In the 1980s New York City politicians voted in favor of closing NYC bathhouses as a response to the HIV/AIDS crisis. It was argued that the baths were hot spots for transmission of the disease. But did it strip gay men of their dignity?
But did that move strip gay men if their dignity? Did it remove a safe space for gay men to meet, particularly in the 1980s when it was still taboo to be openly gay.
Recently professors Stephen Engel of Bates and Timothy Lyle of Iona College spoke of this issue saying
the bathhouse shutdowns constituted a “dignity taking”: a confiscation of property, made without just compensation or legitimate public purpose, whose goal is to infantilize or dehumanize the affected group.
Professor Stephen Engel
“They provided space for men to socialize with one another as identifiably gay men,” Engel continued. “The gay bathhouse took on an even more symbolic value within the context of the 1970s when queer sex acts were articulated as a kind of liberation from heteronormative constraints.”
Professor Timothy Lyle
“So to entertain any notion that these closures damaged the dignity of gay men, we must resist the urge to pathologize these public, anonymous, and casual sex institutions,” Lyle said. “But unfortunately, public officials’ first response to the crisis was to invade these community institutions as sites of the problem at the very time that [government was] underspending on HIV education, prevention, and resources for these communities under siege.”
This is a fascinating read about NYC Bathhouses In 1980s. To read this yourself go to “Did closing New York City bathhouses in the 1980s strip dignity from gay men?”