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Globalizing LGBT Science in IESBS

By: , Posted on: March 17, 2015

Rainbow_flag_breezeDespite the fact that scholarship on same-sex sexually active populations has increased tremendously in the last 50 years, that scholarship has been largely based on readily accessible populations with a strong bias towards the lives of middle-class, self-identified, gay white males in developed countries. To broaden the perspectives available on sexual minorities across the globe, emphasis in the section was placed on finding scholarship on the lesser known populations of sexual minorities.

This was not, however, an easy task since even the process of finding available authors reflects the influence of Western scholarship on sexual minority research.  Probably due to greater acceptance of sexual minority scholarship in Western cultures, quite often even the authors who were studying sexual minorities in non-Western countries were affiliated with a university in a Western country.  Despite the Western and English-language affiliations of the majority of authors, the section includes articles on sexual minorities in South Africa, the Maghreb region of North Africa, Turkey, China, Latin America, Russia, Indian and Pakistani immigrants in the United Kingdom, and Latinos in the United States.  Additionally, many authors of articles on mainstream gays in developed countries addressed issues of inclusion and access for class and ethnic minorities.

An advantage of this global focus is that the mix of articles illustrates the power differentials involved in the core cultural process of constructing and enforcing systems of sexual categorization.  Since homosexual/heterosexual categorization grew out of the changes associated with industrial development, it was not surprising to see that less economically developed nations downgraded categorization by arguing that being gay or homosexual was a Western phenomenon that did not occur in their nations.  But the breadth of articles also illustrated that categorization in developed countries is even inconsistent across gender, class, and ethnic minorities lines. In fact, the articles provided support for a hypothesis that the use of categorization is primarily focused on controlling middle-class males, with categorization being not applied to marginalized minority and gender populations who were often viewed by the dominant culture as either hyper and unfocused in their sexuality, or as asexual, and thus not subject to the same system of classification.

Though the articles show that the political activities of self-identified LGBT sexual minorities have resulted in substantial gains in their social acceptance in Western cultures, it was also evident that the benefits of political and social organizing are inconsistently distributed.  The lives of sexual minorities in many developing countries involve great risk, and even in developed countries sexual minorities encounter greater risk if they are outside of urban centers, live in conservative regions of the country, are women, seniors, or youth, or are indigenous, ethnic, racial, or working-class sexual minorities.  Additionally, the articles raise questions of whether existing political activities are too focused on the ability to be accepted into the standards of the dominant population with too little emphasis on the ability to develop alternative, non-heteronormative, approaches to same-sex sexuality and self.

It is often argued that we may be entering a ‘post-gay’ world where identification of and with a differentiated, same-sex, ‘gay’ sexuality, no longer matters politically or socially.  The global perspective of the section, however, suggests that much work is still needed both across and within cultures.

Read more on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans-sexual Minorities in International Perspective: Overview Here.

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