Sources for Contextualizing GLBT Civil Rights (Expanded)

1. The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements by Eric Hoffer. Harper Perennial, 1951

The True Believer is a concise and disturbing sociological examination of mass movements.  Hoffer contends that hatred is the most powerful unifying factor in mass movements and that the more unreasonable the hatred, the more people feel the need “to merge with those who hate as we do.” Hoffer articulates the cohesive power of irrational hatred:  “The puzzling thing is that when our hatred does not spring from a visible grievance and does not seem justified, the desire for allies becomes more pressing.” (94)  Written in 1951 in the shadow of Nazi genocide and the cold war, this work remains salient in modern times.  Although Hoffer’s book does not specifically examine hatred directed towards gay, lesbian, bisexual, and/or transgender people, it describes the mechanisms by which antipathy is fomented and people coalesce around a common enemy.  Hoffer’s thesis is illustrated by the tendency of anti-GLBT Christian political groups to unite around homophobia as a central tenet of their religious and political ideology rather than more exalted Christian virtues of love and charity.  Much of the vitriol directed against GLBT people is reminiscent of Nazi Propaganda.

2. All the Rage: The Story of Gay Visibility in America by Suzanna Danuta Walters.  The University of Chicago Press, 2001

All The Rage examines the misconception that increased visibility equates increased societal acceptance and describes the backlash against increased visibility and the commodification of GLBT lifestyles.  Walters describes the way in which the increased visibility of queer people has coincided with an exponential rise in hate crimes and anti-GLBT ballot measures.  Walters reported a 127% increase in hate crimes between 1988 to 1993 and cites a 1998 FBI report of a 14.3% increase in hate crimes between 1997 and 1998, even though the rates of other violent crimes decreased (9).  The number of anti-GLBT ballot measures burgeoned during this same period with 160 anti-GLBT bills in 1996 and 472 in 1999.  Walters constructs a compelling argument that questions whether GLBT visibility has resulted in the political empowerment of GLBT people and describes the ways in which positive representations of minorities paradoxically coexist with social injustice towards those being depicted.  She uses The Cosby Show as an example as one of the most popular shows in South Africa during apartheid. This book is written from an academic perspective by a sociologist that would likely be studied by GLBT people, gender or media studies classes.

3. The Holy Bible

The Bible is central to the queer rights debate since most of the rationale for depriving queer citizens of civil rights is derived from the Bible.  The most cited proscriptions against homosexuality and cross-dressing are found in Leviticus 18:22 which states: “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable” and Deuteronomy 22:5: “A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing for the Lord your God detests anyone who does this.”  Although anti-GLBT Christians argue that traditional marriage equals one man plus one woman, the Old Testament model of marriage often included one man, one woman plus as many concubines as could be desired and supported by the husband.  Not all patriarchal extra-marital affairs were with female concubines.  According to some Biblical scholars, King David’s favorite sexual partner was named Jonathan. Historically, the Bible was employed to justify atrocities such as slavery and wife slaughter. Using the Old Testament as a model for modern morality is problematic due to draconian mores that allow killing unruly children, adulterers and idolaters.  Other Deuteronomic and Levitical prohibitions are equally archaic such as proscriptions against mixed fiber clothing and shellfish.  Although a literal interpretation of the Bible justifies discrimination against GLBT people, many progressive Christians advocate GLBT inclusion and equality.

4. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth: An Epidemic of Homelessness by Nick Ray, Former Senior Policy Analyst, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s Policy Institute. published in Kicked Out edited by Sassafras Lowrey Homofactus Press 2010

While much of the focus on GLBT civil rights is focused on the gay marriage debate, this work examines an understudied phenomenon associated with homophobia in our culture– an epidemic of homelessness of GLBT youth.  Many queer youth are literally thrown out by their parents when they come out as gay and queer youth are estimated to account for between 20 and 40% of all homeless youth (Ray 2010).  This is an ethical and civil rights issue because all homeless kids have elevated rates of physical assault, rape and murder and the risks are compounded for gay and gender-variant individuals.  GLBT homeless kids also suffer from elevated rates of mental illness and suicidal ideation and consummation. Nick Ray cites a study from Pediatrics that found that half of the gay teens surveyed reported a negative parental response to their coming out and 26% were thrown out for being gay.  Many queer kids never even get to grow up and be deprived of their civil right to marry or adopt children.  Ray’s article examines both the causes of GLBT homelessness and the lack of appropriate funding to address homeless youth, both queer and straight.  This problem is the direct result of the hostile climate towards GLBT people in the culture where even parents find their offspring so repulsive that they throw them out.

5. Is there a homosexuality gene? December 2006 by Lisa Zyga

6. Gay brothers may hold genetic clues Study seeks scientific explanation for roots of homosexuality

7. Is there a genetic cause for HBS? by Charlotte Goiar 2005-2010

These scientific and journalistic distillations of scientific sources examine the potential genetic component of homosexuality and/or transsexualism.  This research is salient since many who seek to deprive GLBT citizens of rights argue that being gay or transgender is a choice rather than an innate characteristic. Many GLBT people, doctors, psychiatrists and psychologists assert that sexual orientation or gender identity are innate personality traits and that most people are aware of their gender identity or sexual orientation from an early age.  Preliminary evidence suggests a genetic component in that homosexuality runs in families.  Studies indicate that even siblings raised separately are more likely to exhibit homosexual traits if other siblings are gay.  This finding contradicts solely environmental etiological explanations of sexual orientation.  A study of identical twins showed that the chances that one twin would be gay if the other was at 52%, compared to only 9% in non-twin siblings.  Another study found lower rates of concordance.  Evidence suggests that homosexuality is more frequently acquired from the mother’s side of the family than the father’s, leading some scientists to postulate that genetic markers involving sexual orientation are found on the X chromosome.  Homosexual behavior has been documented in animals and a group of scientists managed to genetically modify fruit flies to be exclusively homosexual (both gay and lesbian).  Dr. Alan Sanders and others believe that no isolated gene can account for all homosexual orientation and that sexual orientation is determined by a complex interplay of genetics and environmental factors.

Although many people assume sexual orientation and gender identity are related, they are not.  There are transgender people who identify as gay, straight, bisexual and asexual and it seems possible that the biological factors implicated in gender identity differ from those that contribute to sexual orientation. Etiological hypotheses for gender variance range from brain structure disparities, exposure to excessive sex hormones in the prenatal environment and genetic mutations.  A genetic study of transgender individuals found repetitions in segments of DNA indicative of a possible genetic mutation that could explain male to female gender variance (from Psychoneuroendochrinology) and postmortem dissections of brain tissue found pronounced morphological variations between the brains of male-to-female transsexuals and gender-congruent biological males.  Other theories involve variations in enzyme-producing genes that metabolize sex hormones.  One study discovered an elongation in androgen receptor genes in male to female transgender women.

The political implications of a possible biological etiological origin of sexual orientation and gender identity are profound since some might believe GLBT people more deserving of equality if their sexual orientation and/or gender identity are not volitional.  Although it seems unlikely that conclusive scientific evidence of a genetic cause of homosexuality and transsexuality would sway some Christians who discount evidence that the earth is older than 5,000 years in the form of fossil records and carbon dating, genetic proof could influence public policy affecting GLBT people.

8. Los Angeles Times  Proposition 8 Tracking the Money: Final Numbers

This website examines the funding sources for anti-gay ballot measures such as proposition 8.  Funding of efforts to deprive GLBT citizens of civil rights and protections are overwhelmingly religious.  Proposition 8 received most of its funding from the Mormon church, Conservative Christians, the Catholic church and James Dobson’s fundamentalist Christian group Focus on the Family.  The overwhelming evidence that anti-GLBT ballot measures were funded by church groups and individuals with a religious agenda indicates that the passage of these ballot measures constitutes the imposition of religious beliefs on a minority and have no place in a democracy founded on ideals of the separation of church and state.  The erosion of the separation of church and state is the goal of many conservative religious groups who argue that the separation of church and state is a liberal myth and the founding fathers intended this to be a Christian nation.  (I think Thomas Jefferson and other founding fathers would disagree.)  Efforts to revoke the tax-exempt status of churches engaging in political action are underway.

9. 10. The Bill of Rights

The First Amendment

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

The Fifth Amendment

“No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

The Fourteenth Amendment Section 1.

“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

The Bill of Rights is integral to the discussion of GLBT civil rights since the passage of anti-GLBT measures violates the separation of church and state, the freedom of religion clause of the First Amendment, the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment and the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.  An effective legal strategy to challenge anti-GLBT laws should include references to the founding ideals of this country and the ways in which the imposition of religious ideals on citizens is antithetical to the principles of this democracy.  Throughout American history, citizens have eventually recognized when practices were incongruent with the standards of equality and liberty championed by the Constitution and changed laws to address the injustice of slavery, segregation, intermarriage prohibitions and the right of women and racial minorities to vote and own property. The Constitution and the Bill of Rights should never be altered to conform to bigotry and prejudices of other citizens, even if they constitute a majority opinion.


One Response to “Sources for Contextualizing GLBT Civil Rights (Expanded)”

  1. Pulpit Bullies: Separation of Church and State, Constitutional Amendments and Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Civil Rights « Civilrightsglbt's Blog Says:

    […] Civilrightsglbt's Blog Just another weblog « Sources for Contextualizing GLBT Civil Rights (Expanded) […]

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