Antony Osborne is creating a chapter for us called “Being Myself”: Contrasting informational journeys dealing with representations of gay male identity in the 1970s and 2010s.
This chapter deals with the role of information from a variety of media in representing gay identities the 1970s. There was an identifiable need for information about health, social events, emotional issues, and not least dealing with family & friends. However, there was simply little information to be had. The library shelves demonstrated a dearth of materials and the social mores of the time prevented open discussion. The few representations in the media were often unflattering, be they either documentary, comedy or newspaper reportage. The lack of availability of literature contrasts with the burgeoning Gay Liberation Movement which was becoming active in the 1970s. In many senses the information available at the time was very much based on the medical/mental health model from the 1950s and 60s and reflected the same prejudices.
This is in stark contrast to the 2010s where, in the internet age, there is so much information available that it has become part of a lucrative niche market for those wishing to exploit the “pink pound”. The willingness of bookshops and libraries to host LGBT sections has brought a wide range of literature to its readers, but could this have contributed to information fatigue amongst its target audience? Certainly there is greater pressure to fit into one of the multiple gay identities that have emerged in the last 30 years and a growing culture of information avoidance that could have health impacts in later years.
This draws on personal experience, books and academic papers on the subject, but remains, at heart, a narrative.