Introduction: Centering Sexual Orientation Politics

Cheshire Calhoun

in Feminism, the Family, and the Politics of the Closet

Published in print September 2002 | ISBN: 9780199257669
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191598906 | DOI:
 Introduction: Centering Sexual Orientation Politics

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This introductory chapter lays the groundwork for future chapters by suggesting that feminist theorizing must make a methodological shift from thinking that heterosexism is just a by‐product of sexism, to thinking of lesbian and gay subordination as a separate axis of oppression that intersects with gender, race, and class axes of oppression. It also introduces the two central features of lesbian and gay subordination. The first of these is that the principal damaging effect of a heterosexist system is that it displaces lesbians and gays from both the public and private spheres of civil society so that they have no legitimated social location. The second is that the principal ideologies rationalizing lesbian and gay displacement are that there are only two natural and normal sexes/genders; that lesbian and gay sexuality is excessive, compulsive, and disconnected from romantic love; and that, for a variety of reasons, lesbians and gays are unfitted for marital and family life. The last part of the chapter makes general remarks on how the book fits into the essentialist–constructionist controversy.

Keywords: constructionism; essentialism; feminism; feminist theory; gay men; heterosexism; lesbians; oppression; sexual orientation; sexual politics; subordination

Chapter.  11716 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory

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