With the developing acceptance of gay equality in the west, it is assumed that we live in a post-shame era, with ‘the world we have won’.
However, this is a chimeric cliché of neoliberalism (rather like the idea that we are all postfeminist now).
The ‘proud’ homosexual of the west is discursively constructed against the ‘shamed’ homosexual of the east, a typecasting resonant with postcolonial clichés of the primal, religious and homophobic savagery of the global south in contrast with the civilising, liberal evolution of the secular global north.
Shame displacement is of course a dynamic of shame itself. The perceived failure in achieving the ‘proud iconic gay’ of media cultures in the global North results in a double bind of being ashamed of being ashamed.
This article will reconsider the cultural politics and temporality of shame for primarily white gay identities after the ‘War on Terror’. As Islamophobia has exponentially increased, some western gays translocate their unacknowledged shame onto a misconceived ‘brown threat’ in a complex, aggressive, and racist shame loop (Lewis 1971, Scheff & Retzinger 1991).
Sally R Munt is Professor of Gender and Cultural Studies at the University of Sussex.
She is the author of Queer Attachments: the Cultural Politics of Shame (Ashgate 2008). She is also a BABCP Accredited Cognitive Psychotherapist, in private clinical practice.