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In Virtual Equality, veteran activist Urvashi Vaid critiques the true nature of the gay presence in the American mainstream. Vaid reasons that the mainstreaming of the gay community has come about by pushing the idea that gays are the same as straights ("legitimation"), rather than acknowledging how gays differ from straights and how those differences can change all of society ("liberation"). She argues that legitimation-a strategy chosen in the wake of the AIDS crisis in hopes of saving more lives more quickly-has not translated into genuine equality, despite increased mainstream visibility. With hard-hitting analysis, Vaid examines the crisis of leadership facing the gay community and maps out a moral vision to ensure that gay and lesbian equality does not remain a virtual reality.