Moderator: Sarah Jackson, Northeastern University
Citizen Gay: immutability, rainbow weddings, and the trouble with tolerance
Suzanna Walters, Northeastern University
This talk argues that theories of sexual identity as predetermined and immutable (the “born this way” discourse) have become the common-sense ideology in American culture such that ideas of volition and choice have been banished from our vision of sexual freedom and citizenship. Further, these discourses are tied up with a resurgent gender essentialism that together form a formidable obstacle to feminist and queer understandings of gender and sexual fluidity and liberation. Even more detrimentally, this new common-sense “truth” underlies the current quest for GLBT rights, a quest framed around a theme of “tolerance” that offers a weak and attenuated vision of a gay-friendly future. Immutability is the handmaiden to tolerance; both actively disempower more radically integrationist and challenging models of sexual and gender freedom. This talk offers a critique of citizenship as immutable but therefore acceptable difference, and examines the ways in which that ideology has provided the ballast for a tepid homonormativity.