue that despite significant opposition to lesbian and gay policies, in general the right did not mobilise. The ideological steer within local government bureaucracy was usually sufficient to 'weed out' or dilute more progressive proposals. However, on occasions where this broke down, opposing forces intervened, both to obstruct lesbian and gay initiatives and to use the policies' existence to advance their own political agenda. The final part of this thesis draws together several key issues: the general absence of a more radical sexual politics; the crisis of implementation; the nature of opponents' attitudes towards homosexuality and local government; and the decline of lesbian and gay municipal politics post-1987. In the conclusion, I return to the question of local government's radical potential by proposing an alternative, decentred approach to municipal sexual politics. Methodologically, this thesis is eclectic drawing on several disciplinary areas in conjunction with a range of theoretical perspectives, particularly neo-marxism, feminism and poststructuralism. Field research comprises of interviews, mass media and local government documentation combined with my own experiences as an actor within the municipal lesbian and gay project. This thesis is intended to make a contribution to a theoretical understanding of municipal politics, especially to the relationship between local government, sexuality, ideology and social change. it also offers a detailed account and analysis of lesbian and gay municipal developments, one of the most controversial initiatives of the 1980s.