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Article

Both inside and outside of the Communication Studies discipline, the place of sexuality scholarship is unsettled—and that shaky ground materializes especially around the discussion of sexual pleasure in the field and beyond. Candid discussions of sex, pleasure, desire, sexual tastes, fantasies, and bodily responses have long inspired heavy-breathing anxiety inflected by a reach for “propriety.” This anxiety envelopes public discourses of what feels good—especially things that feel really good under less-than-great conditions and things that deviate from what normative structures say should feel good. There are three areas in which pleasure emerges in the field of queer communication studies: analyses of representational pleasure, resistance to normative public discourses, and embodied autoethnographies of pleasure, which trace moments of queer sexual pleasure articulation in communication research despite disciplinary attempts to elide this field of study.

Article

Elizabeth K. Eger, Morgan L. Litrenta, Sierra R. Kane, and Lace D. Senegal

LGBTQ+ people face unique organizational communication dilemmas at work. In the United States, LGBTQ+ workers communicate their gender, sexuality, and other intersecting identities and experiences through complex interactions with coworkers, supervisors, customers, publics, organizations, and institutions. They also utilize specific communication strategies to navigate exclusionary policies and practices and organize for intersectional justice. Five central research themes for LGBTQ+ workers in the current literature include (a) workplace discrimination, (b) disclosure at work, (c) navigating interpersonal relationships at work, (d) inclusive and exclusive policies, and (e) intersectional work experiences and organizing. First, the lived experiences of discrimination, exclusion, and violence in organizations, including from coworkers, managers, and customers, present a plethora of challenges from organizational entry to exit. LGBTQ+ workers face high levels of unemployment and underemployment and experience frequent microaggressions. Queer, trans, and intersex workers also experience prevalent workplace discrimination, uncertainty, and systemic barriers when attempting to use fluctuating national and state laws for workplace protections. Second, such discrimination creates unique risks that LGBTQ+ workers must navigate when it comes to disclosing their identities at work. The complexities of workplace disclosure of LGBTQ+ identities and experiences become apparent through closeting, passing, and outing communication. These three communication strategies for queer, trans, and intersex survival are often read as secretive or deceptive by heterosexual or cisgender coworkers and managers. Closeting communication may also involve concealing information about personal and family relationships at work and other identity intersections. Third, LGBTQ+ people must navigate workplace relationships, particularly with heterosexual and/or cisgender coworkers and managers and in organizations that assume cisheteronormativity. Fourth, policies structure LGBTQ+ workers’ lives, including both the positive impacts of inclusive policies and discrimination and violence via exclusionary policies. Fifth and finally, intersectionality is crucial to theorize when examining LGBTQ+ workers’ communication. It is not enough to just investigate sexuality or gender identity, as they are interwoven with race, class, disability, religion, nationality, age, and more. Important exemplars also showcase how intersectional organizing can create transformative and empowering experiences for LGBTQ+ people. By centering LGBTQ+ workers, this article examines their unique and complex organizational communication needs and proposes future research.

Article

Earlier generations of Western scholars often regarded nonheterosexual desires, identities, and intimacies in Chinese-speaking contexts as marginalized, stigmatized, and silenced, if not completely invisible, in mainstream mediascapes and pop cultural spaces. However, in contemporary Chinese and Sinophone contexts, queer practices, images, and narratives voiced, either explicitly or implicitly, by media producers, performers, and consumers or fans who do not necessarily self-identify as LGBTQ are common and even proliferating. These manifestations of queer Chinese media and pop culture are diverse and widespread in both online and offline spaces. In the new millennium, with the rise of queer Asian, queer Chinese, and queer Sinophone studies, scholars have strived to move away from Euro-American-centric and Japanese-centric queer media studies and theories when examining queer Chinese-language media and cultural productions. In particular, a growing body of scholarship (in fields such as literary studies, cinema and television studies, and fan studies) has explored intersecting ways of reconceptualizing “queerness” and “Chineseness” to examine gender, sexual, and sociocultural minority cultures in Chinese-language public and pop cultural spaces. Some of the literature has usefully traced the history of the concepts “homosexuality” and “tongzhi” (comrade) in modern and contemporary China, as well as the transcultural transmission and mutations of the meanings of the English term “queer” (ku’er) in Chinese media studies. Differentiating these concepts helps clarify the theorization of and scholarly debates surrounding queer Chinese media and pop culture in the 21st century. A number of scholars have also troubled the meaning and the essentialized identity of “Chineseness” through a queer lens while decolonizing and de-Westernizing queer Chinese media and pop cultural studies. In addition, post-2010 scholarship has paid major attention to Chinese media censorship and regulations (with a close focus on the context of mainland China/the People’s Republic of China/PRC) concerning homosexual and queer content production, circulation, and consumption and how these have been circumvented in both traditional and online media spaces.

Article

Roberta Chevrette

Scholarship engaging queer theory in tandem with the study of colonialism and empire has expanded in recent years. This interdisciplinary area of research draws from queer of color theorizing and women of color feminists who made these links during queer theory’s emergence and development in social movements and within the field of women’s and gender studies. Together, queer of color, (post)colonial, transnational feminist, and Indigenous scholars and activists have highlighted the centrality of gender and sexuality to colonial, settler colonial, and imperial processes. Among the alignments of queer and (post)colonial inquiry are their emphases on social transformation through critique and resistant praxis. In the communication discipline, scholarship queering the study of colonialism and empire has emerged in critical/cultural studies, intercultural communication, rhetoric, media studies, and performance studies. Two broad thematics defining this scholarship are (a) decolonizing queerness by identifying how queer theory, LGBTQ activism, and queer globalizations have reinforced Whiteness and empire; and (b) queering decolonization by identifying how heteropatriarchal, binary, and normative systems of sex, sexuality, and gender contribute to colonial processes of past and present.

Article

The rejection of coming out as a linear narrative must be accompanied by an alternative to the formulas of confession, disclosure, and identity adoption that have pervaded the current representations of coming out in the West. The appearance of coming out in film narratives provides important opportunities to observe how elements such as repetition, rehearsal, and, above all, contrasts are incorporated into the stories that are recounted. Conventional coming-out films have relied so heavily on the restrictive nature of the genre’s narrative structure that the potential for alternative, or queered, realities of coming out is erased. The continual reappearance and adaptations of coming out will enable a better understanding of the ways in which the act is presented as a moment that is never finished and that often evades a final, perfected, and polished performance. Four specific narratives from queer film—Beautiful Thing (1996), Summer Storm(2004), Brotherhood (2009), and North Sea Texas (2011)—will be presented to offer counter models for coming out. In Beautiful Thing, the visual narrative demonstrates the importance of the reiterative, adaptable, and unanticipated representation of the act in visual media. In Summer Storm, the audience witnesses how coming out occurs in a world of competitive sports and where the teenage athletes reveal secrets that everyone already knows. In Brotherhood, the act of coming out is transformed into a moment when identities are instantaneously accepted and rejected within a homophobic, neo-Nazi subculture. In North Sea Texas, the script of coming out is reimagined by two characters who ambiguously decline any opportunity to define their identities. Coming out in visual narratives must be understood through an elaboration of Janet Harbord’s belief that the audience gravitates toward particular visual narratives where a comfort zone is created. These films have authored reiterative and adaptable approaches to the act of coming out that both comfort and challenge the audience.

Article

Taisha McMickens, Miranda Dottie Olzman, and Bernadette Marie Calafell

Queer intercultural communication is the study of sexuality in intercultural communication. It is a critical, interdisciplinary field that explores identity (i.e., race, gender, sexuality, nationality, and class) across political, historical, transnational, and social spheres. Queer intercultural communication is grounded in using an intersectional lens and embodiment, and in understanding the way power functions both systemically and individually. Historically, intercultural communication has lagged in including intersectional works that center on queer and transgender voices, theorizings, and methodologies. Queer intercultural communication has worked to expand the voices that are being centered as a way to theorize about potential and hope. As this work continues, scholarship on sexualities must remain open to broadening discourse, theory, and methodologies that are inclusive of multiple stories that evoke queer possibilities.

Article

The discourse of coming out has historically served as an effective vehicle to build and sustain the LGBTQ movement in the United States. It has also been utilized as an empowering resource that enables queer people to establish a queer identity organized around self-awareness and self-expression. However, queer of color critique and transnational queer theory argue that the prevalent discourse of coming out is built on a particular kind of queer experience and geography, which is usually from the standpoint of White, middle-class men of urban U.S. citizenship and is rarely derived from the experience of queer people of color and non-Western queer subjects. Taking an intersectional perspective, Snorton interrogates the racialization of the closet and proposes a sexual politics of ignorance—opposed to the disclosure imperative in coming out discourse—as a tactic of ungovernability. Centering the experience of Russian American immigrants who are queer-identified, Fisher proposes a fluid and productive relationship between the “closeted” and the “out” sexuality that resists any fixed categorization. Focusing on the masking tactic deployed by local queer activists, Martin theorizes the model of xianshen, a local identity politics in Taiwan that questions the very conditions of visibility in dominant coming out discourse. As a decolonial response to the transnational circulation of coming out discourse, Chou delineates a “coming home” approach that emphasizes familial piety and harmony by reining in and concealing queer desires. Being cautious against the nationalist impulse in Chou’s works, Huang and Brouwer propose a “coming with” model to capture the struggles among Chinese queers to disidentify with the family institution. These alternative paradigms serve as epistemic tools that aim to revise understanding of queer resistance and queer relationality and help people to go beyond the imagination of coming out for a livable queer future.

Article

Joan Faber McAlister

The phrase gender in rhetorical theory refers to how gendered identities and dynamics have shaped the conceptualizing of rhetorical performances and interactions. Scholars have attended to this dimension of rhetoric by examining problems relating to gendered norms and representations as contexts, conditions, and functions for rhetoric. Despite the different aims and times of these inquiries, they share central concerns about the gendered productions and exclusions of discourses and rhetorical practices. Scholars also contribute to work in both rhetorical scholarship and gender studies by bringing diverse projects into contact to create new insights. Scholarly attention to gender in rhetorical studies has often critiqued conventional theories of rhetoric for importing simplistic accounts of gender or for failing to address its importance at all. Many crucial contributions to rhetorical studies have worked to correct this problem by drawing on interdisciplinary literature—particularly from feminist theory, intersectional analysis, queer theory, trans theory, and masculinity studies—enriching understandings of how rhetoric functions. Such research has enabled rhetorical theory to begin to account for distinct embodied encounters, material conditions, and performative agencies. Scholars have drawn on interdisciplinary literature to advance a more nuanced account of gendered experiences and representations in rhetorical theory. This research has often related sexism and misogyny to a host of other forms of bias and bigotry that are evident in some of the scholarly assumptions and abstractions guiding the discipline of rhetorical studies. These include universal and neutral standards of rhetorical efficacy, individualistic accounts of the rhetorical agent, and definitions of rhetoric as a representation of (or response to) an external reality that appeals to a preexisting audience. Rhetorical theorists have also contributed to broader conversations engaging complexities of gender by highlighting the role of discourse in the production of biological essentialisms; gender binaries; interlocking oppressions; and multiple vectors of marginalization, discrimination, erasure, exclusion, and violence.

Article

Natalie Fixmer-Oraiz and Shui-yin Sharon Yam

The history, principles, and contributions of the reproductive justice (RJ) framework to queer family formation is the nexus that connects the coalitional potential between RJ and queer justice. How the three pillars of RJ intersect with the systemic marginalization of LGBTQ people—especially poor queer people of color—helps clarify how the RJ framework can elaborate the intersectional understandings of queer reproductive politics and kin.

Article

There are various academic and activist perspectives on sex work as an area of inquiry at the intersection of queer, feminist, and class politics. Exploring this topic with an eye toward a communicative ethic helps to foreground consent and mutuality when considering some of the major theoretical topics connected with sex work. A historiography of the sex wars of the 1970s and 1980s illuminates how public discussions about feminism and sexuality were influenced by the emergence of pornography as a major media force. Taking seriously the refrain “sex work is work,” how labor can be a useful analytic for connecting sex work to the broader economy is considered, while also pointing to the limits of categories such as “sex,” “work,” and “labor.” Situating sex work in the contemporary context of neoliberal and paternalistic rationalities of the state, how advocates for sex workers are caught in a communicative double bind is discussed. Taking into account shared commitments among scholars of sex work in the communication discipline, alternatives to criminalization provide scholars and activists a place to start in imagining a future that is safer for queer bodies and practices.