introduction Homoeroticism and the Public Sphere
Under the social conditions that translated privatevices into publicvirtues, a state of cosmopolitan
citizenship and hence the subsumption of politics under morality was empirically conceivable.—
Jürgen Habermas, the structural transformation of the public sphere
Publicity is the very soul of justice.—Jeremy Bentham, draught for the organi-
zation of judicial establishments
Homoeroticism has gone public like never before. As an embodied iden-
tity for public persons and media characters and as a reference point in
literary and visual culture, intellectual debates, and commercial activities,
homoeroticism has become a staple, if conflicted, feature of the U.S. pub-
lic sphere. The national lesbian and gay press has enthusiastically em-
braced this unprecedented inclusion within public forms of representation
—from television situation comedies, Hollywood films, glossy magazines,
and lawmaking bodies, to educational institutions and corporate market-
ing practices.While enthusiastic narratives about lesbian and gay inclusion
seem at first glance to be warranted, they fail to ask how this inclusion is
defined, and on what terms it is granted. In its quest to secure inclusion,
mainstream lesbian and gay politics in the United States has largely sought
to reassure straight America that queers are ‘‘just like everyone else,’’ and
thus has restricted itself to a phantom normalcy. It is tempting to read
this strategy simply as an understandable and appropriate response to a
pathologizing homophobia or, alternatively, as an impoverished restriction
on the part of lesbian and gay politics and media culture. Both readings
have some truth to them. However, neither reading can adequately explain
the problematic entanglements between homoerotic representation and
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