Research Paper on LGBT Issues in America

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This sample Research Paper on LGBT Issues in America features: 7000+ words (26 pages), APA format, in-text citations, and a bibliography with 31 sources.

Outline

I. Introduction

II. Histories of Lesbian and Gay Movements in the United States

A. The Postwar Period

B. Gay Liberation and Lesbian Feminism

C. AIDS

III. The B and T in LGBT

A. The Bisexual Movement

B. Transsexual and Transgender Movement

IV. LGBT Politics: Main Issues

A. Education and Representation

1. Reclaiming History

2. Coming Out

3. Pride Parades and Marches

4. Homophobia, Racism, and Androcentrism

B. Legal Change

C. Same-Sex Partnerships

D. Health

V. Queer Approaches

A. Critique of Identity Politics

B. Critique of Politics of Visibility

C. Critique of Neoliberalism

D. Geopolitics: Neoimperialism, Terrorism, and Nationalism

VI. Conclusion

I. Introduction

Intimate desires and erotic feelings seem to belong so obviously to the domain of the private sphere of each human that recognizing sexuality as an important element of politics—that is, of public activity—has not been an untroubled process in American social, political, and economic histories. Indeed, sexuality continues to be one of the most contested issues in modern politics, so much so that it is almost impossible to talk about modern liberal democracy, with all its ideological baggage, claims to human rights, and individual freedoms and liberties, without addressing the issue of sexuality.Without doubt, one of the factors that enabled this shift was the rise of identity politics in the post–World War II world. As such, the rise of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) identity politics is part of wider structural shift in political organization of contemporary democracies.

The primary focus of this research paper is to introduce the reader to the contemporary debates surrounding LGBT issues in U.S. politics. It is done by looking at LGBT movements and major issues raised by those communities. First, a historical context is offered, followed by the overview of major problems raised by LGBT movements. These are composed of education, representation, legal regulations, health, and strategies of political action. The next part, “Queer Approaches,” develops the conceptual side of this research paper, discussing identity politics, market economies, sexual citizenship, nationalism, terrorism, and neoimperialism. This paper concludes with an overview of its contents, indicating development of LGBT and queer (Q) politics and its futures and suggests further readings.

II. Histories of Lesbian and Gay Movements in the United States

A. The Postwar Period

The years from 1950 to 1969 can be best understood under the reformist flag of homophile activism and could be best characterized by the slogan from the era: “We are just like everyone else.” At the time, most of the sociological, psychological and medical, and legal studies saw the term homosexuality as a form of deviance or pathology. The political powers of the cold war period saw homosexuality as threatening to the state as communism (most notable here is U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy’s so-called witch hunts, hauling people up before the House Committee on Un-American Activities between 1934 and 1975). But it was also the time when Alfred Kinsey published his reports on the sexual behavior of Americans (in 1948 and 1954), which showed what was actually happening in the bedrooms of Americans—and it was not as puritan as the official discourses about it suggested. It was also a time when the first gay (e.g., the Mattachine Society [MS]) and lesbian (Daughters of Bilitis [DoB]) organizations appeared. The actual word used by the activists of the time was homophile, which reveals the major goals and attitudes of homosexual people of the time. The term was coined by activists to downplay the sexual aspect (homosexuality) of sexual identity, thus attempting to erase the difference and put more stress on the sameness with the heterosexual majority. Homophile organizations hoped for assimilation by using nonaggressive methods and accepting social norms (of gender, class, and race).

Moreover, not only did homophile organizations not challenge social norms, but they also acted in a way that strengthened them, most notably those concerning sex and gender roles. Thus, DoB and MS in their magazines advised readers to look and dress “properly,” reinforcing standards of masculine men and feminine women. This can be seen as one example of homophile groups focusing on education as a crucial strategy of their movement.

This aspect is also present in the adoption of an expert-system approach: attempting to depathologize homosexuality by convincing so-called experts (lawyers, doctors, and government officials) of the normality of homosexual people. Experts would then, by the token of their expertise, influence and change society.

Overall, the profile of the homophile movement of the 1950s and 1960s could be generally summarized as assimilationist, characterized by a rather tame approach (by today’s standards), involving the liberal pledge of sameness and acceptance of rigid gender expressions. Sexual identity was seen as totally confined to the private, personal bedroom life. Any attempt to make homosexuality a matter of public interest was done by separating it from any other aspect of identity and normalizing gender expressions according to dominant norms.

B. Gay Liberation and Lesbian Feminism

The opening up of another chapter in lesbian and gay politics is commonly ascribed to the riots around the Stonewall Inn drag and gay bar, in New York, in June 1969. This period is usually referred to as gay and lesbian liberation and characterized by such slogans as “Out of the closets and into the streets” or “Gay revolution now.”

The significant shift of this decade of lesbian and gay activism is a move away from the shame and pledge of similarity that dominated homophile politics and to stress instead difference, pride, and rage, which became characteristic of liberation movements of the time. Notably, the shift came on the wave of American counterculture, of which sexual revolution, second-wave feminism, blackpower liberation, and antiwar movements are prime examples. Similar to those of other liberationist groups and movements of the time, lesbian and gay strategies were those of direct action: street protests, intervening in conferences and meetings, and disturbing other public gatherings. Clearly, the stress was on public activity; sexuality was celebrated and raised to serve as a tool of the personal and group liberation, as a vehicle for change.

Lesbian feminism grew out of disappointment with the androcentrism of gay liberation and heteronormativity (heterosexuality as a norm) of early second-wave feminism. It promoted women-only spaces as safe and secure enclaves for women to nourish and cherish their bonding, selfeducation, and consciousness-raising work. Some of the adopted strategies were those of separatism(although highly contested) and education, through magazines like Furies.

The flagship manifesto, Women Identified Women, written by the collective Radicalesbians in 1970, was also groundbreaking. It opened space for considering lesbianism and identification as a lesbian as a political act, not only a sexual desire. The idea was later reworked in another pivotal text, Adrienne Rich’s (1980) “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence.” However, political lesbianism, as it later came to be known, was also criticized by some other feminists. They felt that taking sexuality away from lesbianism was sacrificing desire and eroticism for the sake of common (all-women) identity (as a means of liberation). The uneasy relationship between feminism and sexuality was evident again during the so-called 1980s sex wars, notably during the feminist debates over pornography, S&M practices, and the nature of sexual violence.

Rooted in the counterculture of the late 1960s and early 1970s, lesbian and gay liberation had a vision of heteronormative oppression (a term coined later) as an outcome of patriarchal society. This, in turn, was sustained by racismand Western (American) global imperialism. Such vision helped to establish lesbian and gay identity politics. It became a way of conceptualizing homosexual people as similar to ethnic minorities, thus adopting an essentializing (i.e., stressing the essence and nature and biological determinacy), ethnic-like vision of homosexuality as a fixed identity.

Just as the word homophile was adopted by the activists of the 1950s and 1960s, so the 1970s brought the word gay as the preferred description. But while homophile movements wanted to repair social relations and present homosexuality as acceptable for the heterosexual majority, gay liberation emphasized and celebrated difference and rejected the concept of so-called normality. The ultimate aim was to eradicate gender roles and transform the family as a social institution, thereby ending homophobic (fear of homosexuality leading to abusive behavior) violence—and most significantly, reconceptualizing sexuality not in terms of reproduction and social status, but pleasure and relationship. This, in turn, was a crucial moment for establishing bisexuality as factor of politics (see subsequent paragraphs).

The move toward conceptualizing homosexuality as the unifying and predominant base of identity, on which a social movement could be built, can be described as strategic essentialism. It was introduced on a large scale at the beginning of the 1970s but took over and dominated lesbian and gay politics by the end of the decade.

The late 1970s also saw the shift from revolutionary lesbian and gay (cultural) politics into a more formal and structural (political) type. It was reflected in the vanishing of the Gay Liberation Front, a loose, nonhierarchical, and not very formalized group or organization. At the same time, there appeared nongovernmental organizations like National Gay (and Lesbian—added later) Task Force, which were formalized, structured, and funded, with full-time employment.

Overall, lesbian and gay liberation movements brought the radicalization of politics, invasion into the social and cultural status quo, rejection of puritan visions of sexuality and gender, and a stress on difference. In the New Left spirit, it also stressed a need for coalitions with other marginalized and discriminated groups. It was also the time when a strong, identity-based model of activism established itself as the dominant one. By the end of the 1970s, along with some relative successes of previous struggles, came a new approach to gay rights, focusing on political rather than cultural issues. It was more of a single-issue type of politics and predominantly focused on gay rights as part of human rights. This gay rights approach dominated lesbian and gay politics in the 1990s, though not without controversy (see the subsequent section titled “Queer Approaches”).

C. AIDS

The shift within lesbian and gay politics was also the effect of the social backlash that came in the 1980s with the appearance of HIV and AIDS, on the one hand, and the political hegemony of New Right conservatism, winning power in the United States and the United Kingdom, on the other. However, in retrospect, it can be said that these factors were also catalysts for the emergence of the radicalized HIV and AIDS movement and later queer politics. These, however, developed a different set of approaches in sexual politics. The first half of the 1980s brought about crystallization of identity politics, emphasizing gay identity as the key factor in social mobilization. However, governmental nonresponsiveness to the HIV and AIDS epidemic soon made clear that the gay rights approach, putting its trust into state-sanctioned channels of lobbying and pressurizing, was not enough.

In the second half of the decade, new organizations such as the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) and Queer Nation emerged. This is often seen as the beginning of queer politics. These groups brought back more radical methods of social activism and stressed that identity-based politics were too rigid to cope with multilevel, all-encompassing social issues like HIV and AIDS.

In addition, the rise of Christian fundamentalism in the United States helped to spread the backlash politics of fear, creating moral panics. Christian fundamentalism presents itself as defending family values from homosexuality (seen as a threat to a traditional morality and society), opposing the special rights and special interest groups discourse that they saw lesbian and gay people were demanding and imposing on the straight majority. Christian fundamentalist groups proved to be an especially vicious opponent of LGBT movements.

If, as the famous ACT UP slogan from that time was proclaiming, “Silence = Death,” then the antidote was to be as noisy as possible. Gay activism around this time employed strategies that brought attention to issues that Reagan’s and Bush’s governments were reluctant to address, and this type of high-profile activism became one of the core features of LGBT politics. ACT UP and Queer Nation, like the Gay Liberation Front before them, adopted loose, nonhierarchical structures and focused their activities on public space, such as kiss-ins (groups of activists gathering together in public spaces, like shopping malls, and embracing mass kissing), die-ins (staged dying to expose religious bigotry as poisonous), and video activism. Groups like Testing the Limits Collective that made the famous Voices From the Front video diary and documentary in 1992 were close to HIV and AIDS organizations, working in collaboration for the common cause.

III. The B and T in LGBT

The acronym LGBT points toward four gender and sexual identity categories: lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans. They are usually treated as having similar interests and belonging to the same universe. However, the relationship between lesbian and gay communities and movements, on the one hand, and bisexual and trans, on the other, was neither easy nor painless.

A. The Bisexual Movement

The beginnings of the organized bisexual movement can be dated back to the late 1960s. However, it really began to develop by the end of the next decade, flourishing and firmly establishing itself on the political map of identity politics by the end of the 1980s. The rise of a bisexual movement is the result of various factors.

First, it derives from bisexual people’s disappointment with the lesbian and gay movements. Initially, bisexuals invested their energy, trust, and hopes in the gay movement; it seemed natural to align the two causes. However, the lesbian and gay movements soon proved to pay little attention to, or have little interest in, the specific needs of bisexual communities.

Moreover, bisexual people were often treated with suspicion and hostility, perceived as traitors of the sexualliberation cause. Bisexual women found that sleeping with men was against lesbian feminist orthodoxy of that time. Similarly, bisexual men found that having sex with women was seen by gay men as denying homosexuality and lacking the courage to come out. This exclusion was later taken up by queer activists as an example of how identity politics may be constraining for those who actually want to use it for their liberation.

It is thus somewhat paradoxical that while lesbian and gay movements were fighting for their liberation from the heteronormative society, these oppressed groups did not avoid the problem of exclusion and discrimination of other (bi and trans) groups. This experience of double exclusion from heteronormative society and from lesbian and gay communities was, however, a catalyst for the bisexual movement to emerge.

Taking the lessons and principles learned in lesbian and gay movements, bisexual people began to talk openly about constraints they were facing in the society and in queer communities. Bisexual activists began to press lesbian and gay activists to include bisexuality in the names of pride marches, cultural events, and other activities. By the early 1990s, many networks of formal and loose groups had organized, providing the background for bisexuality to consolidate itself as a core identity for many.

It was also the time when queer studies began to flourish, and it was there, although again not without problems, where bisexual activists and scholars invested a lot of energy, hopes, and interests.

B. Transsexual and Transgender Movement

To begin with, it may be useful to define the subtle yet important difference between transsexual and transgender. The first one refers to persons who perceive themselves mentally, psychologically, and emotionally as being of the opposite sex and gender to those of their born-with bodies. Transsexual people will ultimately go through transition and with the help of medical treatment and surgical body shaping, will become of the sex and gender they always felt to be. Conversely, transgender people, although perceiving themselves as of opposite gender, may not necessarily wish for surgical sex-change operations (although it is not an excluded option). Hence, a transgender person may choose to adopt only partial treatment (e.g., hormones) and be passing for the other gender yet still technically living with inborn genitals. The notion of transgender is therefore wider and encompasses transsexual as one of the ways of living trans life. The abbreviation FTM means female to male, and MTF means the opposite.

As in the case of lesbian, gay, and bi movements, first traces of transgender activism can be found in the late-19thcentury sexology, most notably in writings of Karl Heinrich Ulrichs. He conceived of the homosexual people as “Urnings”—people of male sex with female souls, and vice versa. Thus, clearly, the ideas of homosexuality, bisexuality, and transgenderism were intertwined together. It is, however, the mid-20th century that witnessed the first more organized (in the modern sense) attempts at building transgender community.

In 1952, Virginia Prince, a transgender women (MTF), set up a first magazine: Transvestia: The Journal of the American Society for Equality in Dress. It was relaunched in 1960 and established itself as a long-lasting core of a newly forming transgender peer network. What followed was a slow but consequent establishment of support, friends, and information networks, with more informal groups becoming more visible and active in the public sphere. A good example is the second half of the 1960s in the San Francisco area. A cooperation between city council officials, transgender activists, and health professionals gave rise to a well-established network of support services (like easy access to hormonal therapy, psychological counseling, etc.) and education.

Another symbolic moment in the history of transgender movement is, already mentioned, Stonewall Inn riots in St. Christopher Street, New York, 1969. This date is usually ascribed to the beginnings of the gay and lesbian liberation movements. It is, however, worth remembering that Stonewall bar was actually a commonplace of gathering for transgender people and drag queens (male, usually homosexual, impersonators of femininity). Nonetheless, soon during the decade of 1970s, the transgender community got disillusioned and disappointed with gay and lesbian liberation on the one hand, and the developing second wave of feminism, on the other.

As it was the case with bisexuals, transgender people were also often excluded from both movements. Many feminists of that time felt that FTM men were traitors of the cause, or MTF women were seen as not real or as invaders or perpetrators of the feminine sphere. Lack of understanding of transgender people’s problems was also clear in ranks of lesbian and gay liberation groups. These often portrayed transgender people as having false consciousness, repeating and strengthening social gender order—rather than trying to dismantle it.

This history of exclusion and hurt became later an important influence on the formation of the queer activism. Around the 1980s, a stronger presence of FTM communities became noticeable, with many FTM social networks emerging across the United States. A certain shift in sexual politics could be again noticed around the second half of the 1980s. It was an alteration in the HIV and AIDS politics, which started to move away from an identity-based type of politics (dominant at the beginning of the epidemic). During this time, transgender, bisexual, lesbian, and gay communities came together, forming queer activism. The relationship between transgender activism and queer approaches is not unproblematic, though.

Some transgender communities feel that queer theory remains nothing but theory and does not meet pragmatics and problems of material life. For them, the term trans gender became an empty signifier, a theoretical figure of academic queer theorizing, much divorced from the everyday needs of transgender people.

However, it should also be noted that many other trans people felt that it was queer and its stress on the flexibility of identities was where they finally could find their place, not being pinned down to only one category.

Such conflict, present in every movement, is a good example of problems faced by all identity- and non-identitybased movements. It is not a sign of weakness, but rather of an ongoing process, which cannot be enclosed in one definition or a model.

IV. LGBT Politics: Main Issues

After a historical overview, this section takes a conceptual form, presenting the reader with a selection of the most persistent and important issues for the LGBT movements in the last 50 years of the 20th century. These are education and representation, legal changes, same-sex partnerships, and health. The contested nature of these issues is addressed in the “Queer Approaches” section that follows.

A. Education and Representation

Homophobia spreads because of fear of the unknown. Therefore, one way of counteracting homophobia is to make homosexuality known, through education.

Education as a component of lesbian and gay struggle was usually two dimensional: directed at the homosexual community (consciousness raising, safer-sex information, support groups, psychological help, etc.) and at the majority of society (cultural events like film screenings, festivals, public campaigns, marches, parades, appearance in television and radio programs, etc.). Education may also be seen as the general framework for lesbian and gay politics, not only as one of its tools. Indeed, politics itself can be defined as a form of education focused not only on transmitting existing structures, agents, and institutions but also on transforming them.

It is from this angle, of education as a framework, that visibility (representation) may be treated as part of a larger project (politics); nevertheless, it is often presented as an autonomous strategy. The usually grounding conviction behind its importance is that homosexual people are wrongly portrayed and seen in society as abnormal, sexually vulgar, oversexualized, promiscuous, gender dysfunctional, and so on. Consequently, the task of the LGBT struggle is to reverse these misconceptions by disseminating positive representations of the LGBT community in all its diversity. Thus, for example, the homophile movement suggested gender-normative behavior to their followers, and the gay rights approach stressed professionalism.

1. Reclaiming History

Reclaiming history is yet another popular strategy for educating societies and generating more positive representations of homosexual people. By calling on famous homosexual figures from the past (often beginning with ancient Greece and Rome, through Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, to various other people from past and present), LGBT communities are trying to regain the voice, become agents, and write or tell their own histories. As many studies show, the question of whose voices are heard and how stories are told are the central issues in the processes of the creation of social and political inequalities. So reclaiming history would be an act of reappropriating agency by LGBT groups and fighting back against the heteronormativity of sociopolitical space.

2. Coming Out

“Coming out”—the act of public disclosure of one’s homosexuality—is often seen as a necessary condition and element of LGBT identity politics. It stresses the need for education and visibility by using one’s own voice. The underlying assumption is that dominant discourses are heteronormative and that all nonheterosexual people are subjugated to and oppressed by its regulatory mechanisms. Consequently, the public declaration of one’s own nonheterosexuality is a way to break out from the matrix of domination, regain one’s own voice, and become an agent of one’s own creation. The act of coming out is of crucial importance for LGBT identity politics. In the private act of coming out into the public domain, the individual sexual identity becomes de facto a political statement. Thus, the collective identity is born: As such, homosexuality enables agency and the historical possibility of the emergence of LGBT identity politics.

3. Pride Parades and Marches

Gay Prides, as they are popularly called, are without doubt the most popular strategy used by the LGBT community. The idea originated in the memorial marches organized to commemorate the Stonewall riots in 1969. Gay Pride stresses the need for public visibility of LGBT subjects. As the name suggests, the aim was to show society proud homosexuals, individuals that were actively pursuing their liberties, rather than shamefully and secretly seeking social accommodation. It was clearly a liberationist stance, opposing the more tame homophile attitudes of the 1950s and 1960s. Parades take the feminist idea that the personal is political quite literally and bring sexuality onto the streets. Pride marches have evolved through time and changes in geopolitical context. From early political riots (like those around Stonewall and other places), through political manifestations (like marches on Washington), to apolitical, carnivalesque entertainment (prevailing nowadays), what they have in common is their embodiment of the 1970s slogan: “Out of the closets and into the streets.”

4. Homophobia, Racism, and Androcentrism

Another profound contribution of feminist and LGBT scholars is to put a stress on intersectionality. Intersectional analysis means to look at social and cultural realities through a prism of no one single factor but many interrelated factors—or to see society and politics as inevitably intertwined. Therefore, it is suggested that to understand homophobia, we must also look at racism and androcentrism in society. Intersectionality means to look at class, gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, religiosity, and other factors as always already intertwined. Hence, to understand one, we need to grasp the dynamics of the other aspects as well.

This was originally suggested by feminist and LGBT activists of color, who often felt that both movements were not properly dealing with their more specific problems, for example, racism or immigration control. Intersectionality was later adopted in queer approaches as the crucial method of understanding and dealing with sociopolitical reality.

B. Legal Change

LGBT politics during the decades of the 1950s to 1970s were very much focused on the cultural and social aspects determining discrimination against homosexual people. By the end of the 1970s, with the growth of the gay rights approach, more attention was given to the legal framework. Three major areas of interest may be distinguished: decriminalization of homosexuality, imposing antidiscrimination regulations, and providing legal regulations of same-sex partnerships.

Although not on a national level, some individual states upheld so-called sodomy laws, penalizing (mostly male) same-sex sexual behavior. These laws are seen by LGBT groups as belonging to the previous epoch and violating basic human rights. Therefore, eradication of these regulations became an important part of LGBT struggle in the 20th century.

On the other hand, more positive laws were suggested as worth inscription into the legal code, especially regulations that would directly mention sexual orientation as one of the grounds on which discrimination is prohibited. It is argued that current existing (if at all) antidiscrimination laws are hard to execute if no direct inscription of sexual orientation is present in those bills.

Finally, the legal recognition of same-sex partnerships has become one of the most important issues in LGBT politics. For that reason, it is discussed next as a separate section.

C. Same-Sex Partnerships

Same-sex partnerships and gay marriages became the core of LGBT politics in America and worldwide in the second half of the 1990s. The distinction between legally recognized partnerships and marriages is not only linguistic but also has symbolic meaning. The use of the term gay marriage denotes not only the plea for legal regulation of homosexual relationships but also highlights inequalities in the social regulation of homo- and heterosexuality. As such, advocates of gay marriage do not want “just like marriage” same-sex partnerships, because this still dialectically places heterosexual marriage as the ideal. But rather, the use of the term gay marriage is an attempt at transforming wider social relations of privilege, emphasizing existing customs and habits of power. It is to make social institutions as marriage defined as not exclusively heterosexual.

Why has the struggle for legally recognized homosexual relationships become so important? There are various reasons. One of them is the growing dominance of gay rights, among other approaches, in LGBT politics throughout the 1980s and 1990s. This tactic intensively deploys the legal-structural framework for the advancement of rights for LGBT people. It is driven by a belief that legal adjustment will erase homophobia and discrimination in society (a change from what was previously discussed).

Another reason is connected to the wider developments in North America and other Western liberal democracies. Arguably, the 1990s brought about the amelioration of living conditions of Western societies and, after the 1980s backlash, the liberalization of social attitudes. Some queer-oriented critiques point toward the fact that the aspiration of gay people toward same-sex partnerships reflects neoliberal consumerism and a general adaptation to middle-class standards and norms. On the other hand, it is also seen as the obvious next step on the way to equality. After fighting for negative freedom from discrimination, same-sex partnerships would signify positive freedom to self-realization and fulfillment. Same-sex partnerships remain today one of the most contested and hotly debated areas of LGBT politics.

D. Health

The issue of medical discourses, the health care system, equal access to treatment, and governmental spending on health-related research is the last theme of LGBT politics. It is possible to distinguish three areas of interest: medical discourses about sexuality, HIV- and AIDS-related issues, and transsexual people’s needs.

Pathologizing discourses, which present homo-, bi-, and transsexuality as aberrations and deviancy, were strong in various medical disciplines, most clearly in psychology and psychotherapy. From the 1950s onward, the reversal of those stigmatizing discourses was of primary importance for LGBT movements. Strongly related to the issue of representation, finding another way of talking about sexuality in medicine (a way that would not pathologize its nonheterosexual forms) took various forms in various historical moments.

The decade of the 1980s made clear that the governmental response to the HIV and AIDS pandemic was totally inefficient in facing and combating its spread. There was a need of new treatments, funding research, experimental approaches, and providing help and support to those already affected (both patients and their relatives). LGBT groups also stressed the need for preventive policies. They lobbied for outreach programs (e.g., distribution of free condoms) and better sexual education in schools.

Also, the rise of the trans movement made the improvement of health services in the United States one of the major concerns. The often long-haul needs of transsexual people during their transitions highlighted such problems as more open access to psychological help, as well as medical and surgical treatment. The emphasis was put on public funding of those services, simplification of bureaucratic procedures, and depathologization of medical discourses around transsexuality and transgenderism.

V. Queer Approaches

First, it has to be noted that the term queer is a highly contested area, with significant differences in use and understanding of terms and attitudes. Since it is such a contested area, the way it is presented here is just one of many articulations. It is usually welcomed as celebrating diversity and fluidity (as opposed to sometimes too-rigid LGBT strategies and definitions), incorporating greater awareness of global political processes. However, queer approaches have also been criticized by feminist, feminist of color, and LGBT scholars and activists for rendering political activism less possible, paying too much attention to discursive practices and not enough to material conditions of living, and for being too theoretical and lacking empirical inquiry. Most recent queer writing indicates that these discussions have been beneficial for the ongoing development of queer studies. For different ways of synthesizing, please see the rich works of, for example, Michael Warner, Arlene Stein, and Ken Plummer.

A. Critique of Identity Politics

Although LGBT politics took various shapes and forms in the course of its evolution, the issue of identity politics can be said to be at its most prominent between 1960 and 1980. Without entering into a nuanced debate about identity politics as such, LGBT identity politics can be summarized as follows. It is about treating sexuality and gender as the dominant, core essence of a person’s identity. Hence, we talk about gay identity or bisexual identity. LGBT identity politics has been influenced by other identity politics movements from the American counterculture of the 1960s and 1970s. This approach presumes that all homosexual (and for that matter bisexual and transsexual) people experience the same sort of oppression and that sexuality is the most important characteristic for their sense of self.

This position is often referred to as essentialism— because, of many aspects that create our identity, only one is seen as the most important, essential, to understand a person. LGBT identity politics is thus an essentialist strategy that (over)values sexuality, placing it above class, race, gender, cultural affiliations, and other categories. This strategy proved at times to be a successful and efficient way of challenging homophobia and discrimination but also has its clear drawbacks.

Among other things, queer movements and queer academic scholarship point to the constraints imposed by identity politics, proposing alternative solutions in activism and the way people think sex.As already pointed out in the case of bisexual and transsexual movements, LGBT identity politics often lead to the hegemonizing of lesbian and gay people over bisexuals and transsexuals. The very mechanism of exclusion that homosexual communities fought against were often redeployed by the same groups against their own minorities of bisexual and transsexual people.

Queer activism of the late 1980s and 1990s—as represented in such groups as ACT UP, Lavender Menace, or Queer Nation—was also characterized by a return to more in-your-face types of activism. These approaches were similar to those that were widely adopted at the early stages of gay liberation and are in stark contrast to more formally structured lobbying strategies used by pressure groups of the gay rights approach.

B. Critique of Politics of Visibility

Following critical attitudes toward identity politics, similar critical stances are developed toward politics of visibility.

Queer approaches scrutinize the act of coming out, a favored strategy of LGBT identity politics. Inspired by the work of French philosopher Michel Foucault, who showed how unequal power relations are established in any act of confession, the queer approach refuses coming out as an act that ascertains heterosexuality at the core of its politics. It is suggested that such an act makes LGBTQ people subjects of surveillance within heteronormative (see subsequent definition) social regulations. Directly connected to this issue is the question of representation.

The importance given by LGBT groups to public visibility has been critically reassessed by queer activists. The question is whether the public (under)representation is always already a bad and negative thing for the LGBT community. Queer approaches argue that strong pressure for more visibility has normalizing effects, excluding nonnormative (queer) representations. Media inclusion may be potentially exploitative of those members of community, who do not fit into standardized vision of a normal LGBT person.

C. Critique of Neoliberalism

Queer politics is also preoccupied with the impact of consumerism and neoliberalism on the creation of a gay lifestyle. It is noticed that consumerist practices and entertainment encouraged by capitalism promote white, male, middle-class lifestyle, at the expenses of other social groups. Alexandra Chasin (2000), Lisa Duggan (2002, 2004), and Lauren Berlant (1997) show how neoliberal capitalism locates its interests unequally and how in neoliberal democracies citizens are treated more as consumers than anything else. This process only strengthens inequalities, reproducing the social core (usually white and male) and the margins (women, LGBT people, immigrants, and people of color). Cultural practices of consumerism, like gay tourism or sex tourism, were shown to work alongside the economic dominance of the global North over global South. The interest in material rudiments of political and social position occupied by LGBTQ people has developed in response to critical voices, which rightfully pinpointed that literary and cultural origins of queer theory obscured the queer analysis of everyday life in its material, not only discursive, dimensions.

The aforementioned queer critiques build up toward the larger queer project of challenging heteronormativity of public and private life. The term heteronormativity could be defined as a set of overarching practices, discourses, and arrangements facilitating domination of reproductive heterosexuality as the normative category of modern societies, organizing people according to their genders, social positions, ethnic markers, and sexual choices.

D. Geopolitics: Neoimperialism, Terrorism, and Nationalism

Another important development within queer studies is the work on the geopolitical and temporal practices of U.S. governments and Western and U.S. LGBT activism and scholarship. Book editors such as Martin Manalansan, Cindy Patton, Benigno Sánchez-Eppler, Arnoldo Cruz- Malavé, and John Hawley have contributed to the quickly growing field of inquiry combining queer and postcolonial theories. Authors gathered in their books offer crucial insights into such processes as citizenship status of queer migrants and queer people of color, sexuality and ethnicity in diasporas, asylum policies and sexuality, sexuality and nationhood, control of bodies, and national borders.

Globalization of LGBT identities and the global gay movement are also important issues of study. Especially the spread of the Western and U.S. models of LGBT activism around the world as universal is questioned. As in the case of gay tourism, Western LGBT activism is analyzed in the light of globalization and cultural hegemonic practices of the West and the United States. The standardization of sexualities and their use for wider political prospects is scrutinized, especially in relation to American nationalism, terrorism, and neoimperialism.

For example, Judith Butler (2009), a key figure of queer studies, and Jasbir Puar (2007) show how some acceptance of gay rights has been adopted in American nationalist discourse as a sign of progress. In turn, this has been used to legitimize the war on terror’s “civilizing mission” in the Middle East. However controversial, queer approaches’ contribution was to show how racialisation of the otherness (in the international relations) is intrinsic to certain forms of normalization of homosexuality in domestic politics.

VI. Conclusion

The impact of the LGBT communities on the political sphere continues to be diverse and come from various angles, from social movements embracing identity politics and focusing on cultural politics of societal change to governmental pressure groups lobbying for legal change. It ranges from street activism, through academic theorizing, reaching to influence modern understandings of political ideologies.

Of the various issues raised throughout history, those of education, health, racism, exclusion, androcentrism, ideologies, nationalism, hope, AIDS, ethics, intimacies, and visibility, among others, were dealt with.

Political science was rather reluctant to incorporate sexuality as a prominent aspect worth theorizing. Dominated by the positivist epistemology (philosophical perspectives on what constitutes knowledge) of so-called objective truth, in search of universal models and theories explaining voting behavior, diminishing of party politics, for example—there was no space for sexuality. However, the liberal ideology, which has greatly contributed to this exclusion, has changed, as did other ideologies. Classical liberal thought put sexuality into the private sphere, which, according to John Locke, should not overlap with the political domain. It is very much thanks to the feminist and LGBT struggles, which insist that private is political, that nowadays the understanding of politics is wider and more inclusive.

Finally, the paper could be summarized under the heading “sexual citizenship.” How governments are dealing with sexuality, gender, citizenship, and national and ethnic identities are pressing issues that secure more and more attention. Hence, the term may prove useful when trying to understand most recent history. Embracing tolerance of homosexuality as a national feature, using it to control immigration, or to mobilize international support for imposing legislatures to prevent discrimination are just a few examples of how LGBT issues have been used so far in 21st-century politics.

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