City of Friends offers a practical, intelligent, and well-informed overview of what it means to be gay or lesbian. The authors seek to help gay men and women, as well as their families and friends, to better understand the institutions and communities that make up the most culturally and ethnically diverse minority in America today.
Beginning with basic concepts, LeVay and Nonas define the words "homosexual," "gay," "lesbian," and "bisexual" and discuss the various patterns of homosexuality in different cultures around the world. They relate the history of the gay and lesbian community in the United States, and its struggle for equal rights and social acceptance, before tackling the question—still highly controversial—of what determines an individual's sexual orientation.
City of Friends describes the great diversity within the gay and lesbian community: Life in the "gay ghetto." Old lesbians in rural hideaways. Gay resorts. A "town without men." Gay and lesbian Latinos, African-Americans, Asian-Americans, and Native Americans—what it means to be a minority within a minority. Lesbian and gay youth, the elderly, the deaf. Bisexuals and transsexuals. Academics, drag queens, technoqueers, publishers, softball players—all make their appearance in these pages.
LeVay and Nonas continue with a discussion of health issues (especially of the AIDS epidemic and the community's response to it), the law, and gay and lesbian politics. They describe the cultural achievements of lesbians and gay men—their art, literature, theater, music, and dance. Finally they take a look at the spiritual life of gays and lesbians, both within and outside of organized religion.
"Between the barricaded fortresses of `essentialist' and `social constructionist' visions of human sexuality, this book comes as a breath of fresh air. Lucid and concise, it is at once a useful introduction to a complex subject and a learned exposition of what precisely is at stake in the debate. A superb choice for any lesbian and gay studies or human sexuality class."
—Jonathan D. Katz, Chair, Department of Gay and Lesbian Studies,City College of San Francisco