Gay identity became possible thanks to capitalism’s emancipatory side: its liberation of the individual from material dependence on the family. But that sexual freedom wasn’t automatic — it required decades of militant struggle. Today, we need more such struggles to combat the oppressive aspects of capitalism, which keep gay and straight people alike from living fully free lives.
John D'Emilio is a professor emeritus of history and of women's and gender studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is the author of several books including Lost Prophet: The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin and Sexual Politics, Sexual Communities: The Making of a Homosexual Minority in the United States, 1940–1970.