Overview of the Textbook

Deborah Amory

This textbook is organized into six sections that are grouped by topic and disciplinary approach. Each section has one or more chapters that provide a broad overview on a particular topic. Most chapters are accompanied by a section called “Research Resources”, which provides a list of key resources for additional learning, and/or “Research Profiles”, an in-depth look at a particular issue relevant to the broader topic of the chapter. There are also glossaries located at the end of each section and at the end of the book.

The first section, “Introductions”, includes two chapters and provides an overview of the textbook itself, LGBTQ+ Studies, and the field of Queer Theory. Here we introduce a few key concepts that you will encounter throughout the textbook, including the ways in which LGBTQ+ Studies emerged out of particular historical and political contexts in the U.S. in the late 20th century. Chapter 2, “Thirty Years of Queer Theory”, by Jennifer Miller, similarly provides a description of the emergence of queer theory and queer theoretical interventions into understandings of gender and sexual identities. It also identifies key concepts and theorists in queer theory, and explores queer theory at the intersection of gender, race, and ability.

The second section, “Global Histories”, explores different understandings of and manifestations of gender and sexuality throughout history and from a global perspective. In this section, two different chapters describe how gender and sexual diversity is the rule, rather than the exception, across all human cultures. In Chapter 3, “Global Sexualities: LGBTQ Anthropology past, present and future” Joseph Russo describes the many different functions, meanings, practices, and methods of conceptualization for sexuality. Across different cultures and societies, as well as throughout various histories, sexuality has come to define an entire spectrum of phenomena.

Similarly, in Chapter 4, “Queer New World: Challenging Heteronormativity in Archaeology” James Aimers explores how new theories of sex and sexuality that have emerged from feminist, gender studies, and queer theory have changed the way we see the lives of ancient people. In particular, the assumption that heterosexuality and heteronormativity is and always has been the norm in human culture is challenged. In particular, Aimers describes non-heteronormative behaviors and identities in ancient Mesoamerica. Both of these chapters are designed to make us rethink some of our basic assumptions about gender and sexuality, and what is “normal”.

Moving from a global perspective, the third section focuses on U.S. histories in relation to LGBTQ lives. In “U.S. LGBTQ History” Clark Pomerleau traces the development of LGBTQ as concepts, identity, and movements in the United States from white settler colonialism through the nineteenth century. The movement from an understanding of sexuality as behavior rather than identity is highlighted, as well as the subsequent development of homosexual identities in the 20th century. Towards this end, the research profile by Jennifer Miller and Pomerleau describes how the science of “sexology” introduced the idea that same-sex attraction was a pathological identity born of mental illness that correlated with gender transgression. Pomerleau’s main chapter also considers political strategies, including using the African American Civil Rights movement as a model, radical left influences, and cross-pollination from 1960s and 1970s student organizing and feminism. Pomerleau also describes how, in response to the AIDS epidemic, LGBTQ Americans organized new institutions and created new forms of political activism and the rise of queer politics.

In chapter 6, “LGBTQ Legal History”, Dara Silberstein focuses on exploring the history of constitutional law in the U.S. and how it has served at the context within which crticial LGBTQ legal battles have been fought. A consideration of the tenets that paved the way for recognition of sexual rights, and then the process that eventually led the Supreme Court to extend these rights to include lesbian and gay sexualities. The chapter also focuses on the question of marriage equality. This overview of LGBTQ legal history is supplemented by Ariella Rotramel’s research profile on anti-LGBTQ hate crimes in the United States. The profile both defines hate crimes, and describes the history of hate crime laws, at both the federal and state level. The profile ends with a map that depicts the very uneven development of hate crime laws with the U.S., notwithstanding ongoing violence against LGBTQ people. The goal of this section on U.S. Histories is to provide readers with an historically based understanding of LGBTQ identities, lives, and rights in the U.S., and the complex ways in which these phenomena have changed and been contested over time.

Section Four, “Prejudice and Health”, begins by drawing on research in Social Psychology to explore the effects of discrimination and prejudice against LGBTQ people. Sean Massey, Sarah Young, and Ann Merriwether emphasize that even though there have been great strides in recent years in terms of LGBTQ acceptance in the U.S. and elsewhere, ongoing forms of prejudice, discrimination, and violence remain. Their chapter provides an overview of the prevalence and trends of anti-LGBTQ prejudice in the U.S., describes what is known about its nature, origins, and consequences, provides an historical overview of the various attempts to define and measure it, and reviews the variables that have been found to increase or reduce its impact on the lives of LGBTQ people. Finally, they also discuss the resistance and resilience shown by the LGBTQ community in response to anti-LGBTQ prejudice and discrimination.

In the accompanying research profile, “Minority Stress and Same-Sex Couples”, David Frost analyzes the impact of discrimination and structural violence on same sex couples which results in what is known in the literature as “minority stress”. He provides an overview of several studies that he and his colleagues have conducted aimed at understanding how sexual minority individuals and members of same-sex relationships experience stigma in the context of their intimate relationships. He demonstrates that stigma can lead to negative outcomes for members of same-sex relationships in terms of their mental health as well as the quality of their relationships. In doing so, this research illustrates how theories of minority stress can be used to understand the ways in which social stigma can be detrimental to the health and relationships of sexual minority individuals and same-sex couples.

Continuing with this theme, chapter 8, “LGBTQ Health and Wellness”, explores the history and culture of medicine in relation to LGBTQ people, as well as vulnerabilities across the lifespan and across intersectional identities, and disease prevention and health promotion. The chapter was written by a team of professors from the University of Connecticut’s Nursing school, including Thomas Long, Christine Rodriguez, Marianne Snyder, and Ryan Watson. These experts emphasize both the negative outcomes for LGBTQ peoples’ health, but also the ways in which LGBTQ people have resisted the pathologizing of queer sexuality, and the ways in which queer communities have sought to take health into their own hands, particularly in relation to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Long, Rodriguez, Snyder, and Watson also discuss mental health and transgender people’s health, and they conclude with advice on how to be a smart patient and healthcare consumer.

Section 4: Relationships, Families and Youth continues to draw on research conducted in the field of psychology to explore LGBTQ+ relationships, families, and the experiences of youth in educational settings. In chapter 9, “LGBTQ Relationships, Families, and Parenting” Sarah Young and Sean Massey explore the complex worlds of LGBTQ+ intimate relationships, as well as the varied ways in which LGBTQ+ people form families. In her profile, “LGBTQ+ Family-Building: Challenges & Opportunity” Christa Craven provides insights from her research on the reproductive challenges and experiences of loss that many lesbian and gay couples in the U.S. face. She argues that more inclusive support resources are needed to help support LGBTQ+ families who experience reproductive loss.

In chapter 10, “Education and LGBTQ Youth”, Kim Fuller focuses on the current social and educational barriers to healthy LGBTQ+ youth development, such as inequities and injustice, in addition to LGBTQ+ youths’ resiliency, and the role of supportive adults in facilitating positive youth development. She describes both the coming out process for young people, and the ways in which educational institutions and setting can sabotage or support that process. Two profiles complement this chapter. In the first, Sabia Prescott reviews the current state of LGBTQ inclusion in PreK-12 educational settings, and the impact on learning outcomes for LGBTQ+ youth. Jennifer Miller also offers an engaging look at LGBTQ children’s picture books as an important source of empowerment for LGBTQ youth and families. She traces both the history of the english-language LGBTQ picture book in the U.S., and some of the controversies that surround positive imaagery of LGBTQ+ life designed for children.

Section 5: LGBTQ Culture explores two important realms of LGBTQ life, that of film and religion or faith. In chapter 11, “Screening LGBTQ+”, Lynne Stahl examines the emergence of various forms of LGBTQ film and media from the beginnings of the cinematic form to the contemporary milieu of DIY webseries and handheld smart screens. The chapter addresses milestone films and other visual media along with significant laws, political contexts, technological developments, genres and movements, prominent individuals, and controversies, with a primary focus on the United States. A key theme of Stahl’s analysis is the ways in which other structures of oppression — in particular, race and class — interact in complex ways with gender and sexuality in the history and contemporary challenges of LGBTQ represenations on various screens, both large and small.

Two profiles provide in depth considerations of this theme. In “Giving Voice to Black Gay Men Through Marlon Riggs’ Tongues Untied”, Marquis Bey provides a thoughtful analysis of a canonical film in the archive of black queer cinema from 1989, Tongues Untied. Bey describes how the film explicitly addresses, interrogates, and celebrates black gay identity and culture. The profile also meditates on Riggs’s biography and his relationship to the marginalized voices, black gay cultural practices, and the politics of sexuality within black communities. In “How One Day at a Time Avoids Negative Queer Tropes”, Shyla Saltzman argues that this Netflix series showcases nuanced queer characters in a way that offers drama, empowers queer youth, and provides learning opportunities and positive depictions for both queer viewers, allies, and allies-to-be.

Chapter 12, “Queer Faith”, takes on a complex and compelling topic for LGBTQ+ people around the world. In this chapter, Miller Jen Hoffman explores the crossroads of gender/queer identities and religious belief. The profile provides a broad overview of attitudes toward gender/queer expression held by Christianity and Islam, as dominant faith systems making up more than half the global population. Hoffman also explores the complex ways in which queer people participate in faith communities. Drawing on social scientific research, this chapter challenges many of our assumptions about religion and sexual identity.

In our final section on LGBTQ Research, we offer a very practical guide to conducting LGBTQ research. In a world where infinite amounts of information appear online, the search for reliable information can be challenging. Rachel Wexelbaum and Gesina Phillips wrote this chapter to help people search for LGBTQ information and resources in an effective, mindful manner. They provide tips on what to ask and where to look. This chapter is intended to complement the “research resources” found at the end of many chapters, and can be used to support student research assignments in class.

Overall, this first edition of LGBTQ+ Studies: an Open Textbook attempts to provide an introduction to many of the compelling topics found under the umbrella of LGBTQ+ Studies.  It is by no means complete, however, and it is our hope that in future editions, coverage of additional topics will be added. In particular, we are mindful that chapters on LGBTQ+ literature and art would help to round out the section on LGBTQ Culture.  And while we tried to include discussions of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer topics throughout, we are also aware that in some sections bisexual and trans topics have received less coverage than their due. Finally, although our intention was to provide a global introduction to LGBTQ+ issues, this first edition does focus much more extensively on North America and particularly the United States.  Even with these limitations, however, we do believe that the textbook you are now viewing on the screen (or holding in your hands) represents a significant contribution to the ever-expanding archive of LGBTQ+ knowledge and literature. Please do let us know what you think! As noted earlier, If you plan to use or adapt one or more chapters, please let us know on the Rebus Community platform, and also on our adoption form.  Please provide us with feedback or suggestions about the book, and note that we have a separate form for keeping track of issues with digital accessibility.

Last but not least, enjoy!