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Queer Theory and Its Future in Psychology: Exploring Issues of Race Privilege

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Queer Theory and Its Future in Psychology: Exploring Issues of Race Privilege

Abstract

Queer theory is increasingly making an impact on the discipline of psychology in the UK and elsewhere, both in the form of those who explicitly use queer theory, and those who exhibit a queer sensibility. Yet, it has been suggested, queer theorising more broadly has largely neglected to account for its racial politics, an issue that holds ongoing relevance for its application across disciplines. In this paper, I outline six key areas requiring further attention in regards to the growing use of queer theory within psychology: (i) a greater recognition of the histories on which queer theory builds, (ii) an understanding of how racial hierarchies shape accounts of individualism and universalism, (iii) a continued focus on the operations of a racialised queer desire, (iv) an investigation of the implication of critiques of essentialism, (v) ongoing explorations of language use within queer theorising, and (vi) greater acknowledgement of tensions within queer community building. These six points provide new avenues of consideration for those already in the field, and will encourage those new to the field to explore its unnamed assumptions.
Queer theory and its future in psychology: Exploring issues of race
privilege
Damien W. Riggs
The University of Adelaide
damien.riggs@adelaide.edu.au
This is an Author's Accepted Manuscript of an article published in Social and
Personality Psychology Compass, 1, 39-52. Copyright Wiley, DOI:%10.1111/j.1751-
9004.2007.00033.x
As Clarke and Peel (2007) note in their recent edited collection on ‘LGBTQ
psychologies’, queer theory is slowly being recognised for the impact it has made
upon the study of both heteronormativity and non-heterosexual sexualities within
the discipline of psychology. Whilst this has primarily occurred within the context of
the UK (e.g. Barker and Hegarty 2005; Hegarty 1997, 2001; Hegarty and Massey
2006), queer theory (or what, in places, represents a ‘queer sensibility’, as Clarke
and Peel term it) has also been employed by researchers working in the discipline of
psychology within Australia (e.g., Riggs 2005; Riggs and Walker 2006), New Zealand
(e.g., Braun 2000), Canada (e.g., Minton 1997) and the US (e.g., Israel, 2004). This
small, but growing use of queer theory within psychology represents an important
trend towards acknowledging the impact of other disciplines and fields upon
psychology, and more specifically, highlights some of the complex ways in which
‘queer histories’ have long shaped the discipline of psychology itself (for elaborations
of this see Hegarty 2004, 2007; Riggs in-press).
In writing a paper on the use of queer theory in psychology, it is important to engage
with the question of terminology, and in particular the use of the word ‘queer’. Queer
theory itself may be broadly understood as a critique of heteronormativity, and more
precisely, the binaries of ‘normal’ and ‘deviant’ that structure Western societies in
regards to sexuality. The term ‘heteronormativity’ thus refers to a set of complex
social relations and institutionalised power structures wherein heterosexuality is
taken as the ‘normal’ sexuality from which all others deviate. This has implications
not only for the representation of non-heterosexual people, but for the ways in which
gender is taken to represent an a priori truth that reflects ‘real’ things about ‘men’
and ‘women’. Heteronormativity, however, is also formed in a relationship to other
social norms, such as those related to race and class (amongst others).
Unfortunately, queer theorists (much like many academic fields more generally)
have largely neglected to examine these concurrent forms of identification as they
circulate simultaneously with (and through) sexual identities (though see Barnard
2003; Riggs 2006a). As I will continue to elaborate throughout this paper, issues
relating to the racial politics of queer theory must be considered central to the
ongoing development and application of queer approaches to psychology in order to
ensure that the use of queer theory within psychology does not perpetuate a
particularly white interpretation of sexual identities (see Greene 2000 and Riggs
2007 for an elaboration of the problems of racial hegemony within psychological
research on non-heterosexual people more broadly).
Additionally, any mention of the word ‘identities’ requires clarification when being
used in the context of queer theory. One of the key moves made by queer theorists
has been towards a focus on sexual practices, rather than sexual identities. In this
sense queer theory has provided a critique of the problems associated with identity
categories (and their attendant politics), namely that the reification of particular
‘essential’ identities serves to perpetuate particular categories (such as ‘sexuality’) as
representing a priori truths, thus discouraging a focus on their historical and
cultural contingencies. Queer theory thus shifts our focus to the practices that
people engage in, and does not necessarily tie these to particular identities. Yet the
category ‘queer’ itself is also used to claim or stake out a location that both rejects
fixed categories or simplistically knowable terms of reference, whilst nonetheless
cohering around the concept of ‘queer’ as a challenge to heteronormativity. Indeed,
this signals the utility of the term ‘queer’: as a form of reclamation, ‘queer’ is left
open to resignification (i.e. in its function as a reference to practices that disjoin
signification from identification), in addition to its utility for marking precisely that
which is queer (i.e. those who challenge heteronormativity or those who mark their
sexual practices as ‘queer’). In this sense, ‘queer’ functions both as a verb (as in
queer theorising or the ‘queering’ of particular norms), and as a noun (as a
descriptor for people who mark themselves as such, or a referent to particular
applications of queering e.g. ‘queer theory’). These multiple, flexible and indeed
often contradictory usages of ‘queer’ are thus arguably central to its appeal as a
challenge to heteronormativity.
Of course, in being a practice of critique (in multiple forms as speech, as sexual
practice, as written word, as visual imagery and many combinations of these and
more), ‘queer’, or queer theory more precisely, is no more outside structures of power
than any other account of society (Barker and Hegarty 2005). Indeed, this point may
be considered central to queer theory itself it constitutes an acknowledgment of
the mutual constitution of that which is marked as ‘queer’ and that which is marked
as ‘normal’. Heterosexuality is founded (or indeed founders) upon its abjected other
(i.e. those people marked as deviant, or non-heterosexual), whilst queer is very much
a position held in opposition to that marked as ‘normal’. As such, in labeling
something or oneself ‘queer’, one does not step outside of power relations. And it is
this point that I will elaborate throughout the remainder of this paper through a
series of interconnected points, with a focus on the race privilege held by white
people who identify as ‘queer’ or otherwise non-heterosexual/critical of
heteronormativity, alongside that held by those of us who seek to conduct
psychological research through the lens of queer theory.
Much as norms around sexuality privilege heterosexual people (and by implication
oppress non-heterosexual people), racial norms accord considerable privilege to
white people that comes at the expense of people identified as non-white. Whilst of
course there are many differences amongst white people, those of us who identify as
white nonetheless share in a wide range of benefits that come from living in societies
that privilege white people. Authors such as McIntosh (1998) and Tannoch-Bland
(1998) have elaborated some of the many ways in which white people can go about
our daily business precisely because non-white people are most often not as free to
do so. It is important to note that examining white race privilege is not intended to
induce guilt amongst white people. Rather, the aim of examining privilege is to
engender forms of accountability in relation to privilege, and to explore some of the
ways in which it may be deployed to potentially more responsible ends. Similarly,
examining race privilege is not about ‘becoming un-white’ (as proponents of ‘race
traitorship’ have suggested). Examining race privilege, particularly in the context of
queer theory, is about elaborating what I have termed elsewhere (Riggs 2006a) a
new set of ‘yes butsrather than saying (for example) ‘yes I am white, but I
experience discrimination as a gay person’, white people (who identify as gay), may
say instead ‘yes I experience disadvantage as a gay person but I do so as a white
person who holds considerable privilege’. Talking about race privilege is thus not
about reifying racial categories or positing their inevitability, but rather it is about
recognising how racial categories are very much treated as if they are real, and thus
have very real implications in the lives of all people, not just those marked as non-
white.
In what remains of this paper I move away from providing an overview of queer
theory (though see Morland and Willox 2005; Sullivan 2003 for excellent readers on
the subject, and Moon 2007 for applications of queer theory to psychological
practice), and focus on six specific areas that I believe require more attention in
regards to the simultaneities of race and sexuality in future applications of queer
theorizing within psychology. Some of these extend upon my own writing in the
area, whilst others are drawn from the substantial critiques made of (white
women’s) feminism, queer theory, and lesbian and gay rights movements by African
American and Indigenous Australian people. I also draw attention to some of the
work currently being undertaken by other white scholars who have focused on issues
of race privilege in regards to queer-identified people. My intention in doing so is not
to chastise existing work on queer theory within psychology and beyond, but rather
to suggest potential new directions for future work in the field, with particular
attention to its application to the discipline of psychology. I am aware (as should be
the reader) that any critique of what may be termed a ‘queer psychology’ (or
research on non-heterosexual sexualities within psychology more broadly) can
potentially be misused to deny the rights of non-heterosexual people, or to
delegitimise research in this area. My response to this is twofold: 1) We as
academics (and especially those of us who identify as white, middle-class and abled-
bodied) cannot stop short of critiquing our peers simply for fear of retribution from
other academics a commitment to exploring the racial politics of queer research
must be willing to deal with the discomfort and difficulties this may present us, and
2) speaking about existing limitations, and potential ways of addressing these in
contexts such as this journal (and with its particular target audience in mind), is an
important means for encouraging critical thinking about developing research areas
and mapping out new directions and possibilities. With these cautionary notes in
mind, I now move on to elaborate six of the issues that I see as central to the future
use of queer theory within psychology.
I
The first point, and one that has long been elaborated by African-American (e.g.
hooks 1989) and Indigenous (e.g. Moreton-Robinson 2000) feminists in regards to the
feminist movement more broadly, refers to what has often been a repeated failure to
acknowledge the roots of current rights movements or critical theorising in the
works of earlier, most often non-white theorists and activists. McBride (2005) makes
a similar claim in relation to queer theory, which he suggests, along with other
‘cutting-edge scholarship’, “could scarcely have been imagined before the advent of
African American studies, ethnic studies, gender studies and so forth” (p. 8).
Certainly in my own work on white queer privilege (e.g. 2006a), I have extensively
used the writings of non-white people from which to theorise, and yet have at times
not adequately acknowledged this intellectual debt and the intellectual histories
upon which I am drawing and building. Acknowledging this and addressing it
requires not only humility, but also a willingness to actually create spaces where
appropriate forms of recognition can be made (see e.g. Riggs 2006b).
Writing from within the US, Reagon (1983) suggests that rights claims such as those
made by same-sex attracted people must acknowledge that they build upon early
claims for rights such as those made in the US through the civil rights movement.
Such movements not only signaled the beginning of a political climate wherein
rights claims could actually be heard by the white (middle-class heterosexual)
majority, but where the granting of rights actually resulted in at least some degree
of social reform. Importantly, however, writers such as Roberts (2002) remind us
that social reform relating to racial equality still lags a long way behind laws
intended to prevent discrimination. The fact that many white queer-identified
people can push for equal rights in the present is thus a legacy not only of the fact
that previous rights claims have been made, but that such rights claims continue in
many ways to be denied. So, for example, in Australia the long histories of rights
claims made by Indigenous people may be seen to have engendered (at certain
moments in time) a willingness by the State to consider the rights claims of other
groups. Yet whilst these groups (such as queer people, in organisations typically led
by white queer people) continue to make (and at times secure) rights claims,
Indigenous people (both heterosexual and non-heterosexual) continue to be denied
full acknowledgement of sovereignty and its attendant rights (i.e. to land and
reparation).
Thus not only does queer theory build upon early activist/academic work undertaken
by a wide range of people, but it does so in a context whereby rights and their
practical implementations continue to fall short of the mark for many marginalised
groups. As non-white feminists have long suggested in regards to feminism (about
which they suggest black women ‘fall through the cracks’ as captured in the
evocative title of an early collection by Hull, Bell Scott and Smith 1982: All of the
Women are White, all of the Blacks are Men, but Some of Us are Brave), the
promotion of particular forms of rights claims will often result in some groups of
people being further marginalised. This is something to which queer theory must
attend in regards to the experiences of non-white queer people, as it is not sufficient
to simply produce queer theory on the basis of white queer people’s lives (Barnard
2003).
II
Following on from the previous point, it is necessary to examine how issues of
individualism and universalism continue to be played out within the context of
queer theory. Whilst intended to target the problems associated with claims to
universality (i.e. the co-option of a broad range of experiences into one particular
(heterosexual) model), queer theory nonetheless involves a range of claims that often
do not adequately theorise the locations from which they are made. Thus in making
claims about the pervasiveness of heteronormativity, queer theory has often
neglected to theorise the whiteness of heterosexuality and the historical location of
heteronormativity as part of a racialised, classed and gendered hierarchy that has
long been central to practices of colonisation. Hoagland (2007), for example, suggests
that colonisation in the US largely involved introducing particular forms of
hierarchical, individualised relationships to the communities of Indigenous people so
as to pave the way for the legitimation of patriarchal rule across the continent. The
legitimation of patriarchy, and its (variously uptaken) imposition upon Indigenous
communities, has allowed white scholars in the present to retrospectively construct
violence against women as a ‘natural part’ of Indigenous communities, rather than
recognising that Indigenous communities across the world have been shaped (both
forcibly and through active engagement) by colonisation.
As with universalism, the problems associated with individualism (i.e. where rights
within Western societies are connected to ‘merit’, and are thus used to deny
discrimination against marginalised groups, or where individual people are
pathologised or blamed for the discrimination they face) continue to inform queer
theory through its focus on sexual practices. Whilst much queer work on sexual
practices provides an intersubjective interpretation of identification (e.g. Foucault
1996), it may be suggested that a focus on the liberatory effects of ‘sexual freedom’ is
in reality a focus on sexual freedom granted only to some, and only on specific terms.
As Hoagland again suggests; “The pretense of universality draws upon particular
contexts and particular women while at the same time hiding the particularity by
universalising it or representing it as normality (2007, 170). To engage in particular
sexual practices as a white queer person does not necessarily require a critical
interrogation of how the former part of the identity descriptor (i.e. ‘white’) often
makes possible claims to, and the enactment of, the latter. Moreover, and with
particular reference to constructions of ‘blame’ in regards to the discrimination faced
by marginalised group members, whilst white queer people may be depicted by the
conservative Right as universally pathological on the basis of our status as queer, we
are unlikely to be depicted as pathological on the basis of our whiteness (Riggs
2007). Non-white people (queer or otherwise) are far more likely to be negatively
stereotyped both for their racial identity and for their sexual identity. The problems
of individualism thus may be seen to selectively affect white queer people, whilst
more broadly affecting all non-white people.
Finally, and in regard to the discipline of psychology, the individualism and
universalism that often inheres to queer rights claims significantly undermines the
application of queer theory to the examination of rights within psychology (Riggs
and Walker 2006). This is a product not only of the individualistic approach often
adopted within psychology, but also of the ways in which rights claims are often
premised upon an individualistic account of queer rights as associated with
‘individual pain’. Examining how particular individuals are privileged within
accounts of queer rights claims, and the implications of this for the racial politics of
queer rights (Hutchison 2000), is an important task facing the application of queer
theory to psychological arguments made in the service of queer rights.
III
Further to the previous point about sexual practices, it is important to recognise
that desire is always already shaped in a relationship not just to sexual norms, but
to racial norms. As McBride (2005) suggests;
If race is a salient variable in the sex-object choices we make in the gay
marketplace of desire (an idea that has long been resisted in favor of an
investment in the serendipity of desire and its companion notion of romantic
love), then those who benefit unduly under such a system (whites) have a
great deal invested in depoliticizing desire (p. 100).
White queer desire for non-white queer-identified people is fundamental to
constructions of white queer desire, yet the reverse, whilst no less true, is less often
acknowledged within queer theorising or queer practice. Thus, as both McBride and
Barnard (2003) elaborate, cross-racial gay male pornography primarily focuses upon
white men’s desire for non-white men, with non-white men objectified as mere props
in white men’s fantasies. Similarly, white queer discourse on cross-racial sex or
relationships provides commonplace descriptors for white men (i.e. the ‘rice queen’
the white gay man who is primarily attracted to gay Asian men), but accords far less
visibility to the language used by those positioned as objects of such white men’s
desire (i.e. the ‘potato queen’ gay Asian men who seek out relationships/sex with
white men). White gay men’s desire thus becomes the primary focus in the economy
of gay male desire (Han 2006). Theorising the hegemony of whiteness within queer
communities and in writings on queer desire and sexual practices must therefore
come to grips with the ways in which racial hierarchies play out within queer
communities, and which thus contribute to the marginalisation of non-white queer
people.
hooks (1992) suggests that there is the possibility that sexual practices can induce a
radical form of self-alienation whereby we become other to ourselves where sexual
acts produce for us moments of awareness of our own non-identicalness and the
multiplicities of our desire. Certainly Foucault’s work (e.g. 1996) takes up this point
and theorises sexual desire as often incommensurable often not just between people,
but also within people our desires may not always be reconcilable across contexts
or between intent and action (issues in relation to safer sex may be a good example
of the this disjuncture between intent and action). Yet this recognition of ourselves
as sexual others (and its import for considering how practices of othering function
cross-racially) must also involve a racialising of desire whereby it is (for example) a
racially marked white self that experiences particular sexual practices as self-
alienating. Such an approach may engender a form of reflexivity amongst white
queers that challenges not only our supposition of self-unity, but which also forces us
to see and account for our whiteness, something that is most often not seen when we
write simply as queer people or live our lives as such.
IV
Further in regards to the multiplicities of ‘individual desire’, and in relation to my
earlier points about universalisms, it is necessary to consider the queer critique of
identity categories, and its implication for the experience of people who identify both
as queer and as non-white. In their edited collection on LGBTQ psychologies, Clarke
and Peel (2007) suggest that the application of queer theory to psychology
highlights:
The need to both shore up and deconstruct identity categories (stable
identities are necessary for specific purposes) because different forms and
sites of oppression require different political strategies (p. 31).
Clarke and Peel’s point about acknowledging the utility of ‘stable identities’ is an
important one for queer theory to consider, particularly in relation to Indigenous
writings about identity and relationship to land. In her work on Indigenous
belonging, Moreton-Robinson (2003) counters accusations of essentialism that may
be leveled at Indigenous theorists who claim an ‘ontological relationship to country’
with the assertion that such accusations are in fact a form of strategic essentialism
on the part of white academics who are invested in refuting Indigenous claims to
ownership and belonging. In other words, it is only possible to refute ‘ontological
belonging’ through claims to essentialism if it is white ways of knowing and
understanding epistemology that are being privileged when we consider matters of
ontology. In regards to queer theory, the desire to ‘deconstruct identity categories’,
whilst important in regards to their deployment within white systems of knowledge
that have historically been limited through a reliance upon identity as
individualised, is far less relevant (or indeed may be irrelevant) to Indigenous
accounts of identity that posit an essential relationship between land and person
(specifically here in the Australian context). To deny the specificity and irrefutability
of this relationship, particularly through a queer critique of identity categories as it
may be applied to Indigenous people who identify as queer, is to fail to recognise the
cultural location of queer critiques and their limitations. Thus I would extend Clarke
and Peel’s suggestion by stating that not only do uses of identity categories (or
claims to ontology) have different political strategies, but they also have differing
cultural meanings, and these must be acknowledged and engaged with by queer
theorists, rather than applying a universalist interpretation of identity categories.
V
In relation to the differing ways in which language is used to signify relationships of
belonging and identification, it is important to recognise that particular words carry
with them the weight of racialised and sexualised histories that have shaped their
current meanings. Certainly, queer theorists have often been at the forefront of
reclaiming previously derogatory words (i.e. ‘queer’, ‘fag’ etc.), or indeed in creating
new words to describe particular theoretical insights or to give new meaning to
existing words (i.e. Butler’s (1990) account of ‘performativity’). In these varying
ways, queer theory is thus clearly attuned to the social value of words, and their
power to wound or hurt (Butler 1997).
Yet there are still other ways in which queer theory may engage with the
implications of its racial politics by encouraging further emphasis on particular
forms of language that bring into highlight the racial practices of queer people. One
example of this was brought to my attention recently in regards to the
aforementioned discussion of ‘rice queens’ and ‘potato queens’. A colleague (Han,
pers. comm., April 14 2007) brought my attention to the term ‘mashed potato’, a
term often used by non-white queer-identified people to refer to sexual relations
between two white gay men. Terms such as these, whilst having considerably less
currency within white queer cultures, are uniquely attuned to the racial identities of
all same-sex attracted people, rather than simply those who are marked as non-
white, or those who engage in cross-racial sex. Further exploration of terms that
mark queer desires, queer identities and queer relationships for their racialised
location must thus be central to the future of a queer project that aims to engender
accountability for the privileges associated with white queer racial identities and
which elaborates the varying investments that white queer people have in the racial
politics and power differentials that circulate within queer communities.
VI
The final point I wish to raise here is about coalitionism amongst queer-identified
people. Unfortunately, attempts at coalitions across lesbian, gay, bisexual,
transgender, intersex and queer communities (amongst others) are often led not only
by predominantly gay men and lesbian women, but by white gay men and white
lesbian women. Coalitionism in this sense becomes a space where white gay men
and white lesbian women can appear to be actively engaging with other sexual,
gender and racial minorities, where in reality it may be the case that the
engagement is only superficial and relatively ad hoc. Barbara Smith elaborates one
example of this in her account of the Millenium March held in New York in 2000. In
an interview with Kim Diehl (2000), Smith, a member of the Combahee River
Collective, outlines how the event demonstrated the ways in which race privilege
functions within what are purported to be ‘inclusive’ and ‘diverse’ queer events.
Smith suggests that the event was primarily shaped by the needs of white queers, as
reflected in a focus on single-issue politics, and in a failure to adequately consult
during initial planning of the event, rather than as an afterthought aimed at
claiming diversity in representation. Smith also calls into question the rhetoric of
human rights that circulated around the event, and the direction of such rhetoric by
white queers. Smith’s account of the event highlights the very complex ways in
which race privilege functions within queer communities, and the importance of
examining the complicity of white queers with white hegemony.
In the example provided above, the presumed-to-be safe queer space created as part
of the Millenium March was in actuality one that was only safe for particular
queers. Only particular people were reflected in its demographic, and only particular
people were involved in its development. In contrast to the safety that such a space
potentially generated for white queer people, Reagon (1981) suggests that attempts
at coalitions across groups must necessarily evoke discomfort and uncomfortability
for those within the groups who occupy a dominant location. Indeed, she suggests
that coalition work is not actually doing anything if members don’t feel threatened
all members that is, not just those who feel threatened by the ‘coalition’s
exclusionary structure. Bauer and Wald (2000) suggest that coalitionism requires us
to “give up any secure sense of self” (p. 1300) that entering into coalition work
requires a willingness to be in conflict, and to recognise one’s own place as a
contributor to that conflict. For white queer people this may involve being willing to
accept a queer-identified space that is not homely that is indeed rendered uncanny
by the very fact of its queerness (Riggs 2003). In other words, and following a
psychoanalytic interpretation of the homely/unhomely distinction, we may
understand a queer space that actively renders visible and challenges racial
privilege to be one in which white queer people can never truly feel ‘at home’,
precisely because to feel as such would entail the imposition of uniformity and
(white) hegemony that runs counter to coalition building. Thus as Wyatt (2004)
suggests, sometimes to build community one must be willing to not feel at all
communal, and not at all unified. To feel uneasy in a space where one would
normally expect to feel at ease as a (typically unmarked white) queer person is to
step into a space where race privilege may be acknowledged and engaged. To
consider queer spaces as uncanny spaces both for the unsettling they often produce
in the broader context of a heteronormative society, and for the unsettling they may
produce for queer people willing to acknowledge the disjunctures between varying
queer communities is to engage a notion of queerness that queers not only that
which is other-to queer, but also that which is claimed as queer.
Conclusions
In writing this paper for Compass, I have been mindful to introduce queer theory as
a topic that will be new to some readers within the discipline of psychology, but
which may also be very much familiar to others. As such, I have focused on a
particular aspect of queer theory, namely its racial politics (Barnard 2003). In so
doing I have outlined six interrelated areas requiring further attention from queer
theorists and queer-identified people alike, and have signaled the places where
psychology may contribute to these discussions. I hope similarly that the role of
these points in the application of queer theorising within psychology will also be
apparent that the issues I have raised about queer theory, identities and coalitions
will be taken as directly applicable to queer writing within psychology. Hopefully
these points will raise important issues for those already working in the field, and
will encourage those new to the field to read its seminal texts for what they perhaps
do not mention.
In centring a commitment to exploring the racial politics of queer theory,
particularly for those of us who identify as white, my intention has not been to
engage in a form of moral appraisal of previous literature, nor to engage in
marginalising the considerable gains made by queer theorists as to the hegemony of
heteronormativity. As I suggested in the introduction, there exist several key
readers (from within psychology and beyond) that highlight the role that queer
theorising may play in psychological research. Likewise, my intention has not been
to undermine the importance of the further development of a ‘queer psychology;, in
whatever forms it may take. Rather, my intention has been to further the call for
accounts of a racialised heterosexual order that functions in complex ways to accord
privilege through the operations of oppression. Thinking about racial privilege in the
context of queer communities is challenging not only for its potential to break down
such communities, but also for what some have suggested to me may provide the
conservative Right with yet more ammunition against us. Whilst this is potentially
true, I don’t think it warrants turning away from issues of racial privilege or racism
within queer communities. Rather, it requires us, and very much in the spirit of
queer theory, to explore new ways of accounting for ourselves, and to do so in ways
that are very much focused on interrogating taken-for-granted norms and their role
in legitimating unequal social relations.
Acknowledgments
I begin by acknowledging the sovereignty of the Kaurna people, the First Nations
people upon whose land I live in Adelaide, South Australia. I would like to thank
John Kaye for referring the Compass editors to me, and Brendan Gough for
commissioning this piece. A considerable intellectual debt is owed to Alan Han for
conversations about the racial politics of queer desire, and to Fiona Nicoll and Aileen
Moreton-Robinson for creating intellectual spaces where these issues could be
explored. Thanks must also go to members of the Whiteness Research Group, and in
particular Barbara Baird, Anna Szorenyi, Marg Allen, Kathleen Connellan, Alia
Imtoual and Andrew Hughes for discussions and insights provided on the topics
contained within this paper. Thanks to Meg Barker and Peter Hegarty for sharing
their important work, and to Vic Clarke and Liz Peel for creating queer spaces
within psychology and for encouraging a focus on race and whiteness. Finally,
thanks to Greg, for editing my work and creating family with me at a moment when
we are both pressed for time.
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Biography
Damien W. Riggs is an ARC postdoctoral fellow in the School of Psychology, at the
University of Adelaide, Australia. He is the National Convenor of the Australian
Psychological Society’s ‘Gay and Lesbian Issues in Psychology’ Interest Group and is
the Editor of its Gay and Lesbian Issues and Psychology Review. He has published in
the areas of lesbian and gay psychology, critical race and whiteness studies, and
parenting and family studies in journals such as Psychoanalysis, Culture and
Society, Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology, Lesbian & Gay
Psychology Review, Culture, Health and Sexuality, Sexualities, Australian
Psychologist, Hypatia and International Journal of Critical Psychology. He is the
editor of two books: Out in the antipodes: Australian and New Zealand perspectives
on gay and lesbian issues in psychology (with Gordon Walker, 2004, Brightfire
Press), and Taking up the Challenge: Critical race and whiteness studies in a
postcolonising nation (2007, Crawford Publishers). His last book, Priscilla, (White)
Queen of the Desert: Queer rights/race privilege was published in 2006 by Peter
Lang, and his latest book, entitled Becoming Parent: Lesbians, gay men, and family,
was published in 2007 by Post Pressed. He is currently co-authoring a textbook
(with Victoria Clarke, Sonja J. Ellis and Elizabeth Peel) entitled LGBTQ
Psychologies: Themes and perspectives (Cambridge University Press).
... Bununla birlikte, queer teorinin sorduğu soruların bu alanda henüz bir karşılık bulduğu pek söylenemez (Hegarty, 2011a(Hegarty, , 2011b. Yine de LGBT psikolojisi ve queer teori arasında ne tür gerilimlerin var olduğuna, nasıl ilişkilenebileceklerine ve ayrıca queer teorinin psikolojiye neler katabileceğine dair yapılmış ve yapılmakta olan çeşitli tartışmalar/çalışmalar söz konusudur (Minton, 1997;Seidman, 2006;Hegarty & Massey, 2006;Riggs & Walker, 2006;Riggs, 2007Riggs, , 2011Hammack, Mayers & Windell, 2013;Hegarty, 2011aHegarty, , 2011bDowning & Gillett, 2011;Joel, Tarrasch, Berman, Mukamel & Ziv, 2014;Nic Giolla Easpaig, Fryer, Linn & Humprey, 2014). Psikoloji ile queer teori arasındaki ilişkilenme imkanlarını anlamak adına bu çalışmaların belli başlı olanlarına göz atmak faydalı olacaktır. ...
... Yazarlar, eşcinsellik-karşıtı önyargıların sosyal psikolojide "tutumlar" üzerinden ele alınageldiğini; ilk dönemlerde (1970'lerin sonuna kadar) bunun "evrensel bir homoerotizm korkusu" (evrenselleştirici modeller) ile açıklandığını, 1970'lerden sonra ise "belirli bir dış-gruba yönelik önyargı" Queer teori, cinsiyet/cinsellik kategorilerinin başka sosyal kategorilerle (ırk, sınıf, vs.) kesişimselliğini anlamak için de önemli imkanlar sunmaktadır. Bu bağlamda, Riggs (2007) "Queer Theory and Its Future in Psychology: Exploring Issues of Race Privilege" başlıklı makalesinde, özellikle sömürgecilik geçmişine sahip çok-ırklı toplumlarda ırksal ayrıcalık ile cinsel ayrıcalık arasındaki benzerlikten söz etmekte; ırksal normların "beyazlık" üzerine temellenmesine benzer olarak cinsel normların da "heteroseksüellik" üzerine kurulduğunu ve bunu hayatın her alanında gördüğümüz gibi psikoloji alanında da gördüğümüzü dile getirmektedir. Riggs (2007) ve ayrıca Riggs & Walker (2006) anlayışından gündelik "performativite" edimleriyle (Butler, 1990(Butler, /2008 göstermişlerdir. ...
... Bu bağlamda, Riggs (2007) "Queer Theory and Its Future in Psychology: Exploring Issues of Race Privilege" başlıklı makalesinde, özellikle sömürgecilik geçmişine sahip çok-ırklı toplumlarda ırksal ayrıcalık ile cinsel ayrıcalık arasındaki benzerlikten söz etmekte; ırksal normların "beyazlık" üzerine temellenmesine benzer olarak cinsel normların da "heteroseksüellik" üzerine kurulduğunu ve bunu hayatın her alanında gördüğümüz gibi psikoloji alanında da gördüğümüzü dile getirmektedir. Riggs (2007) ve ayrıca Riggs & Walker (2006) anlayışından gündelik "performativite" edimleriyle (Butler, 1990(Butler, /2008 göstermişlerdir. Çalışmanın sonuçları, normatif bireylerde "kadın" ya da "erkek" olma hissinin varsayıldığı kadar güçlü olmadığını, heteroseksüellerin diğerlerinden daha güçlü ve sabit bir "çekirdek cinsiyet kimliği" geliştirdikleri varsayımının doğru olmadığını, mevcut cinsiyet kalıplarına uymakta birçok "normatif" bireyin de sıkıntı çektiğini ve bir anlamda "cinsiyetinden hoşnutsuzluğun" (gender dysphoria) herkes için belirli ölçülerde söz konusu olduğunu ortaya koymaktadır. ...
Article
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Bu yazının amacı, queer teori ile psikoloji arasındaki ilişkilenme imkânlarını soruşturan ve psikolojideki çeşitli meseleleri queer perspektifle ele alan sınırlı sayıdaki çalışmayı aktarmak ve böylece psikoloji ile queer teori arasındaki mevcut ilişkiselliğe dair genel bir çerçeve çizmektir. Bu sayede, söz konusu çalışmalarda ortaya konulan öneriler/fikirler üzerinden hem (özellikle Türkiye’de daha da can alıcı bir şekilde karşımıza çıkan) psikoloji ile queer teori arasındaki sınırlı ilişkiselliğin kaynaklarını anlamak, hem de bu ilişkilenme halinin gelişmesi oranında queer teorinin psikolojiye neler sunabileceğine dair bir anlayış geliştirmek mümkün olabilecektir. ------- The aim of this article is to summarize the studies investigating the possibilities of the relationship between psychology and queer theory and examining various issues in psychology from the perspective of queer theory, in this mannerà to draw a frame for the existing relationship between psychology and queer theory. Through the suggestions/ideas in these studies, there is an opportunity to understand the reasons of limited relationship between psychology and queer theory (especially in Turkey) and the future contributions of queer theory to psychology in accordance with their developing relationship.
... Whereas in the UK and Australia there has been an increasingly visible convergence of critical and qualitative approaches to LGBTQ psychology that take on antiminoritarian and antiessentializing queer perspectives (Clarke and Peel 2007, p. 5), in the US, LGBTQ psychology remains dominated by positivist and empiricist frameworks. Driven by the neoliberal agenda of producing individualized ''evidence'' of risks and privileges (Fine 2012), mainstream LGBTQ psychology has become an effort to normalize LGBTQ populations and secure white and cisgender concerns within the LGBTQ category of inquiry, further marginalizing the experiences of queer and transgender people of color (Riggs 2007). ...
... In a special issue on queer theory and psychology in Psychology and Sexuality, Peter Hegarty (2011, p. 1) titled his introduction ''Becoming Curious''-curiosity, as central to Tomkins's theory of shame, can be the intention we as psychologists embody in order to build synthesis between queer theory and psychology. Similar to the efforts of many critical psychologists who have contributed to broadening the limited psychological notions of sexual minority and identity, to be curious about the affective negativity of shame can serve many purposes: abolishing the fetishization of white, middle-class, and cisgender normativity as the standard of LGBTQ experiences (Clarke and Peel 2007, p. 15); excavating the stickiness of shame and risk discourses, particularly around racialized queer bodies (Riggs 2007); and getting past the ''dueling dualisms'' (Fausto-Sterling 2000) of the sexuality and gender divide by recognizing the circulative nature of pathology within psychological categories (Coyle and Kitzinger 2002). This synthesis of the anti-identitarian and antinormativity critique of queer theory may mean scholars not foreclosing our theoretical engagement to the limits of our own discipline, in order to accumulate evidence of dominant discourses. ...
Article
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The affective turn that has emerged in academia problematizes the previous dichotomous conceptualization of essentialism and social constructionism. It also points toward a new direction for the study of human—and beyond human—experience. Situating this paradigm shift within broader social scientific inquiry, this paper engages with psychologist Silvan Tomkins’s and queer theorist Eve Sedgwick’s theories of affect. In doing so, it employs shame as a critical concept for queer psychology that is distinct from the sexual minority framework dominating North American LGBTQ psychology. The author proposes moving toward a concept of shame that identifies it as a curious engagement beyond disciplinary boundaries and movement that circulates through different sexualized and racialized bodies. In moving toward this concept and away from one of shame as a problem and an undesirable object to be rid of, we can work toward a queer psychology of affect that breaks open the binarism of pride and shame.
... When topics such as partner support, the management of chronic illness within relationships or sexual dysfunction related to chronic health conditions are studied, the focus is either explicitly on heterosexuals, or the sexual identities of participants are not collected or documented. There is a tendency within health psychology to fit a broad range of experiences into one, invariably heterosexual-based model (Riggs, 2007a). ...
... In Chapter 1 I noted that in recent years scholars have begun to explore how insights from queer theory might be applied to psychology (e.g. Minton, 1997;Warner, 2004;Hegarty and Massey, 2006;MacBride-Stewart, 2007;Riggs, 2007a;Hegarty, 2008Hegarty, , 2009). Clarke and Braun (2009), for instance, point out that even mainstream psychological research that appears to be "in the interests" of lesbians and gay men may reinforce problematic assumptions and perpetuates binary thinking about gender, sexuality and the sex/gender system. ...
Thesis
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This copy of the thesis has been supplied on condition that anyone who consults it is understood to recognise that its copyright rests with its author and that no quotation from the thesis and no information derived from it may be published without proper acknowledgement.
... There have been multiple calls for the inclusion and utilisation of queer theory in psychology (Hegarty, 2011a;Minton, 1997). Queer theory has been increasingly drawn upon in relation to: psychological re-theorisation, for example, anti-homosexual privilege (Hegarty and Massey, 2006) and white privilege (Riggs, 2007); psychological conceptualisation, for example, histories of intelligence testing (Hegarty, 2011b); psychological practice, for example, remapping key considerations in therapeutic practice towards enabling 'empowered, viable, gender variant possibilities, rather than representing gender variant youth as incoherent subjects' (Roen, 2011: 58). Moreover, queer theory has provided a useful resource for working with diverse issues, in conjunction and sometimes integrated with other theoretical approaches. ...
... Refusing the person-in-context approach has implications for the theorising of identity and difference, which has previously been commonly characterised, in relation to the fields of sexualities and gender in psychology, by two approaches: the liberal humanist approach and the minoritising approach (Minton, 1997;Riggs, 2007;Semp, 2011). The liberal humanist approach centres on the 'individual'. ...
Article
Queer-theoretical resources offer ways of productively rethinking how central concepts such as 'person-context', 'identity' and 'difference' may be understood for community health psychologists. This would require going beyond consideration of the problems with which queer theory is popularly associated to cautiously engage with the aspects of this work relevant to the promotion of collective practice and engaging with processes of marginalisation. In this article, we will draw upon and illustrate the queer-theoretical concepts of 'performativity' and 'cultural intelligibility' before moving towards a preliminary mapping of what a queer-informed approach to community health psychology might involve.
... In addition to its antinormative approach, a significant insight of queer theory is its attention to the operations of power beyond the single axis of sexuality and instead as intersectional and multilayered. Although "race" is now a visible factor to consider across both quantitative and qualitative methods in queer psychology, it is often treated as secondary to frameworks and models of sexual subjectivity that assume whiteness as the norm (Riggs, 2007a). Riggs (2007b) argues that racial biases in queer psychology are expressed through "the desire of white psychologists to measure, describe and 'know' the 'other'" (p. ...
Article
Full-text available
The formation of queer psychology has been a critical intervention in breaking apart the psychological tendency of reifying categories of gender and sexuality. Nonetheless, latent Orientalism and white-centered epistemologies in psychology have continued to produce culturally essentialist depictions of a repressive “Chinese sexuality” and “backward Asian culture.” In this article, I present three main problems in psychological representations of Sinophone queers: (a) “cultural colorblindness” resulting from the conflation of race and culture, (b) the problematic analytical category of “Chineseness,” and (c) race and culture being theorized as a burden for Sinophone and Asian queers. In order for psychology and queer studies scholars to destabilize these epistemologically violent interpretations, this article argues that we must engage with Sinophone critique and shift away from a framework of culture to one of “concerns” in order to capture the heterogeneity of queer Sinophone subjectivities.
... Acknowledging the academic legacy of the long history of work by African American, Indigenous, and other black feminist scholars means, for therapists, that there is a wealth of critical knowledge about a wide range of areas relevant to professional practices that may not typically appear in academic or specifically mental health outlets, but which nonetheless deserve considerable attention. Resources such as those provided in this book and the references in this chapter represent a considerable opportunity to engage with these knowledges and to use them to examine the assumptions inherent to much of the psychological literature about working cross-culturally (see also Riggs, 2007b). Importantly, writers such as Roberts (2002) remind us that social reform relating to issues such as racial equality still lags a long way behind laws intended to prevent discrimination. ...
Chapter
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Defining CultureCultural CompetenceIntersectionalityNot Reinventing the WheelConclusion: Moving from Matrices of Oppression to Conditions of PossibilityGuidelines for Good PracticeReferences
... I anchored it in Minton's (1997) call for psychologists to look to queer theory for new lessons about emancipation, identity politics, ethics and participatory research. I was going to talk about the few essays that took up that call and applied it to issues such as methodology (Warner, 2004), prejudice (Hegarty & Massey, 2006), counselling (Moon, 2008) and who interrogated that work for race privilege (Riggs, 2007). I could not make myself happy with that introduction, and the unhappiness was not of a useful sort. ...
Book
Cambridge Core - Sociology of Gender - Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Intersex, and Queer Psychology - by Sonja J. Ellis
Chapter
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This chapter provides an overview of queer theory, along with examples of how we and others have applied queer theory in social psychology research. Throughout the chapter, we highlight the differences between queer theory, queer research methodologies, queer studies, and ‘queer’ as an identity category. The chapter first presents a focused review of social psychological literature that has used the term ‘queer’, before then considering research examples that illustrate the differences outlined above.
Article
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This article explores issues of identity and community for women who are biracial and bisexual. The complexities of emerging and intersecting identities are illustrated through personal narrative. The author proposes a biracial/bisexual paradigm for psychology and provides recommendations for counseling, professional change, and social transformation.
Book
Queer Theory is one of the most contested and intellectually complex movements in contemporary sexual politics. Where did it come from, and what does it do? Is queer theory only for queers? If you have ever wanted to be a leather daddy, been puzzled by performativity, tried to measure bisexuality, or wondered whether Diana, Princess of Wales could be a gay icon, Queer Theory is required reading. This vibrant anthology of groundbreaking work by influential scholars, activists, performers, and visual artists is essential for anyone with an interest in sexuality studies or gender activism. The fifteen articles - including two specially commissioned contributions, as well as an engaging introduction - map, contextualise, and challenge queer theory's project both within and beyond the academy. Helpful critical summaries that link the selections, and suggestions for further reading, make this volume perfect for anyone approaching queer theory for the first time.
Book
Why hate Abercrombie? In a world rife with human cruelty and oppression, why waste your scorn on a popular clothing retailer? The rationale, Dwight A. McBride argues, lies in "the banality of evil," or the quiet way discriminatory hiring practices and racist ad campaigns seep into and reflect malevolent undertones in American culture. McBride maintains that issues of race and sexuality are often subtle and always messy, and his compelling new book does not offer simple answers. Instead, in a collection of essays about such diverse topics as biased marketing strategies, black gay media representations, the role of African American studies in higher education, gay personal ads, and pornography, he offers the evolving insights of one black gay male scholar. As adept at analyzing affirmative action as dissecting Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, McBride employs a range of academic, journalistic, and autobiographical writing styles. Each chapter speaks a version of the truth about black gay male life, African American studies, and the black community. Original and astute, Why I Hate Abercrombie & Fitch is a powerful vision of a rapidly changing social landscape.
Article
Risking Difference revisions the dynamics of multicultural feminist community by exploring the ways that identification creates misrecognitions and misunderstandings between individuals and within communities. Drawing on Lacanian psychoanalysis, Jean Wyatt argues not only that individual psychic processes of identification influence social dynamics, but also that social discourses of race, class, and culture shape individual identifications. In addition to examining fictional narratives by Margaret Atwood, Angela Carter, Sandra Cisneros, Toni Morrison, and others, Wyatt also looks at nonfictional accounts of cross-race relations by white feminists and feminists of color. © 2004 State University of New York Press. All rights reserved.