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Towards Intersectional and Interdisciplinary Approaches to LGBTQ Politics

By: Marla Brettschneider, University of New Hampshire Susan Burgess, Ohio University and Cricket Keating, University of Washington 

Teaching a course on LGBTQ politics?  Want to think together about teaching resources and strategies?  You’ve got every reason to check out our new edited collection, and our teaching collective.

The advance of civil rights for LGBTQ people is one of the most significant sociolegal changes that has taken place in the last two decades. Sociolegal work must grapple with the shifting landscape of LGBTQ rights and inclusion. An intersectional framework that addresses identities as co-created best illuminates changes. Developed over the past two decades primarily by feminists of color, this approach underscores the analytic importance of systems of power such as race, sexuality, gender, class, amongst others, and the importance of building movements that address such interconnections.

Social media have enlivened movements for sociolegal change. Some have lauded how  digital technologies have widened conversations, facilitated organizing, and information sharing across time and place.  Others have warned that social media activism risks becoming armchair politics.  Environmental crisis and climate change have led activists to organize at the grass roots and press for change through institutional channels globally.  The Occupy movement has prompted a rethinking of questions of economic justice.  In the United States, a vibrant Black Lives Matter has drawn international attention for its vital work against police brutality and other forms of persistent racial inequality. Intersectional and interdisciplinary approaches to the study of politics are vital in order to analyze why progressive movements emerge and how they can be sustained.
We’ve undertaken two major projects to explore the place of LGBTQ movements as social movements develop social media strategies, and intersectional critiques spread.  First, we’ve put together an interdisciplinary collection of original essays called LGBTQ Politics: A Critical Reader released earlier this month at NYU Press. The reader analyzes both the successes and obstacles to building the LGBTQ movement over the past twenty years,. Law has constituted claims organizations have made, so sociolegal scholars will find provocative essays on activism, coalition building, community, education, erotics, technology, marriage and families, globalism, intersections with other progressive movements, public opinion, organizational strategies, and conservative resistance.  Analyses focused on institutional and elite politics appear alongside contributions grounded in grassroots movements and critical theory.  The collection includes essays by Heath Davis, who addresses transgender discrimination and single sex colleges, Miriam Smith who analyzes homonationalism in comparative context,  Jerry Thomas who offers a queer take on same-sex marriage, and Ellen Andersen who argues that sociolegal context affects the decision of same-sex couples to marry.  Some essays celebrate the movement’s successes and prospects.  Others express concerns that its democratic basis has become undermined by a focus on funding power over people power, attempts to fragment the LGBTQ movement from movements for racial, gender and class justice, The longstanding question in studies of US interest group politics concerning  persistent attachment to single-issue politics also is a subject for reflection.

Secondly, we’re organizing a teaching collective on LGBTQ politics and related issues.  Faculty from various universities and colleges will be sharing resources, ideas, and approaches. Many of the folks in the collective will be teaching LGBTQ politics (or a related course) in Spring 2018, in a collaborative effort that we hope will be ongoing.   If you’d like to receive more information about the collective, shoot Marla Brettschneider an email at

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