Long regarded as one of the leading intellectual lights of the continuing struggle for LGBTI equality around the world, renowned academic and author Dennis Altman will return to Sydney later this month to launch his provocative new memoir which attempts to reflect on changes in the queer world over the past four decades.
Having been at the forefront for gay rights and the global HIV response since his groundbreaking 1971 classic, Homosexual: Oppression and Liberation, Altman will be joined on Thursday, August 15 at The Midnight Shift by writer and journalist, Benjamin Law, and Independent Sydney MP Alex Greenwich to discuss his new work The End of the Homosexual?.
Part-memoir and part-social analysis, the book explores decades of cultural and political change in Australia and across the world from the days before the 1969 Stonewall Riots up until today; leading Altman to question whether we are nearing the end of the homosexual identity that gay liberationists predicted forty years ago.
“The danger of winning respectability is that with it comes a lack of critical perception, so that we become too eager to be integrated into the mainstream, not to ask whether it would be better to challenge the mainstream,” Altman tells the Star Observer this week.
“I’m all for changing the Marriage Act, but that’s because I want the same rights to reject the blessings of church and state available to heterosexual couples.”
He suggests the title of the book is as much a question about the past as it is about the future.
“The end of the homosexual both refers back to the utopian ideas of the early 1970s, when some of us saw the need for sexual identities to disappear in time,” he says. “And to the current reality, where identities multiply, but it is possible to be gay and for that not to be the central part of one’s identity.”
Now a Professorial Fellow in Human Security at Melbourne’s La Trobe University, Altman tells the Star Observer it is important for the LGBTI community in Australia to retain an international outlook and continue fighting for equal rights in countries like Russia, where recently introduced new laws make it a criminal offence to discuss LGBTI issues in public or the media.
“I would really like to see a widespread campaign to boycott the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia because the Russian government has threatened to arrest lesbian and gay athletes and spectators,” he says.
“I’m not usually a great advocate of sanctions, but this case seems to me pretty clear cut.”
INFO: Dennis Altman will be in conversation with writer Benjamin Law and Sydney MP Alex Greenwich from 6pm, Thursday, August 15 at Level One, Midnight Shift, Darlinghurst. Enquiries to The Bookshop Darlinghurst at firstname.lastname@example.org or 02 9331 1103.