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Homonormative aesthetics: AIDS and ‘de-generational unremembering’ in 1990s London

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Accepted/In press14 Sep 2018


King's Authors


This article historically contextualises the origins of a transnational gay male aesthetic many now think of as homonormative. While typically understood as a depoliticisation that ‘recodes freedom and liberation in terms of privacy, domesticity, and consumption’ (Manalansan, 2005: 142), homonormativity also has an associated look defined by a set of slick surface appearances relating both to the body and design. Recognisable in various locations across the globe and in multiple settings including cruise ships, resorts, and gyms, this aesthetic is, above all, associated with gayborhoods and gay villages. Using Soho’s gay
village in London as a case-study of the emergence of this generic style in the 1990s, its branded emphasis on ‘affluence’, minimalist interior design and idealised gym bodies is contextualised with references to yuppification and AIDS. Constituting a ‘clean break’ with earlier forms of urban gay culture now stigmatised as ‘dirty’ and ‘unhealthy’, the homonormative aesthetic can be viewed as an example of ‘de-generational unremembering’ following the first traumatic phase of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s (Castiglia and Reed, 2011:
9). By placing AIDS at the centre of a discussion of homonormativity, some of the
assumptions about its privilege can be queried while at the same time maintaining a critique of how class-specific ‘aspirational’ imagery was deployed to detract from the stigma of the
health crisis.

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