Gay Rights Movement
A movement for protecting LGBT rights is one of the most influential and massive in the modern American society. It receives a great support from artists, and this support determines certain notion and attitude to the movement in the American society. In the case of LGBT movement, the role of art might be defined as enlightenment, demonstrating the necessity to recognize the rights of LGBT community by means of depicting rather unconventional, but generally fair and truthful ideas about it. Even while being shocking, such art is able to attract the attention of society and increase the awareness of people. Usually, the art of LGBT community was devoted to the most challenging issues in lives of the community representatives, highlighting them in an outrageous way, mainly to win the attention and cause a reaction of the society.
At first, it is necessary to trace a short history of the movement for LGBT rights in the American society to demonstrate the tendencies and attitudes to it. Gays, lesbians, trans-gendered and even bisexual people have always been discriminated in different aspects of their personal and even social rights (Smith, 2003). In the most narrow meaning, it can be related to the right to marriage. This issue is still topical in the modern society and cannot be resolved in one simple way. Initially, the movement, seeking for recognition of the rights of gays, took place in Europe in the twenties century. The main aim of the movement was to change the traditional social ideas related to the masculinity and femininity that have existed in the traditional society. In a lot of aspects, the USA have always been rather tolerant to the movement for rights of gays, even considering all the discriminative issues that took place in the twentieth century. Even nowadays, a lot of people cannot get rid of the stereotypes related to those whose sexual preferences are different from the common ones.
The main vision of the movement protecting the rights of LGBT was building a society that is able to live without prejudices and treat all people equally, without discrimination. Such vision of society remained the same for the long years and was depicted in a lot of works of art created by the members of community and their followers. American movement for the rights of LGBT started in 1924 along with the foundation of an organization fighting for the rights of homosexual people by Henry Gerber. In fact, it was the first time when the values of gay were represented as equal to the ones of heterosexual people. Notably, this movement did not make any success until 1960s, when the relations of homosexual couples were decriminalized in some states of America (Smith, 2003).
In general, primarily the movement fought for the possibility for homosexual couples to be together without a danger of being treated like criminals. At the same time, Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon were able to launch the first organization supporting lesbians. Since 1960s, when decriminalization was initiated, the goals and values of the movement have developed a lot. For instance, after 1969, when one of the greatest protests took place, the movement became more concentrated and purposeful; one of its main aims was to deal with the fact that homosexuality was considered to be a mental issue, traditionally treated by the psychiatrists by means of rather inhuman methods. This goal was achieved in 1973, and the issue of homosexuality received announcement (Stein, 2012). Members of the LGBT community initiated the process of ‘coming out’, which made them much more popular than previously, in times of the homophobic system dominating.
Currently, the values and goals of the movement have evolved, and its members began seeking for the full social recognition in the aspect of their marriage rights. Nowadays, despite some idle demonstration of homophobia, LGTB movement has received certain recognition and right to announce about one’s orientation openly. At the same time, a rather challenging process of transformation of traditional family idea takes place in the society today. The main current value of the movement is the recognition of a new notion of family and gender; in fact, the issue of gender is the most complicated one, mainly because even considering the tolerance, modern society is not ready for such changes on all levels of perception.
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The 1980s were rather challenging for the homosexual people, mainly because of AIDS development, which is why they began using art as a way to increase social awareness about this issue and protect their own dignity. While the development of the role of homosexual people took place, mainly because of participation of LGBT representatives like Jerry DeGrieck in government, the issue of AIDS and public opinion created a lot of challenges. In fact, there were a lot of prejudices related to AIDS, homosexuality and bisexuality. Thus, art, especially in rather provocative forms, was a typical tool of this period, mainly because it was appealing to the emotional reaction of the audience and should have caused response and discussion. As it was already stated, the movement seeking recognition of the LGBT community rights was reflected a lot in the art of twentieth century, promoting the development of the positive social image of gay people and overcoming the prejudices. It was especially topical in the 1980s, when the issue of AIDS became rather broad in the LGBT community and the society had little idea about it. For instance, in the 1980s, when the challenging epoch of AIDS threat to the homosexual people took place, Keith Haring was an artist who was able to increase the general awareness about it and about gay art in the society that was resisting any information related to it (Selz, & Landauer, 2006). Overcoming such resistance was the main aim of his art, which was conducted in a rather acceptable way. Any reaction of the audience was valuable, even the negative one, as it promoted discussions. The activity of this artist took place in New York, with the presentation being unusual and impressive: the drawings were located in the advertising boards and were aimed to attract attention of the passers-by. Haring’s art was further developed by means of commercial approach; later, the artist opened his own shop, providing society with different items like toys with thematic pictures. Being criticized for such approach, he was able to spread his ideas rather broadly. His image can be considered as one of the first significant symbols of gay society, but, at the same time, he was able to increase the general awareness of the publicity about the issue of AIDS and even develop some support in the sphere. His art remained topical even in 2008, and his sculptures were added to the world collection devoted to overcoming AIDS.
He was supported a lot by one of the most significant pop artists, whose name has become a key one in the sphere of homosexual art, Andy Warhol (Selz, & Landauer, 2006). The art of Warhol included features of advertising, and besides his great contribution into the whole sphere of art, it should be noted that he promoted homosexuality in society by means of erotic photo-art, pictures of nude males, etc (Mesch, 2013). The image of Andy Warhol has become rather significant for the whole movement. In fact, his pictures and photos were primarily rejected because of being too exposed and unusual, but finally he managed to make the viewers more open-minded regarding the issue of homosexuality.
Another artist who used the streets for depiction of his own educative art rather than galleries was Gran Fury. He also wanted to address the issue of AIDS mainly by means of attracting attention with his art, applying the techniques of commercial advertising to it. The impact and results of such strategy were really great, as advertising in America has always been an influential tool, and it allowed to make people talk about the problem. He was also fighting with the rhetoric of the church against the issue of homosexuality (Stein, 2012). As a result of the campaign named ‘Kissing does not kill’, people became more aware of the AIDS-related issues.
David Wojnarowicz was another famous person who protected the rights of gays by means of artistic works in different spheres, including painting, directing, writing and so on. His works of art demonstrated different emotions of a homosexual person who has to deal with homophobic society, paying special attention to the issues of church, economic imperialism and narrow perception of the body (Selz, & Landauer, 2006).
Even considering the fact that LGBT movement has gained a lot since its occurrence, nowadays there are still a lot of issues that need to be overcome by it. Mainly they are related to perception in the society and narrowness of thinking, but the modern artists in different spheres are doing everything possible to make people see that homosexuality should be treated in a proper way. In fact, the main aim of the artworks of David Wojnarowicz, Andy Warhol, Gran Fury, Keith Haring and others was reached, as people have become more aware about the issues related to homosexuality. The way these artists represented their works was rather provocative, but, at the same time, they were outrageous enough to make people discuss them, explore them and be aware of them. In such a way, an outrageous and shocking approach promoted better understanding of homosexuality in the society.