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The Washington Post - Washington, D.C.
Subjects: Nonfiction; Musical theater; Gays & lesbians; Books-titles -- Something for the Boys: Musical Theater and Gay Culture
Author: John-Manuel Andriote
Date: Mar 19, 2000
Start Page: X.07
Section: BOOK WORLD

In Something for the Boys, Duke University English and drama professor John M. Clum says that, for him and his gay friends of a certain age, "being gay has as much to do with an investment in certain kinds of culture as it has with [his] sexual proclivities." Although he resists the term, Clum says that for his generation "aestheticism, flamboyance, elegance, and deconstructive wit" were the defining characteristics of "gay culture."

For gay men like Clum who came of age before the 1969 Stonewall riot jump-started the gay liberation movement, being gay meant being "musical" -- a code word from the 1920s by which closeted gay men identified themselves to one another. In this insular world of social outcasts, white, gay, educated, urban men were expected by their peers to be able to banter about musical theater, opera and other cultural and aesthetic subjects.

Identification with the diva gave these men a vicarious sense of power when so many of them felt powerless in what they knew was really a straight man's world. Small wonder that another stereotype of the gay world Clum describes is that all gay men possess a quick wit and linguistic facility useful in leveling rivals, ex- boyfriends, and even the occasional straight man who might rebuff their advances. As Daniel Harris puts it in The Rise and Fall of Gay Culture, "Straight men punch; gay men quip."

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