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Capitalism and Gay Identity by D’Emilio and Berube


Capitalism plays a major role in the separation of people according to class and status. Gay identity puts individuals into a different social class. In this paper, the author will review the link between gay identity and capitalism from the perspective of two essays. The two are written by D’Emilio and Berube.

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Essays on Capitalism and Gay Identity

D’Emilio’s Essay

D’Emilio’s Opinion on the Existence of Gay Men and Lesbians

D’Emilio begins the essay by expressing the desire to counter the idea that gay people have existed for long in society. D’Emilio finds this idea appealing considering that the existence of gay people has a long history (100). The author argues that there was no history against which to ‘fashion’ the goals of this group in the 1960s (D’Emilio 105). The idea generates an exciting and appealing experience where the oppressed are fighting for their rights.

D’Emilio’s History of Capitalism and its Impact on Family Life

According to the author, capitalism involves private ownership of property. Young people in the 1970s could earn salaries and live comfortably (D’Emilio 108). Capitalism changed the structure and function of the nuclear family between the 17th and 19th centuries. Heterosexual relationships ‘thinned’ out as the society moved towards individualism (D’Emilio 108).

Race, Urban-Rural Systems, Homosexual Behaviors, and Gay Identity

Capitalism led to social alienation in society. The whites were mostly capitalists, while the blacks were workers (D’Emilio 107). The immigrants and the natives focused on their differences and formed socialization zones. The independence enjoyed by men enabled them to identify as homosexuals. Freedom and access to money are major determinants of personal choices and identities (D’Emilio 107). In an urban setup, there is freedom from family ties. Finding other gay people is easy and involves few risks. What this means is that homosexuality and gay identity are different.

The Relevance of D’Emilio’s Essay in the Modern Society

Over time, gays and lesbians have come out to fight for their rights (D’Emilio 104). However, some factors remain the same decades after D’Emilio wrote the essay. Sexual discrimination still exists in most parts of the world. As such, some people find it hard to embrace their ‘queerness’.

Berube’s Essay

Berube’s Penchant for Snapshots

Berube uses snapshots instead of linear arguments. The one that speaks the most to me is the one depicting a ship and a cook (Berube 260). It speaks of social differences in society. One of the major gains from the use of snapshots is the ability to showcase creativity and appeal to the visual senses of the reader. It creates a live image in the mind of the reader.

Gay Identity, Class Differences, and Capitalism as Depicted by D’Emilio and Berube

To some extent, the arguments made by the two authors are similar. Capitalism and class complement each other given that wealth lead to social differentiation (D’Emilio 107). The two elements make the life of LGBT individuals complicated. The complications arise when it comes to socialization.

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Berube’s Pull of Middleclassness

Berube describes ‘the pull of middle-classness’ by arguing that people in this class lead a comfortable life (261). According to Berube, the stewards form friendships and communicate in the coded language (261). The description matches my experience of class in the US. The reason is that in most cases, people in this country relate with each other depending on their social classes. For instance, people from the middle class are opinionated and enthusiastic about life. Most gays in this group are not scared of discrimination given their stable financial standing.


Social interaction is affected by several factors. They include capitalism and sexual orientation. The life of the LGBT community in the society is affected by, among others, their financial and social standings. As seen in the two essays analyzed in this paper, financial freedom makes it possible to embrace one’s sexuality.

Works Cited

Berube, Allan. My Desire for History: Essays in Gay, Community, and Labour History. The University of North Carolina Press, 2011.

D’Emilio, John. “Capitalism and Gay Identity.” Powers of Desire: The Politics of Sexuality, edited by Ann Snitow, Christine Stansell, and Sharon Thompson, Monthly Review Press, 1983, pp. 100-113.

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