Thursday, September 9, 2010

“Race-ing Homonormativity: Citizenship, Sociology, and Gay Identity” by Roderick A. Ferguson

In “Race-ing Homonormativity: Citizenship, Sociology, and Gay Identity,” Roderick Ferguson explores how sociology identified sexuality as being a social construction and how the social construction of homosexuality privileges white gays and lesbians in the United States. Ferguson says that by examining sociological arguments about the social construction of sexuality, you can see how white gays and lesbians became increasingly more accepted as American citizens. The author also believes that this white gay and lesbian acceptance into American citizenship is due to the race and class of that particular group of people. Most importantly, Ferguson believes that this acceptance has led to homosexuality being socially constructed as white, middle-class, and adhering to so-called traditional gender roles so much so that it has resulted in “homonormativity.” This homonormativity is viewed as being close to the heterosexual norm; however, this homonormativity is not inclusive of LGBTQ people who are people of color, working-class, and/or do not adhere to the usual social construction(s) of gender.

Ferguson discusses how, historically, white American society was very concerned about immigration of ethnic people (both white and nonwhite) because of fears that immigrants would contaminate white racial “purity” in America through sexual reproduction. However, eventually, white Americans accepted the immigrant ethnic whites as American racial whites, which shows that race is a social construction that can be adjusted to fit the needs of the social and historical context at the time. Ferguson states that now that ethnic whites were considered racial whites who were culturally a part of white America, black people and other racial non-whites were still culturally un-American. The author also states that white came to be associated with heteronormativity while non-white was associated with nonheteronormativity. Ferguson says that once this occurred, culture became the determining factor in whether or not you were seen as a “normal” American citizen.

Ferguson agrees with Epstein, who is another author, that once white, middle-class gays and lesbians were viewed by other white, middle-class Americans as being “the ‘same’ as straights to the extent that they are ‘different,’” then they became American. Ferguson uses Marx to say that for white, middle-class lesbian and gays, homosexuality is viewed as being a difference that is a private matter, and not one that affects their ability to be American citizens in public matters. Ferguson goes on to discuss other writers’ examinations of marriage, hate crimes protection, military inclusion, and the focus on the need to “come out of the closet” as proof that contemporary gay rights and the construction of homosexuality is centered on white, middle-class gays and lesbians who adhere to traditional gender roles. Ferguson says that this homonormative social construction leaves out LGBTQ people who are immigrants, people of color, and/or working-class since its goals are centered on helping white, middle-class, gay and lesbian Americans become more integrated into white, middle-class, heterosexual America.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the words you linked and for using labels. I appreciate the way you explain Ferguson's critique of "homonormative" lesbian and gay American citizenship. What do you think this says about citizenship in general? As you asked in class, what ways do you think people can challenge homonormativity? I think that there is a connection between a desire/need for citizenship and the maintenance of homonormativity. Maybe we should think about challenging citizenship too?