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Article

The practice and social construction of homosexual relations in the Roman Empire were particularly important as the immediate background to the early Christian and patristic responses that determined the widespread suppression of same-sex behavior in subsequent Western civilization; this suppression was already manifest in influential Roman legal texts of late antiquity. Although to some degree influenced by earlier Greek and Etruscan models, particularly in the realms of literature and art, Roman culture evolved its own distinctive set of practices and moral responses. Whereas classical Greek elites exalted voluntary pederastic relations between adult males and freeborn adolescents, framing them within a pedagogical context, Romans viewed any form of passivity as unmanly and fundamentally incompatible with the conquering warrior ethos required by the expansionist Roman state. Hence, pederastic attentions were legitimate only when directed toward current or former slaves. Despite the coercive character of such relations, they sometimes became tender and affectionate, leading to the favored slave’s manumission and even inheritance of property. While literary references in Augustan-era poets like Vergil, Horace, and Tibullus are decorous and idealizing after the Greek style, the treatment of homosexuality in much Roman literature is markedly different, manifesting an anatomical frankness and obscenity seldom found in Greek texts outside of Attic comedy. Accusations of the most extravagant sexual depravity became commonplace in political rhetoric of the late Republic and escalated in the many defamatory biographical accounts of Rome’s emperors, most of whom engendered posthumous infamy from patrician critics. Whether true or not, such accounts contributed to popular perceptions of a hedonistic ruling class more innured to pleasure than the public good. Not surprisingly, Rome evolved a strong tradition of morally inflected satire and ethical critique of homosexual indulgence. In the early period, this took the form of treating it as a foreign, Greek-inspired vice. More serious was the philosophical response of later Roman Stoicism, which advocated a highly restrictive sexual economy and sought to liberate the soul from enslavement to appetitive desires, particularly if not tied to the providential demands of Nature. Other sources, however, regarded same-sex desire as itself a manifestation of inborn dispositions, and Roman imperial literature features several polarized debates between advocates of boys and women as superior objects of sexual affect, presaging modern conceptions of sexual identity.

Article

The field of empirical scholarship on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) political and social movements that developed in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century has much to contribute to analysis of these movements and their political and cultural contexts. Empirical studies have examined LGBTQ movements in comparison to other types of social movements, finding similarities and alliances as well as distinctive elements. We have learned how LGBTQ movements operate in different global and local contexts, as well as how they interact with different kinds of political systems. Scholars have studied how broader social attitudes have evolved and responded to LGBTQ movements, and the way that backlash to these movements operate in different times and places. At the same time, the theoretical literature that grounds and interprets these studies contributes not just to the epistemology of social movements, but to understandings of the purposes of social and political theorizing. Scholars have examined the utility of different frameworks for understanding social movement organizing, such as the use of civil rights, human rights, and sexual citizenship frameworks. Scholars from the social sciences and humanities have at times brought different theoretical approaches to bear on our understanding of LGBTQ movements, evident in different perspectives regarding the theory of homonationalism. Among the exciting intellectual developments of the late 20th and early 21st century is the burgeoning field of trans studies and trans theory, of social and political theory informed by Global South and Indigenous perspectives, and from the queer of color critique literature.

Article

Executives in the United States influence politics and policies involving the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community. While this is more of a modern phenomenon, presidents and governors actively shape politics that directly influence the community. This allows executives to set the tone of discourse and the eventual result of LGBTQ politics. Most presidents in modern times shaped debate surrounding LGBTQ rights in a positive light, but President Trump’s tone and policies go against recent trends. Executives on every level of government can shape, and have shaped, LGBTQ politics using formal powers, such as executive orders, administrative orders, directives, memorandums, and councils. The various executive documents allow executives to directly set policy through orders or to provide guiding philosophy for how policy should operate. Councils and advisory boards inform executives by providing expertise that executives need to create sound policy. Executives rely on each of the policymaking tools to varying degrees, but all presidents and governors have the ability to use the powers. One often ignored way executives influence policy is by setting the agenda by “going public” to bring the issue to everyday citizens. Executives have shaped many policies that directly affect the LGBTQ community, but three policy areas deserve special focus: the ban on gay and transgender service members in the military, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and nondiscrimination protections. In each of these cases, multiple executives have stepped in to shape policy and enforcement of regulations. In some cases, this is for the better. For instance, nondiscrimination policies came about in many states using gubernatorial executive orders. In other situations, executive action, or inaction, worked to the detriment of LGBTQ individuals, such as the failure of the Reagan administration to respond to the HIV/AIDS crisis. Executives have influenced policy and implementation of policies since the 1970s. This influence is likely to continue for decades to come, not just with these issues, but in many policy areas that affect the lives of LGBTQ individuals.

Article

Spanning the Renaissance and the Enlightenment—the 15th/16th to the 18th centuries—the early modern period in Europe sees a fundamental evolution in relation to the conception and expression of same-sex desire. The gradual emergence of a marginalized homosexual identity, both individual and collective, accompanies a profound transformation in the understanding of the sexed body: the consolidation of two separate and “opposite” sexes, which sustain physiologically grounded sexual and gender roles. This new paradigm contrasts with an earlier one in which masculinity and femininity might be seen as representing points on a spectrum, and same-sex desire, perceived as potentially concerning all men and women, was not assimilable to a permanent characteristic excluding desire for and relations with members of the other sex. These developments, however, happened gradually and unevenly. The period is therefore characterized by differing models of homosexual desire and practices—majoritizing and minoritizing—that coexist in multiple and shifting configurations. The challenge for historians is to describe these in their full complexity, taking account of geographic variations and of both differences and continuities over time—between the beginning of the period and its end, between different points within it, and between early modernity and the present or the more recent past. The tension between similarity, identity, and the endurance of categories, on the one hand, and alterity, incommensurability, and rupture, on the other hand, defies dichotomous thinking that would see them as opposites, and favor one to the exclusion of the other. In making such comparative studies, we would no doubt do well to think not in singular but in plural terms, that is, of homosexualities in history.

Article

Attitudes towards political groups and their rights are often shaped by the core values held by individuals. In reference to LGBT people and their rights, research has often shown that core values play a role in understanding affect towards the group and related policies. Values such as moral traditionalism and egalitarianism have long been understood to be determinants of people’s attitudes toward LGBT rights. LGBT issues are framed relying on competing value frames, which change in their dominance over time. However, core values tend to be stable but American attitudes toward LGBT people and rights have undergone sharp increases in their favorability. One explanation for this change is an increasing political tolerance among the American public. Political tolerance is the degree to which the public supports the civil liberties of members of different social groups, and it is distinct though related to attitudes on LGBT issues of equality (e.g., marriage equality). Political tolerance encompasses attitudes toward the rights for LGBT people to exercise their free speech, political and social organization, and live free from government intrusion. In the US, adults have consistently expressed greater political tolerance for lesbian and gay people than issues of LGBT equality. Political tolerance toward lesbian and gay people has increased since the 1970s, but egalitarian values have remained rather stagnant. The effect of egalitarian values on political tolerance for lesbian and gay people was stronger in earlier years, and as Americans have become more tolerant of lesbian and gay people, the role of egalitarianism in affecting political tolerance has diminished. There are limitations of existing data, especially regarding the political tolerance of bisexuals, transgender people, and others who are generally considered to be within the broader LGBT community.

Article

LGBT people in the United States continue to experience discrimination because of their sexual orientation and gender identity, despite increasing acceptance of LGBT people and legal recognition of marriage for same-sex couples nationwide. This ongoing discrimination can lead to under- and unemployment, resulting in socioeconomic disparities for LGBT people. In addition, empirical research has linked LGBT health disparities, including disparities in health-related risk factors, to experiences of stigma and discrimination. Currently, federal statutes in the United States do not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing, or public accommodations, leaving regulation in this area primarily to state and local governments. This creates a limited and uneven patchwork of protections from discrimination against LGBT people across the country. Despite public support for LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination laws across the country, in 28 states there are no statewide statutory protections for LGBT people in employment, housing, or public accommodations. To date, only 20 states and the District of Columbia have enacted comprehensive non-discrimination statutes that expressly prohibit discrimination based on both sexual orientation and gender identity in all three of these areas. One additional state has statutes that prohibit sexual orientation discrimination, but not gender identity discrimination, in these areas. One other state prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment and housing, but not in public accommodations. In states without statutes that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity, there are other policies that afford LGBT people at least some limited protections from discrimination. In some of these states, state executive branch officials have expanded non-discrimination protections for LGBT people under their executive or agency powers. For example, in three states, state government agencies have expanded broad protections from sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination through administrative regulations. And, in 12 states without statutes prohibiting discrimination against LGBT people, governors have issued executive orders that protect state government employees (and sometimes employees of state government contractors) from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. In addition, local government ordinances provide another source of protection from discrimination; however, these laws are generally unenforceable in court and provide much more limited remedies than statewide non-discrimination statutes. In recent years, lawmakers have increasingly attempted to limit the reach of state and local non-discrimination laws, which can leave LGBT people vulnerable to discrimination. For example, some states have passed laws allowing religiously motivated discrimination and others have passed laws prohibiting local governments from enacting their own non-discrimination ordinances that are broader than state non-discrimination laws. While most of these bills have not passed, the recent increase in the introduction of these measures suggests that state legislatures will continue to consider rolling back non-discrimination protections for LGBT people in the coming years. Continued efforts are required at both the state and federal levels to ensure that LGBT people are fully protected from discrimination based on their sexual orientation and gender identity throughout the United States, including federal legislation and statewide bills in over half the states.

Article

Ancient Greece featured at least five different varieties of same-sex relations: (a) pederastic relations, typically between adolescent boys and adult men who were not yet married; (b) relations between male youths of approximately the same age; less frequently (c) homosexual relations between fully adult men; (d) age-differentiated relations between females; and (e) relations between adult females. The origins of pederasty appear to be related to the relatively late age of marriage for males, which evolved as a response to needs to limit population growth in the scarcity-driven economy of the 7th century bce. The contexts of pederastic socialization (athletics, military comradeship, hunting, cockfighting, and intellectual/musical performance at elite symposia) point toward masculinizing pedagogy and mentorship as key social functions. However, social attitudes toward pederasty were not uniform throughout all Greek city-states in all periods. Evidence from several domains suggests that as Athens became more democratic and saw greater distribution of prosperity throughout all social classes, the age of male marriage declined; larger families became socially desirable, while non-procreative alternatives to marital sexuality became less fashionable and even morally dubious. What had always been characterized as an elite habitus during the archaic period and first half of the 5th century no longer seemed at home in a political system where appeal to the common man defined success and popularity. Some philosophical texts from the 4th century bce characterize physical sex between males as para physin (“beyond nature”), whereas others recognize the possibility that it is determined through natural processes grounded in anatomy or spiritual heredity. Of most interest for modern politics is the question of what Greek historical evidence can tell us about the ability of adolescent boys to consent to intimate relations with adult men. Modern jurisprudence, especially in the United States, assumes a universal inability to provide informed consent until well after the onset of puberty, and even voluntary relations between adolescent boys and men are heavily sanctioned in the criminal justice system. Although classical Athens featured a robust tradition of criticizing pederasty for a number of reasons, the notion that pre-adult sex with an older partner was psychologically harmful to boys was not among them. The Greeks viewed adolescent (and even younger) boys as inherently sexual, and the widespread practice of nudity in athletic exercise and daily life conditioned Greek boys to a greater degree of frankness and physical disinhibition. Both iconographical and textual evidence show that Greek adolescents were quite capable of rejecting adult suitors or discontinuing relationships that no longer pleased them.

Article

Public opinion on LGBT Americans’ rights has become more supportive of equal treatment over time. The movement toward greater egalitarianism has been particularly pronounced on attitudes toward same-sex marriage and gay adoption. Today, the general public is overwhelmingly supportive of laws to protect gays and lesbians against job discrimination, the right of gay and lesbian couples to adopt children, and legal recognition of same-sex marriages. It is also overwhelmingly supportive of legal protections for gay and lesbian employees, although we do not know whether abstract support for equality in the workplace translates into support for the hiring of gays and lesbians in all occupations. Yet, many questions concerning LGBT Americans’ rights remain controversial. The general public is especially polarized on the questions of whether transgender individuals should be able to use the bathrooms of the gender with which they identify and whether business owners in the wedding services industry can discriminate against same-sex couples on religious grounds. Systematic research on political attitudes of LGBT individuals using probability samples is practically nonexistent, although there are many studies of lesbians, gays, and bisexuals’ attitudes, identities, and behavior that use convenience samples. The existing studies demonstrate that lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals tend to identify as ideologically liberal and favor the Democratic Party in their affinities and votes. LGBT Americans are far more supportive of equality in all issue domains although bisexuals—compared to lesbians and gay men—are more lukewarm in their embrace of equality on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Scholarship on LGBT Americans in public opinion has primarily explored attitudes toward gays and lesbians and has tended to focus on attitudes toward same-sex marriage and adoption. It examines psychological, political, and demographic correlates of public opinion regarding LGBT individuals and explores links between interpersonal contact with LGBT individuals and attitudes toward them. Generally speaking, moral traditionalism, gender role conceptions, and attributions for the existence of homosexuality are especially important psychological predictors of attitudes toward sexual and gender identity minorities. Partisan and ideological identities play an important role too as do cues from ideologically compatible political elites. Of the several demographic attributes that researchers have included in their models, religion-related variables stand out for their predictive prowess. Finally, interpersonal contact with sexual and gender minorities, as well as community exposure to LGBT individuals, is associated with more favorable views toward them. Another yardstick by which commitment to equal treatment for LGBT Americans could be measured is whether and how sexual orientation and gender identity influence political fortunes of candidates for electoral office. Scholarship to date suggests that sexual orientation and gender identity function as important heuristics that influence voters’ thinking about LGBT candidacies. Some scholarship mines survey questions that inquire about respondents’ willingness to support hypothetical LGBT candidates for office. Others use experimental design to isolate the influences of sexual orientation and gender identity on political evaluation. Altogether, these studies demonstrate that LGBT individuals do not face a level playing field when they launch campaigns for office.

Article

In recent decades, the efflorescence of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) movements has created powerful inroads for sexual rights in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa. While conditions for LGBTI people vary considerably between and within countries, activists across the region are reshaping political, legal, and social understandings of gender and sexuality through their advocacy, both by seizing opportunities and navigating periods of backlash and repression. Over the years, activists have established domestic movements and have expanded their reach to articulate demands in regional and international forums. Their work has challenged the universality of models developed in other parts of the globe and has generated new tactics to respond to religious, familial, and state-sponsored prejudice. At the same time, questions of representativeness, accountability, and strategy have been raised by constituencies and longtime activists alike, inviting critical assessments of movement politics in the region.

Article

From the late 20th and into the early 21st centuries, scholars in the field of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) politics have produced a substantial body of literature that explores and explains the political attitudes and behavior of sexual and gender minorities. The interdisciplinary nature of the field is reflected in the broad range of approaches and theories that attempt to explain political phenomena among LGBTQ people. The majority of the literature reveals sexual minorities to be politically distinct from heterosexuals, in that sexual minorities are more ideologically liberal and, in the United States, more likely to support Democratic partisans. Largely because of heterosexism, sexual and gender minorities are also more likely to participate in political activities that directly implicate their sexual orientation or gender identity, such as volunteering with LGBTQ interest groups or attending “Pride” events, although sexual orientation and gender identity are significant predictors of a variety of attitudes and behavior. Recent research has demonstrated that LGBTQ people also participate in politics by running for office, mounting legal challenges to discriminatory laws or government actions, and collectively organizing locally, nationally, and internationally. Explanations for LGBTQ political distinctiveness have concentrated in three broad areas: selection, embeddedness, and conversion theories. While studies have provided supportive evidence for each hypothesis, the field has also increasingly turned to intersectional evaluations that admonish researchers to interrogate intragroup LGBTQ behavioral and attitudinal heterogeneity more fully. The infusion of intersectional theory into LGBTQ political research has revealed attitudinal and behavioral distinctions among sexual and gender minorities centered on axes of race and ethnicity, nationality, religion, age, and income, among others. The critical importance of disentangling the concepts of sexual orientation and gender identity, the recognition of cross-cutting structures of oppression such as homophobia, sexism, and racism, and the emergence of subfields of LGBTQ political behavior are indicative of a burgeoning field of study. Looking to the future of LGBTQ political research, the political successes of the LGBTQ movement and evolving conceptions of sexual and gender identity have necessitated a reevaluation of LGBTQ political behavior in the 21st century. The continued diffusion of same-sex marriage, the electoral capture of LGBTQ voters, and the destabilization of identity categories that has been demanded by queer theory all pose unique challenges to the future of LGBTQ politics and political mobilization around the globe.

Article

Andrew Goodhart and Jami K. Taylor

For most of its history, the U.S. military has maintained a policy of exclusion toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people serving in uniform. The justifications for these exclusions have included the view that being homosexual or transgender is a psychological disorder, that it undermines military morale and effectiveness, and a fear that LGBT people would be vulnerable to foreign espionage. Explicit policies banning consensual homosexual sex—and excluding from service those who engage in it—date to the period between World Wars I and II, but de facto efforts at exclusion have existed since the early days of the republic. Regulations governing homosexuals in the military came under pressure in the 1970s and 1980s as societal views toward lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) people changed, and those LGB service members discharged under the policy increasingly challenged their treatment in court. (Public pressure to change regulations governing transgender people in the military arose mostly in the 2000s, though litigation efforts date to the 1970s.) In addition to general shifts in public and legal opinion, the debate over LGB people serving in the U.S. military was affected by the experience of foreign militaries that allow LGB people to serve. United States law began to loosen formal restrictions on LBG people serving in uniform with the passage of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) in 1994, but it still required LGB people to serve in secret. Changing public perceptions of LGB people and problems implementing the ban galvanized support for eliminating such restrictions. In 2010, President Obama signed legislation repealing DADT and removing all restrictions on LGB people serving in the military. However, transgender people do not enjoy the same rights. The Trump administration has revised Obama-era rules on transgender service members to enable greater exclusion. The issue is being contested in the courts and appears ripe for further political and legal dispute.

Article

According to recent U.S. census data, there are over 700,000 same-gender couples, of which 114,00 have children. U.K. census data further revealed over 200,000 same-gender parented families, and there is evidence that these numbers have been increasing in the last few decades. Between the late 1980s and early 1990s, research on the psychosocial well-being of LGB families was established with a focus on the potential impact of parents’ sexual orientation on the psychological adjustment of their children. Interest in LGB families was evidenced by the growing political and public attention, and became a central issue within the LGBT+ movement across the Western world, especially in Europe and the United States. However, attitudes toward LGB family policies have not evolved in a linear fashion insofar as they have accompanied the constant back and forth in LGB family policies and legislation. Negative attitudes toward LGB family policies are rooted in the negative evaluations of LGB individuals based on beliefs that LGB people are less fit as parents or unable to form and sustain healthy relationships because of their sexual or gender identity. However, these negative beliefs differ according to heterosexual individuals’ characteristics. Research has shown that men, older, less educated, non-White, politically conservative, highly religious, and authoritarian, as well as those who believe that homosexuality is controllable, strictly adhere to traditional gender roles and authorities, and do not have frequent or close contact with LGB individuals, hold higher levels of sexual prejudice toward LGB individuals and LGB family policies. As of January 2020, same-gender marriage and parenthood are recognized in around 30 countries worldwide, although some countries recognize some forms of same-gender unions, but not marriage, whereas others recognize the right of LGB individuals to have children but not to marry. LGB family policies have progressed mostly through two different pathways: (a) the judicial pathway, which has involved litigation and court rulings on specific matters related to same-gender relationships and parenthood and which was undertaken in the United States, and (b) the legislative pathway, which has relied on political discussion and policy initiatives and was undertaken in the Iberian Peninsula (Portugal and Spain). The different pathways to equality in LGB family policies have different impacts for LGB individuals. In particular, the constant negative messages regarding same-gender couples as being unable to have healthy relationships have been shown to contribute to chronic minority stress and psychological distress among LGB individuals. By contrast, the legalization of same-gender marriage and parenthood provide important benefits and protections for LGB families in addition to promoting their well-being. Examining the evolution of attitudes and legislation regarding LGB family policies is important to inform further initiatives aimed at correcting inequalities for LGB families.