Gay Voluntary Associations in New York
Public Sharing and Private Lives
Publication Year: 2014
Gay Voluntary Associations in New York is a sensitive and insightful ethnography of social groups that have gathered around common interests in an urban LGBT population from the time of the AIDS crisis to the present. Anthropologist Moshe Shokeid examines the social discourse surrounding sex, love, friendship, and spiritual life in which these communities are passionately engaged.
Drawn from long-term anthropological research in New York City, Gay Voluntary Associations in New York uses participant observation to explore such diverse social associations and religious organizations as seniors groups, interracials, bisexuals, sexual compulsives, gay bears, and Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish gay congregations. As an outside observer—neither gay nor American-born—Shokeid observes the social discourse within these voluntary associations from a critical vantage point. In addition to the personal information and intimate expressions of empathy freely shared in the company of strangers at social gatherings, some individual stories and experiences are woven into the narrative to illustrate the existential conditions and emotional template of gay life in the city. Shokeid's nuanced portrait of the affective relationships within these groups offers deeper comprehension of the social dynamics and emotional realities of gay urban communities in the United States.
Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press
In the early 1980s my family and I lived in Queens, New York, where I studied the Israeli immigrant community, nicknamed Yordim (Hebrew for “those who go down”; singular, Yored). I found that the Israelis there were reluctant to admit that their relocation to the United States was more than temporary. As a result, they organized nostalgic get-togethers...
1. The Anthropologist in the Field of Sexuality
The study of gay people inevitably involves a consideration of the ethnographer’s engagement with issues of sexuality, the major indicator of his/her subjects’ social identity. Moreover, it calls attention to the observer’s own comportment in this field of behavior. That topic naturally reminds us of the turmoil...
2. Concealments and Revelations in Ethnographic Research
I wrote this chapter in a state of emotional anxiety, but also one of great relief. It relates to the relationship with one of my closest informants/friends, Jeff, whom I had met at CBST twenty years earlier. He assumed the role of a dedicated guide and taught me about the inner life of gay men and their popular sex venues. Although in a very different ethnographic world...
3. The Regretless Seniors
I begin my presentation of the organizations I observed at the Center with the SAGE group (Senior Action in Gay Environment). They appeared on the list of the daily activities I saw at the reception desk when I first entered the building and began my regular observations at that site. The participants defined themselves as the younger membership cohort...
4. Attending Meetings of Sexual Compulsives Anonymous
The idea of strangers gathering to share their sexual difficulties and help each other reform their “distorted” sexual behavior might seem bizarre to the mainstream person. Surprise often meets my mention of the Sexual Compulsives Anonymous (SCA) meetings I observed in New York. Straight and gay people alike seem to assume that sexual troubles...
5. In the Company of the Bisexual Circle
I was equally attracted to the Sunday and other meetings of a group of bisexuals, men and women, who also carried out their activities at the Center. Throughout my six-month association with the bisexual group, I was continuously puzzled by the participants’ “true” sexual identity. My joining in that group offered me the unexpected opportunity...
6. The Interracial Gay Men’s Association
The membership of Men of All Colors Together (MACT), an interracial association, also gathered once a week. However, its meetings on a weekend evening and at a later hour (8:00 p.m.) enhanced the potentialities of that group as a site for sociability and entertainment. The participants, by and large, almost equally represented...
7. The Gentle Men’s Circle
It was by default that I first attended a meeting at the Gentle Men’s association. One Friday evening I went to the Center to attend a MACT meeting (Chapter 6). As I entered and checked out the location of the group, I noticed on the list of activities for the day a meeting of Gentle Men scheduled for the same time. I had seen the name before and assumed...
8. Cuddling with Gay Bears
Only at a later stage of my association with the Center did I attend a meeting of the Metro Bears New York. My participant observations among that organization were more limited than those among the other groups presented in previous chapters. However, the Bears, who have been the subject of inquiry by distinguished researchers...
9. Listening to the Sermons in Gay Congregations
Observers of gay life have revealed in recent years a new field of social activities and spiritual engagements among gays and lesbians occupied in a search for their lost roots in major world denominations or in recently established innovative religious congregations...
10. Talking Sex, Imagining Love
In a volume edited by William Leap, old and new studies of anonymous gay sex detail a plethora of “public sex” venues, indoor and outdoor spaces including parks, beaches, rest areas, rest rooms (“tearooms”), bathhouses, back rooms in bars, video stores, and locker rooms. In his introduction, Leap presented the query that has occupied queer discourse...
Afterword: Negotiating Gay Subjectivity
The ethnographic chapters in this book have offered a view of gay life through the lens of an alien anthropologist who came to conduct ethnographic research in the metropolis of New York. I envisioned a project not much different from studies I had done before: in communities or organizations clearly demarcated within a visible space...
I have been working on this project for nearly fifteen years. The fieldwork took place during my sabbatical leaves from Tel Aviv University and on other stays in the United States as a visitor and research fellow at various academic institutions. I started to write up some of my observations during my 1997 sojourn at the University of Iowa...
Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2014
OCLC Number: 896893738
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Gay Voluntary Associations in New York