Although gay, lesbian, and queer theory are related practices, the three terms delineate separate emphases marked by different assumptions about the relationship between gender and sexuality.
The Harlem Renaissance, an African-American literary movement of the 1920s and 1930s, included several important gay and lesbian writers.
Oscar Wilde is important both as an accomplished writer and as a symbolic figure who exemplified a way of being homosexual at a pivotal moment in the emergence of gay consciousness.
Langston Hughes, whose literary legacy is enormous and varied, was closeted, but homosexuality was an important influence on his literary imagination, and many of his poems may be read as gay texts.
Conflicted over his own sexuality, Tennessee Williams wrote directly about homosexuality only in his short stories, his poetry, and his late plays.
Erotic and pornographic works have been written in many cultures since ancient times and recently have flourished with the relaxation of censorship.
Feminist literary theory is a complex, dynamic area of study that draws from a wide range of critical theories.
James Baldwin, a pioneering figure in twentieth-century literature, wrote sustained and articulate challenges to American racism and mandatory heterosexuality.
Anti-gay activists Elizabeth Marquardt (left) and David Blankenhorn.
In an editorial in the Raleigh, North Carolina News & Observer on April 11, 2012, David Blankenhorn and Elizabeth Marquardt denounce anti-gay Amendment One, which prohibits not only same-sex marriage but also civil unions. Declaring that the amendment, which will be on the May 8, 2012, ballot, goes "well beyond the issue of same-sex marriage," they urge its defeat.
Blankenhorn and Marquardt, the president and vice-president of the Institute for American Values, do not retreat from their obdurate opposition to same-sex marriage, but they claim that Amendment One is more about ostracizing and stigmatizing gay people than it is about protecting marriage. "We believe," they declare "that the cause of marriage is hurt, not helped, by gratuitously linking it to the cause of never under any circumstances helping gay and lesbian couples."
Although they do not argue in favor of civil unions in North Carolina, they explain that Blankenhorn supported California's Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in the golden state, and testified in favor of it at the Prop 8 trial, "in part because California some time ago passed domestic partnership legislation to extend legal recognition to same-sex couples."
Blankenhorn carved out a distinctive niche among the crusaders against marriage equality as someone who supposedly has no animus against homosexuals but was nevertheless adamantly opposed to same-sex marriage. In practice, however, he has spent far more time opposing same-sex marriage than he has in demonstrating a lack of animus.
While he has frequently said that he believes in the "equal dignity of homosexual love," he has never intentionally done anything to support same-sex couples. However, under skillful cross-examination by acclaimed attorney David Boies in the Prop 8 trial, he was forced to admit that same-sex couples and their children would benefit from marriage equality and that America itself would be more American the day after same-sex marriage was legalized.
Indeed, the trial was something of a disaster for Blankenhorn. His prominence in the fight against marriage equality led to his credentials coming under scrutiny, particularly the fact that despite touting himself as a nationally recognized expert on marriage, he has no Ph.D. in a relevant field and has published only a single peer-reviewed scholarly article, and that article had nothing to do with marriage.
Despite having asserted over and over again in various speeches and publications that allowing gay men and lesbians to marry would damage the institution of marriage, under oath a tongue-tied Blankenhorn could not articulate what this damage would be. Nor could he cite any harm that the institution of marriage has suffered in those jurisdictions where same-sex couples have been allowed to marry for more than a decade. Nor could he explain straightforwardly his social science methodology. (Apparently, Blankenhorn just reads a lot and the studies he likes, he likes, and the studies he doesn't like, he doesn't like.)
Indeed, in his historic decision declaring Proposition 8 unconstitutional, Judge Vaughn Walker flatly rejected Blankenhorn's expertise and his testimony as "inadmissible opinion . . . that should be given essentially no weight." He remarked that "None of Blankenhorn's opinions is reliable" or supported by evidence or methodology.
Blankenhorn later described his participation in the marriage equality controversy as "the single worst experience I have had in my public life." But however much he may regret the fact that he has in some ways become vilified and caricatured as a result of that participation, it simply is not true that he was somehow dragged into the campaign against same-sex marriage, as he has frequently claimed.
Blankenhorn and Marquardt have both frequently whined at how unfairly they think they have been treated in the wake of their activism against marriage equality. Blankenhorn made himself look ridiculous when he recruited thirteen IAV colleagues and collaborators to contribute to an open letter to the New York Times protesting stinging columns by Frank Rich, which implied that he was a bigot.
In a post at FamilyScholars.org, Marquardt hysterically claimed that she would be arrested if she announced in Harvard Square that she was opposed to same-sex marriage.
It is likely that Blankenhorn's association with the fight against marriage equality has had some impact on IAV; it has certainly made fair-minded people suspicious of the organization and their leaders.
Hence, the editorial in opposition to North Carolina's Amendment One may be an attempt to redeem Blankenhorn's reputation.
Blankenhorn and Marquardt had earlier floated a number of proposals to support civil unions if only gay activists would drop their insistence on marriage equality. For good reason, these proposals were quietly ignored.
Recently on IAV's blog, FamilyScholars.org, they have been challenged by a number of bloggers and commenters, particularly Chris Gable, "Fannie," and Barry Deutsch, to demonstrate in concrete terms that they really do lack animus against glbtq people. The editorial is, no doubt, their response to this nagging.
Despite the fact that some bloggers that I respect, including Pam Spaulding at Pam's House Blend and Andy Towle at Towleroad regard the editorial by Blankenhorn and Marquardt as a "huge" development, I am not impressed.
I hope that their denunciation of the Amendment as too extreme may help in the defeat of the Amendment, but the real purpose of the editorial is not so much to achieve justice for gay people as it is to help make the anti-gay marriage movement more respectable so that it will become even more effective in denying equal rights to gay people.
I can not see much to cheer about that prospect.
Never ones to miss an opportunity to promote themselves, Blankenhorn and Marquardt are more interested in declaring that they are not bigots than they are in actually supporting glbtq families.
But whether or not they are bigots is less interesting to me than the fact that they continue to work to deny equal rights to gay and lesbian families.