Gender & Society in the Classroom: LGBTQIA Sexualities
Organized by: Jenny Lendrum, Wayne State University
The following Gender & Society articles on LGBTQIA sexualities focus primarily on articles that include discussions around personal identities. Included in the list is an article examining heteronormativity, an article exploring Latina lesbian migrants and multiple inequalities they face, and, finally, an article that re-examines “doing gender” among transpeople and the ways in which they negotiate gendered interactions in the workplace. As this body of scholarly literature continues to grow, as will this list of articles that may be used as supplements to other readings in the classroom.
Many parents and child-rearing experts prefer that children exhibit gender-normative behavior, a preference that is linked to the belief that children are, or should be, heterosexual. But how do LGBTQ parents—who may not hold these preferences—approach the gender socialization of their children? Drawing on in-depth interviews with both members in 18 LGBTQ couples, I find that these parents attempt to provide their children with a variety of gendered options for clothing, toys, and activities—a strategy that I call the “gender buffet.” However, the social location of the parents influences the degree to which they feel they can pursue this strategy of resistance. Factors such as race, social class, gender of parents and children, and level of support of family and community members contribute to the degree to which LGBTQ parents feel they can allow or encourage their children to disrupt gender norms.
Although medical providers rely on similar tools to “treat” intersex and trans individuals, their enactment of medicalization practices varies. To deconstruct these complexities, we employ a comparative analysis of providers who specialize in intersex and trans medicine. While both sets of providers tend to hold essentialist ideologies about sex, gender, and sexuality, we argue they medicalize intersex and trans embodiments in different ways. Providers for intersex people are inclined to approach intersex as an emergency that necessitates medical attention, whereas providers for trans people attempt to slow down their patients’ urgent requests for transitioning services. Building on conceptualizations of “giving gender,” we contend both sets of providers “give gender” by “giving sex.” In both cases too, providers shift their own responsibility for their medicalization practices onto others: parents in the case of intersex, or adult recipients of care in the case of trans. According to the accounts of most providers, successful medical interventions are achieved when a person adheres to heteronormative gender practices.
Gender is commonly thought of as dependent on sex even though there are occasional aberrations. Interviews with female-to-male trans people, however, suggest that sex and sex characteristics can be understood as expressions of gender. The expression of gender relies on both behavior and the appearance of the performer as male or female. When sex characteristics do not align with gender, behavior becomes more important to gender expression and interpretation. When sex characteristics become more congruent with gender, behavior becomes more fluid and less important in asserting gender. Respondents also challenge traditional notions of sexual orientation by focusing less on the sex of the partner and more on the gender organization of the relationship. The relationship’s ability to validate the interviewee’s masculinity or maleness often takes precedence over the sex of the partner, helping to explain changing sexual orientation as female-to-male transsexual and transgendered people transition into men.
This article examines new patterns of workplace inequality that emerge as transgender people are incorporated into the global labor market. Drawing on in-depth interviews with 41 transgender call center employees in the Philippines, I develop the concept “purple-collar labor” to describe how transgender workers—specifically trans women—are clustered, dispersed, and segregated in the workplace and how their patterned locations in social organizational structures serve a particular value-producing function. These patterned inclusions, I argue, come with explicit and implicit interactional expectations about how “trans” should be put to work in the expansion and accumulation of global capital. In this way, the study examines the production and extraction of queer value and the folding of trans women’s gendered performances into commercial exchange. Data show how the affective labor of transgender employees is used to help foster productivity, ease workplace tensions, and boost employee morale. This study of transgender employment experiences opens new lines of inquiry for understanding gender inequalities at work, and it builds on scholarship that combines political economy approaches with transgender studies.
This article explores “determining gender,” the umbrella term for social practices of placing others in gender categories. We draw on three case studies showcasing moments of conflict over who counts as a man and who counts as a woman: public debates over the expansion of transgender employment rights, policies determining eligibility of transgender people for competitive sports, and proposals to remove the genital surgery requirement for a change of sex marker on birth certificates. We show that criteria for determining gender differ across social spaces. Gender-integrated spaces are more likely to use identity-based criteria, while gender-segregated spaces, like the sexual spaces we have previously examined (Schilt and Westbrook 2009), are more likely to use biology-based criteria. In addition, because of beliefs that women are inherently vulnerable and men are dangerous, “men’s” and “women’s” spaces are not policed equally—making access to women’s spaces central to debates over transgender rights.
Transgender individuals and families throw existing taxonomic classification systems of identity into perplexing disarray, illuminating sociolegal dilemmas long overdue for critical sociological inquiry. Using interview data collected from 50 cisgender women from across (primarily) the United States and Canada, who detail 61 unique partnerships with transgender and transsexual men, this work considers the pragmatic choices and choice-making capacities (or “agency”) of this social group as embedded within social systems, structures, and institutions. Proposing the analytic constructs of “normative resistance” and “inventive pragmatism” to situate the interactional processes between agency and structure in the everyday lives of this understudied group of cisgender women, this work theorizes the liminal sociolegal status of an understudied family form. In so doing, it exposes the increasingly paradoxical consolidation and destabilization of sociolegal notions of identity, marriage, normativity, and parenthood—challenging, contributing to, and extending current theoretical and empirical understandings of agency and structure in twenty-first-century families.
In this article, I respond to queer critiques of the pursuit of same-sex marriage. I first examine the issue of (homo)normalization through a consideration of the everyday lives of same-sex couples with children, a subject about which queer critics are strangely silent. Children force same-sex couples to be out in multiple areas of their lives and recent court cases explicitly challenge the idea that same-sex couples do not make fit parents. Second, I examine whether same-sex marriage will address structural inequalities or will mainly benefit white, middle-class people. Access to marriage has disparate benefits depending on people’s structural locations, but is a movement goal supported by a broad array of LGBT people. Third, I examine the relationship between marriage, regulation, and the state. I argue for a broader understanding of the relationship between the state and different types of relationships, suggesting that it is impossible to escape regulation. If we consider marriage and family forms cross-nationally, we see a variety of possibilities for state recognition of various family forms. I conclude by assessing the impact of same-sex marriage on the future of LGBT politics, arguing that achieving marriage equality may allow the space for new political possibilities to emerge.
Until recently, raising a young child as transgender was culturally unintelligible. Most scholarship on transgender identity refers to adults’ experiences and perspectives. Now, the increasing visibility of gender-variant children, as they are identified by the parents who raise them, presents new opportunities to examine how individuals confront the gender binary and imagine more gender-inclusive possibilities. Drawing on Foucault’s notion of “truth regime” to conceptualize the regulatory forces of the gender binary in everyday life, this work examines the strategies of 24 such parents, who represent 16 cases of childhood gender variance. Specifically, I analyze three practices—“gender hedging,” “gender literacy,” and “playing along”—through which these parents develop a critical consciousness about gender binary ideology and work to accommodate their children’s nonconformity in diverse discursive interactions. Taken together, their newfound strategies and perspectives subvert traditional conceptions of “gender-neutral” or “feminist” parenting, and reveal new modes of resistance to the normative transmission and regulation of gender practices.
The college hookup scene is a profoundly gendered and heteronormative sexual field. Yet the party and bar scene that gives rise to hookups also fosters the practice of women kissing other women in public, generally to the enjoyment of male onlookers, and sometimes facilitates threesomes involving same-sex sexual behavior between women. In this article, we argue that the hookup scene serves as an opportunity structure to explore same-sex attractions and, at least for some women, to later verify bisexual, lesbian, or queer sexual identities. Based on quantitative and qualitative data and combining queer theory and identity theory, we offer a new interpretation of women’s same-sex practices in the hookup culture. Our analysis contributes to gender theory by demonstrating the utility of identity theory for understanding how non-normative gender and sexual identities are negotiated within heteronormatively structured fields.
Historically developed along gender lines and arguably the most sex segregated of institutions, U.S. prisons are organized around the assumption of a gender binary. In this context, the existence and increasing visibility of transgender prisoners raise questions about how gender is accomplished by transgender prisoners in prisons for men. This analysis draws on official data and original interview data from 315 transgender inmates in 27 California prisons for men to focus analytic attention on the pursuit of “the real deal”—a concept we develop to reference a dynamic related to how gender is accomplished by transgender inmates. Specifically, among transgender inmates in prisons for men, there is competition for the attention and affection of “real men” in prisons: the demonstrable and well-articulated desire to secure standing as “the best girl” in sex segregated institutional environments. Our empirical examination sheds light on the gender order that underpins prison life, the lived experience of gender and sexuality for transgender inmates in prisons for men, and how that experience reveals new aspects of the workings of gender accountability.
The author uses an intersectionality framework to examine how lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people evaluate the severity of their violent experiences. Previous research focusing on the severity of anti-LGBT violence has given relatively little attention to race, class, and gender as systems of power. In contrast, results from this study, based on 47 semi-structured, in-depth interviews, reveal that Black and Latino/Latina respondents often perceived anti-queer violence as implying that they had negatively represented their racial communities, whereas white respondents typically overlooked the racialized implications of their violent experiences. Furthermore, while lesbians of color emphasized their autonomy and self-sufficiency to challenge this discourse, Black and Latino gay men underscored their emotional and physical strength to undermine perceptions that they were weak for identifying as gay. Results also indicate that LGBT people experience forms of anti-queer violence in different ways depending on their social position, as Black lesbians faced discourse that neither white lesbians nor Black gay men were likely to confront. Thus, these findings suggest that topics primarily associated with homophobia should be examined through an intersectional lens.
Research suggests a gendered dimension to the geography of sexual minorities, as gay couples are more likely to live in cities than are lesbian couples. Using data from 60 interviews with rural gays and lesbians, this article employs an intersectional analysis of the mutually constitutive relationships among place, gender, and sexuality in order to assess how acceptance of gays and lesbians in small towns is gendered. Findings indicate that femininity aligns with gay sexuality but not rurality. In contrast, masculinity underpins both the categories “rural” and “lesbian.” Furthermore, both lesbian women and gay men gain acceptance in rural areas by doing masculinity. This analysis indicates that masculinity is not something to which only male bodies are privy. In contrast to prior work, it shows one form of female masculinity that is normative rather than transgressive. The analysis also reveals that the meanings of gender presentations vary by geographical context.
In this article, I examine how gay Christian men constructed compensatory manhood acts. Based on more than 450 hours of fieldwork in a southeastern LGBT Christian organization, I analyze how a group of gay men, responding to sexist, heterosexist, and religious stigma, as well as the acquisition of a new pastor, constructed identities as gay Christian men by (1) emphasizing paternal stewardship, (2) stressing emotional control and inherent rationality, and (3) defining intimate relationships in a Christian manner. These subordinated men, regardless of their intentions, collaboratively drew on and reproduced cultural notions that facilitate and justify the subordination of women and sexual minorities. Specifically, their compensatory manhood acts symbolically positioned them as superior to supposedly promiscuous, self-centered, and effeminate others. In conclusion, I draw out implications for understanding how groups of gay Christian men engage in compensatory manhood acts, and the consequences these actions have for the reproduction of inequality.
This short article is part of a larger symposium on the work of Patricia Hill Collins. In just a few pages, Moore both summarizes the important contributions Collins makes to understanding sexuality from an intersectional perspective, and uses her own work on Black sexual minority women to demonstrate the utility of such a framework. The article makes very clear how sexuality is not just an identity category, but is a site of power and oppression that converges with gender, race, and class to shape experiences, identities, and relationships.
In this article, I explore how masculinity and gender nonconformity are viewed by 37 migrant Puerto Rican gay men who had been raised in Puerto Rico and migrated Stateside as adults. Most of these migrant men note the importance of masculinity in their development and interactions with others, particularly other men. They resist identification of themselves as effeminate and distance themselves from locas (effeminate gay men). They associate locas with overt homosexuality, disrespect, and marginality. I argue that migrant Puerto Rican gay masculinities are maintained within the precept of hegemonic masculinity through various social mechanisms, including a gendered construction of male homosexuality; the connection of social and interpersonal respect with masculinity; the socially allowable and pervasive ridicule and punishment of male femininity; and marginalization based on multiple social statuses. Through these interconnected social mechanisms, heteronormative perspectives on gender, gender binaries, and power are incorporated into homonormative migrant Puerto Rican gay masculinities.
The purpose of this research is to investigate the masculinity politics of the ex-gay movement, a loose-knit network of religious, scientific, and political organizations that advocates change for homosexuals. Guided by Risman’s gender structure theory, the authors analyze the individual, interactional, and institutional dimensions of gender in ex-gay discourses. The authors employ critical discourse analysis of representative ex-gay texts to deconstruct the movement’s gender ideology and to discuss the social implications of its masculinity politics. They argue that gender is one of the ex-gay movement’s most potent social movement resources, enabling it to consolidate power by enlisting new populations and to globalize by adapting to cultural contexts beyond the United States. The authors conclude that the ex-gay movement is an antigay countermovement and an antifeminist Christian Right men’s movement.
This article explores the experiences of Latina lesbian migrants living in the United States. Drawing on in-depth interviews with 15 Latina lesbian migrants, I argue that Latinas’ sexual, racial, and class identities are continuously shifting as the process of migration repositions them in a new system of racial inequality. Their sexual identities are altered as migrants often silence their lesbian existence when negotiating relationships with families of origin. Lesbianas establish borderland spaces for themselves where they gain sexual autonomy but where their identities are in flux. These spaces are “imagined communities” because while lesbianas envision them to provide solidarity, in practice the borderlands are riddled with inequalities and tensions. Despite this, the borderlands allow lesbianas to develop a mestiza consciousness.
Drawing from the perspectives of transgender individuals, this article offers an empirical investigation of recent critiques of West and Zimmerman’s “doing gender” theory. This analysis uses 19 in-depth interviews with transpeople about their negotiation and management of gendered interactions at work to explore how their experiences potentially contribute to the doing, undoing, or redoing of gender in the workplace. I find that transpeople face unique challenges in making interactional sense of their sex, gender, and sex category and simultaneously engage in doing, undoing, and redoing gender in the process of managing these challenges. Consequently, I argue that their interactional gender accomplishments are not adequately captured under the rubric of “doing gender” and suggest instead that they be understood as “doing transgender.” This article outlines the process of and consequences of “doing transgender” and its potential implications for the experience of and transformation of gender inequality at work.