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Open Access ‘In the old days, there were no gays’ – democracy, social change and media representation of sexual diversity

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The notion of ‘gay’ has been interpreted by popular culture in Portugal to stem from a liberalization of individual practices and beliefs in the realm of sexual culture in general. As such, sexual orientation is commonly conflated with a cultural trend linked to modernity, in opposition to recognizing it as a constitutive element of sexual citizenship and the related set of rights it entails. This often unnoticed conflation obliterates significant socio-historical changes and the role played by an array of institutions and agents that contributed to those changes. In this article, the political and social history of homosexuality throughout the twentieth century will be the departure point to examine issues of impact and change in relation to the cultural representation of lesbians and gay men in the public sphere. Media reports of LGBT events throughout the 1990s and early 2000s will be considered a key indicator of cultural representation of sexual diversity. From criminalization to same-sex marriage, the article critically interrogates the extent to which formal change has translated into more inclusive notions of sexual justice regardless of sexual orientation.
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Keywords: LGBT movement; Portugal; cultural impact; media representation; sexual citizenship; social change

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Coimbra

Publication date: June 1, 2016

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  • The International Journal of Iberian Studies (IJIS) is the academic journal for scholars from around the world whose research focuses on contemporary Spain and Portugal from a range of disciplinary perspectives. IJIS is interested in history (20th century onwards), government and politics; foreign policy and international relations.
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