Liberation, Commodity Culture and Community in 'the Golden Age of Promiscuity'
In 1977 Dennis Altman, the Australian writer, academic and gay liberation activist, returned from a month-long visit to the United States with a case of hepatitis. In "Fear and Loathing and Hepatitis," an article published in the gay literary journal Christopher Street, which recorded his impressions of the state of American culture and politics, and particularly the state of gay American culture and politics, Altman wrote that he "view[ed] [his] four weeks in the States with a somewhat jaundiced eye" (Coming Out 83). What Altman goes on to characterise as America's cultural malaise is paralleled in his own contraction of a disease characterised by lassitude, and one which moreover has a gay-specific valence: hepatitis was endemic, if not an epidemic, in urban gay male populations at the time, a fact alluded to by Altman in his statement that the disease was "seemingly rife among those sections of the country I frequented" (83). But while hepatitis can be extremely uncomfortable, it is not usually fatal, and Altman holds out no hope of recovery for the United States.