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Virtual Equality: The Mainstreaming of Gay and Lesbian Liberation Paperback – May 1, 1996

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; Second Printing edition (May 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385472994
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385472999
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.1 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #720,945 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Virtual Equality: The Mainstreaming Of Gay And Lesbian Liberation is the amazing story of the gay and lesbian community's transformation from a hidden minority into a visible presence in the American mainstream. Urvashi Vaid has produced a powerful history of gay America's struggle for equality as well as an inspiring manifesto of visionary politics and hard-earned pragmatism. "Virtual equality" means gays enjoy access to power, but no real power; can pay taxes, but not expect the government to protect them; can be visible, but vulnerable to discrimination and violence. With insights from her years of activism, Vaid reasons that the struggle between assimilation and liberation has roadblocked the gay movement for years and that virtual equality represents the limits of mainstreaming. Guided by an inclusive moral vision , yet grounded by realpolitik, Vaid challenges the gay community to face the forces that divide it and begin the work necessary to achieve genuine equality with the rest of America. -- Midwest Book Review

From the Publisher

Since the decade to lift the ban on gays in the military, the emergence of gay conservatives, and the onslaught of antigay initiatives across America, the gay and lesbian community has been asking itself tough questions: Where should the movement go? What do we want? In Virtual Equality, veteran activist Urvashi Vaid tackles these questions with a unique combination of visionary politics and hard-earned pragmatism.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Steve Sanders on January 4, 2002
Format: Paperback
Vaid, an activist, lawyer, and former head of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, provides an ambitious and richly detailed analysis that is equal parts memoir, critique, and manifesto. For Vaid, the "mainstreaming" of the gay rights movement hasn't been a good thing. She questions how much the prevailing paradigm of gay political activism -- the seeking of legal rights and protections by working within the traditional political and judicial systems -- has actually achieved. Vaid worries that the movement will be co-opted by money and a desire for "insider" access. She argues passionately that gays and lesbians, as well as other sexual minorities, must work in coalition with other progressive groups to "supplement the limited politics of civil rights with a broader and more inclusive commitment to cultural transformation."
Vaid's style tends to be chatty and the chapters a little long-winded, though she is always sincere. Her book will resonate most with academic/queer/left types who are persuaded that gays and lesbians form a distinctive subculture in search of "liberation," a subculture united not merely by sexual expression but also by shared sensibilities, political outlook, and experience of oppression. It will be less impressive to those who believe gays should (or already do) exist largely in the mainstream, or to those who suspect that writers like Vaid talk the language of radical democracy while prescribing a specific political and cultural agenda. (Readers in search of lively debate can read Vaid as counterpoint or antidote to the work of Bruce Bawer and Andrew Sullivan, or vice versa.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By amy tindal on March 19, 2000
Format: Paperback
this book is the most honest, inspiring, bold detailing of the gay and lesbian movement's successes and failures. vaid never tiptoes around sensitive or controversial topics, even her own actions. not only does she offer her well-researched, expert critique, but she also provides challenging, intelligent alternative/revised suggestions to improve the current strategy/ies. she makes the crucial point that many people don't want to face: ACCESS DOES NOT EQUAL PROGRESS. gains within legal and political arenas are very beneficial, but if we stop here then the absurd socio-cultural construct deeming queers (and all marginalized groups) inferior, which is the very root of discrimination, goes unscathed. bottom line....for anyone believing in the inherent equality of human beings on every level--cultural, social, political, economic, etc., it is absolutely essential to diligently study this book. Urvashi Vaid is an amazing person who has immersed her life in the battle for the liberation of the disenfranchised. her brilliance, effort and honesty are undeniable within this unabashed, uncloseted book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Marla R. Stevens on May 4, 2005
Format: Paperback
If, like Rex Wockner recently did, you find yourself struck with the sudden realization that we aren't quite as well situated with the American public as the popularity of Will and Grace might lead one to believe and that, in the secrecy of the voting booth, the real anti-gay America is raising its ugly head past that glossy veneer of tolerance in state after state, you should read this book that a decade ago warned us against being content with simple mainstreaming into a corrupt social structure that had all the cornerstones of homohatred as its foundation and encouraged us to seek real equality instead of settling for a virtual one.

It's not a particularly easy read but you should distrust anyone who gives you easy answers to a problem so multi-layered and complex or who lets you off the hook of personal growth in the process. Urv does neither.

She knows whereof she speaks, having learned it all in the trenches. And it's as applicable to the middle-class and the Midwest as anyone and anywhere in the U.S.A. -- perhaps more so as this is a book for those who are willing to face the monster head-on instead of adapting to either accommodate the monster or become the monster themselves. Nowhere is that head-on fight more pressing than in the states facing MIPAs (Marriage Inequality Protection Amendments) and DenialOMAs -- typically the southern and midwestern (and, like Oregon, New England-Midwestern extension) states. Thus nowhere is a sound foundation in the political understanding available in this watershed book more valuable.

Urv, in short, not only 'keeps her eyes on the prize', she's astute enough to know what the prize really is.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 16, 2003
Format: Paperback
Vaid's account of her experiences in the gay movement is invaluable for the insights and lessons it offers. Should be required reading not only for activists and gays, but for everyone everywhere.
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