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The Gay Metropolis: 50 Years After Stonewall

“The landmark portrait of 20th-century New York viewed through the eyes of gay New Yorkers … Mr. Kaiser guides us through the amazing changes in gay life at the dawn of the new millennium.”—New York Observer

“Updated and featuring a new introduction, Charles Kaiser’s landmark book The Gay Metropolis, featuring the additional subtitle ‘50 Years After Stonewall,’ is even more essential reading than ever.”—Bay Area Reporter


New York Times Notable Book of the Year and winner of a Lambda Literary Award, The Gay Metropolis is a saga of struggle and triumph that was instantly recognized as one of the most authoritative works of its kind. Now, for the fiftieth anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, Charles Kaiser brings this decade-by-decade account of the rise and acceptance of gay life and identity since 1940 into the twenty-first century.

The Gay Metropolis is a story of fusion. By examining transformations in the world of American film, music, and tv, alongside the gains and reversals in the American court system, Kaiser paints a vivid portrait of this astounding era. In a new final chapter for this edition, “The Twenty-First Century,” he draws a line from Queer as Folk to Moonlight, each with new context as their success is framed by a recounting of Justice Anthony Kennedy’s final landmark gay rights decisions, United States v. Windsor and Obergefell v. Hodges. Kaiser’s own personal anecdotes are woven in throughout—including a carnal conga line on Christopher Street after the New York Blackout that produced a scene out of Fellini Satyricon.

With a dazzling cast of characters—from Leonard Bernstein, Alfred Hitchcock, and John F. Kennedy to Ellen DeGeneres and RuPaul—this is a vital telling of American history.


Read more from The Gay Metropolis and Charles Kaiser:

From the Guardian: Obama v. Doma: How gay Americans marched towards equality
On 6 May 2012, Joe Biden went on Meet the Press to endorse marriage equality — and credited an NBC sitcom for his decision: “I think Will and Grace probably did more to educate the American public than almost anything anybody has done so far.” (Read more…)

From Time: “We are tough as nails.” LGBTQ Activists Reflect on 50 Years Since Stonewall (with photos by Collier Schorr)
Timing makes history. If the police raid on the Stonewall Inn had happened earlier, it probably would have been instantly forgotten, like so many other attacks on surreptitious gay meeting places. The febrile feeling on that last weekend in June, 50 years ago, was possible only in the final year of the 1960s. (Read more…)

From City BeatAuthor Charles Kaiser on “The Gay Metropolis”
“In the 1950s there were approximately three openly gay public figures in America: James Baldwin, Allen Ginsberg and sort of Gore Vidal — although he never described himself as gay,” Kaiser says. “But there were no openly gay people really in any profession to seek out before the 1970s.” (Read more…)

From Shelf AwarenessRediscover: Gay New York and The Gay Metropolis
In the early morning of June 28, 1969, New York City police raided the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village as part of systematic crackdown on the few establishments catering to openly gay customers. The raid sparked a violent backlash and demonstrations that came to be called the Stonewall riots, which marked the beginning of the gay liberation movement of the 1960s-’80s and the modern fight for LGBT rights in the U.S. Within a year of the riots, gay pride marches took place in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. (Read more…)

From Literary HubThe Painful, Powerful Legacies of Stonewall in 2019
“It was my great good fortune to come out as a gay man in 1970, the year after the Stonewall Riots began the gay liberation movement. Like every gay man or lesbian my age, and everyone else on the widening continuum of the sexual other, I was given an extraordinary gift: I am alive at the best time to be gay since Aristotle.” (Read more…)

From WVXU Cincinnati: The Evolution of LGBT Rights in Cincinnati and America
“What has been most remarkable about the twenty-first century is how fast things have sped up, both cultural and politically, for the gay movement — much faster than we thought it would possibly happen.” (Hear more)

From the Washington Post’s “Cape Up” Podcast: From Stonewall to Mayor Pete — How far LGBTQ rights have come since 1979
“Gay life in New York City, as it was in the rest of the United States and indeed the rest of the western world, was invisible to everyone except those participating in it… Generally speaking, if you were a gay person you did everything in your capacity to keep it a secret from your friends, from your family and from anyone else who wasn’t gay.” (Read & hear more…)

From the GuardianLove and Resistance Review
“Forty-nine years ago, on the first anniversary of the riots outside the Stonewall Inn, thousands of ‘young men and women homosexuals’ from all over the north-east marched from Greenwich Village to the Sheep Meadow in Central Park.” (Read more…)

And while you’re here… follow Charles Kaiser on Twitter!