Gay, Inc.: The Nonprofitization of Queer Politics (Paperback)
A bold and provocative look at how the nonprofit sphere’s expansion has helped—and hindered—the LGBT cause
What if the very structure on which social movements rely, the nonprofit system, is reinforcing the inequalities activists seek to eliminate? That is the question at the heart of this bold reassessment of the system’s massive expansion since the mid-1960s. Focusing on the LGBT movement, Myrl Beam argues that the conservative turn in queer movement politics, as exemplified by the shift toward marriage and legal equality, is due mostly to the movement’s embrace of the nonprofit structure.
Based on oral histories as well as archival research, and drawing on the author’s own extensive activist work, Gay, Inc. presents four compelling case studies. Beam looks at how people at LGBT nonprofits in Minneapolis and Chicago grapple with the contradictions between radical queer social movements and their institutionalized iterations. Through interview subjects’ incisive, funny, and heartbreaking commentaries, Beam exposes a complex world of committed people doing the best they can to effect change, and the flawed structures in which they participate, rail against, ignore, and make do.
Providing a critical look at a social formation whose sanctified place in the national imagination has for too long gone unquestioned, Gay, Inc. marks a significant contribution to scholarship on sexuality, neoliberalism, and social movements.
Myrl Beam is assistant professor of gender, sexuality, and women’s studies at Virginia Commonwealth University.
"Gay, Inc. is a beacon of persuasive clarity, outlining the emotionally compelling but politically compromising role of nonprofit organizations in LGBTQ life. With nuanced ethnographic research, Myrl Beam provokes us to see the conflicts between mission and fundraising, between participants and donors, that shape our deepest commitments to social justice. Gay, Inc. is a must read for scholars and activists alike."—Lisa Duggan, New York University
"An essential read for anyone who is trying to figure out how social change works, Gay, Inc. helps us understand queer and trans resistance in depth, bringing new insight into social movement debates about the role of nonprofits using grounded histories of resistance and conflict within queer politics."—Dean Spade, Seattle University School of Law