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Gay Voluntary Associations in New York

Gay Voluntary Associations in New York: Public Sharing and Private Lives

Moshe Shokeid
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Gay Voluntary Associations in New York
    Book Description:

    Gay Voluntary Associations in New Yorkis 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 of 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 Yorkuses 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 examines 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, 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.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-9036-3
    Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-[vi])
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    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, what I defined as “one-night-stand ethnicity,” but did not form the voluntary associations—often leading to enduring social institutions—that other earlier and present-day, Jewish and non-Jewish “permanent” immigrants had (Shokeid 1988). It was during that time that I was invited to...

  4. CHAPTER 1 The Anthropologist in the Field of Sexuality
    (pp. 11-28)

    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 raised among anthropologists with the discovery of Malinowski’s diaries (1967). His confessions touched on various sensitive issues. Particularly embarrassing seemed the revelation of his sexual frustration during his work among the Trobrianders. Nevertheless, it took another twenty-five years for that issue to arouse more serious interest in professional forums.¹ The discourse of reflexivity...

  5. CHAPTER 2 Concealments and Revelations in Ethnographic Research
    (pp. 29-46)

    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, I could compare him with Mochuna, Victor Turner’s admirable teacher of Ndembu society and culture (1967b). Jeff’s personal history, his demeanor, and his ideas about gay life are presented in other chapters (Chapters...

  6. CHAPTER 3 The Regretless Seniors
    (pp. 47-62)

    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 of that organization, so I thought I would not appear conspicuous in any way among them.¹ They received me very warmly and, as it turned out, were the subject of the first paper I wrote about my work at the Center....

  7. CHAPTER 4 Attending Meetings of Sexual Compulsives Anonymous
    (pp. 63-88)

    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 are not a matter for public schmoozing but should be addressed by a disciplined therapeutic procedure under the supervision of expert clinicians.

    However, the emergence of a social problem related to “uncontrolled sexuality” has been considered part of the consequences of modernity; deeply embedded in the...

  8. CHAPTER 5 In the Company of the Bisexual Circle
    (pp. 89-113)

    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 to employ a methodological approach I had applied in my earlier fieldwork projects, namely, the extended case method. This chapter ends with a minidrama enacted by the clique of the “sensual bisexuals,” which seemed to encapsulate the sexual and emotional cravings of the wider constituency...

  9. CHAPTER 6 The Interracial Gay Men’s Association: Men of All Colors Together
    (pp. 114-132)

    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 “blacks” and “whites,” though a few were Latino of different skin shades or others of mixed ethnic origin. The proportion of whites versus blacks varied at each meeting, but the attendance of blacks or whites had never been less than a third at all events. There were usually...

  10. CHAPTER 7 The Gentle Men’s Circle
    (pp. 133-145)

    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 it indicated some sort of effeminate men’s activity. But now, before taking the stairs leading up to my regular MACT meeting, I made a detour and walked down the nearby corridor...

  11. CHAPTER 8 Cuddling with Gay Bears
    (pp. 146-151)

    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 (e.g., Harris 1997; Wright 1997; Manley, Levitt, and Mosher 2007; Hennen 2008), their agenda and activities seemed closely related to the major themes of my work.

    I went into the Center one evening and noticed their meeting scheduled on the list of the daily activities. Not...

  12. CHAPTER 9 Listening to the Sermons in Gay Congregations
    (pp. 152-174)

    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 (e.g., Thumma and Gray 2005; Griffith 2005). My own attraction to the study of the gay synagogue, CBST, located in Greenwich Village, was triggered by the surprise discovery of a vibrant Jewish congregation founded by a group of men and women who wished to return to the cultural tradition they had abandoned when they came out as gays and...

  13. CHAPTER 10 Talking Sex, Imagining Love: The Emotional Template
    (pp. 175-199)

    My aim in this chapter is to tackle a few themes that seem to impinge most profoundly on the life experiences and the existential visions of gay men, thus revealing an intrinsic facet of their subjectivity. We have often come across these issues in earlier chapters, but their manifestation was mostly expressed as part of a collective discourse. In the later part of this chapter, I will concentrate on the detailed life experiences and worldview of a few individuals, presenting them as full personas.

    In a volume edited by William Leap, old and new studies of anonymous gay sex detail...

  14. AFTERWORD: Negotiating Gay Subjectivity
    (pp. 200-206)

    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, with publicly recognized communal institutions, and with presumably shared cultural norms. Instead, I confronted the hectic communication and often confusing discourses that went on in various groups (though all except the Bears and the religious congregations operated under the same concrete roof), which satisfied diverse...

  15. NOTES
    (pp. 207-212)
    (pp. 213-226)
  17. INDEX
    (pp. 227-230)
    (pp. 231-234)