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Open Access Publications from the University of California

"But I Want That One": Consumer Citizenship and the Politics of Exclusion, Public Space and Homelessness in the Gay Ghetto


In this paper I will first describe how commodities are ‘promiscuously’ displayed by homeless queer youth in San Francisco in their attempts to pass as not only normal, but affluent. I will argue that when a youth successfully displays the signs of these commodities, they become part of a prosthetic shield that wraps around him or her. These shields protect homeless queer youth from the status degradation inherent in being classified as homeless. Thereby, homeless queer youth use the sign of the commodity to prevent being continually marked by spoiled identities. Their struggles reveal contradictions in the differential allocation of citizenship in which those who pass as ‘normal’ are granted the right to consume public space unmolested. I will conclude by suggesting that there has been a primarily unobserved convergence of neoliberal social policies within both San Francisco and gay politics detrimental to poor and otherwise marginal people.

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