The Changing of the Guard: Lesbian and Gay Elders, Identity, and Social Change. Dana Rosenfeld, Philadelphia, PA, Temple University Press; 2003. 250 pp. $59.50 cloth bound

The Changing of the Guard: Lesbian and Gay Elders, Identity, and Social Change. Dana Rosenfeld,... Sex Roles, Vol. 52, Nos. 1/2, January 2005 ( 2005) DOI: 10.1007/s11199-005-1201-z Book Review The Changing of the Guard: Lesbian and Gay the participants, threats to their person had become Elders, Identity, and Social Change. Dana such a stable part of their sense of self that, even as Rosenfeld, Philadelphia, PA, Temple University homosexuality was redefined to some extent in a so- Press; 2003. 250 pp. $59.50 cloth bound. ciohistorical context, this fearful self had been estab- lished and was not renegotiated. Gay and lesbian senior citizens came of age Through thick description we learn how each when homosexuality was not discussed. There were group negotiated their lives and relationships no gay identities with which to identify prior to with heterosexuals and with other homosexuals. the 1960s. Dana Rosenfeld examines this generation Rosenfeld presents how some concealed their ho- through the in-depth analysis of 35 interviews with mosexuality by utilizing “passing techniques.” These men and women aged 64–89. Although most of the were the ways in which many of the participants cre- participants were middle aged during the gay libera- ated safe lives for themselves by a “correct under- tion movements of the 1970s, many did not feel free standing of the world on one hand and an instinct to to lead openly gay lives. survive it on the other” (p. 125). When the partici- Rosenfeld’s work emanates from the sociolog- pants spoke of concealing their homosexuality, most ical analyses of aging, which links life patterns to defined this as following the prevailing gender norms changing historical contexts and to people’s loca- of the period. The participants in the discreditable tion in them. Through this analysis she divided her cohort spent much of their lives “passing” in hetero- participants into two identity cohorts—the discred- sexual circles while still trying to associate with ho- itable and the accredited. The discreditable partici- mosexuals as homosexuals. This truly meant living pants (n = 28) were those who identified as a homo- two different lives for some. sexual pre-Stonewall (i.e., prior to the 1969 Stonewall What was most compelling about the life stories Riots that a marked the birth of the modern gay and was that most of the participants who identified in the lesbian civil rights movement) and led largely clos- discreditable cohort described the accredited cohort eted lives, which most continued to lead at the time as a threat to their lives as well as insulting. Those of the interview. The accredited group (n = 7) iden- participants in the discreditable cohort had in essence tified as homosexual post-Stonewall, and thus live a made a life for themselves in a very heterosexist (al- much more openly gay lifestyle. beit safe and “normal”) way. The challenges faced by It was interesting to hear the words the par- both groups were undoubtedly enormous. ticipants used to describe their homosexuality. This is a scholarly study that gives us insight Statements such as “making a conscious choice to into a population from which we rarely hear. Rosen- my way of thinking to become a lesbian” (p. 59) feld helps us to understand the influences of his- and comments about choosing a gay lifestyle after torical circumstances and how they influence social having had heterosexual relationships (as shared relations, sexuality, and the creation of a personal by a number of participants quoted in Chapter 2) identity. made it sound as if being gay was a choice that some The conclusion, titled “Challenges and Oppor- of them made as opposed to being born homosex- tunities,” in which Rosenfeld examines methodolog- ual. Placed in the historical context of compulsory ical challenges is a must read for anyone engaged heterosexuality this was not a surprise, but it is in extensive interviewing. Her insight into her own interesting to realize that some of the participants work will be validating and helpful to anyone who still thought that way, even as they recognized that undertakes the rigor of qualitative study. this “choice of lifestyle” was a difficult one. This book is highly recommended for academic The stories about the discrimination that many libraries and research institutions. of the participants encountered and the constant fear with which they had to concern themselves made liv- Laura Kelly ing even a closeted existence dangerous. For many of Monmouth University 141 0360-0025/05/0100-0141/0 2005 Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. Sex Roles Springer Journals

The Changing of the Guard: Lesbian and Gay Elders, Identity, and Social Change. Dana Rosenfeld, Philadelphia, PA, Temple University Press; 2003. 250 pp. $59.50 cloth bound

Sex Roles , Volume 52 (2) – Jan 1, 2005
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Kluwer Academic Publishers-Plenum Publishers
Copyright © 2005 by Springer Science + Business Media, Inc.
Psychology; Gender Studies; Sociology, general; Medicine/Public Health, general
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