Becoming visible : gay identity and visual justice
This research explores the notion of visual justice in relation to questions of gay identity and gay visibility. It looks at the relationship between gay identity and visual justice because the homosexual experience of social exclusion and discrimination is often described as a form of social invisibility and gay identity politics can be seen as a struggle to obtain public visibility. Moreover, it argues that in late-capitalist or spectacular societies, social dynamics connected to visual matters and regimes of visuality have increasing salience, and the lack of visual representations and/or misrepresentation of gays in mainstream culture and society is a form of injustice that needs to be seriously addressed. This thesis analyses and critically questions the relationship between gay identity and forms of visibility. To study these issues the thesis considers the media event produced by the broadcast of the first entirely gay TV drama Queer as Folk. The programme's explicit visions of gayness triggered a heated public debate on questions of gay visibility. Some viewers saw it as an obscene programme which was rendering public matters that were better kept 'private', whilst some others welcomed it as an example of a more democratic widening of the representational arena, and as a symptom of greater social inclusion and acceptance of gays in mainstream culture and society. By examining and evaluating the public discourses around Queer as Folk this research articulates a wider sociological investigation into the relationship between gay identity and the representational field. It aims to gain an understanding of social inclusion and social justice in visually mass mediated societies. It interrogates current visions of social justice based on the opposition of symbolic and material social processes and challenges the separation of recognitive and redistributive claims for justice. It assesses risks and potentials of representational visibility, imagining new visions of democracy.