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social sciences

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Finally, sociology is experiencing conflicts with other academic disciplines over the explanations of sexuality and gender. These conflicts are primarily, though not only, with biology and psychology.

Biological explanations for sexuality and gender focus on the idea that genetic structures set at conception, perhaps along with environmental features during pregnancy (such as maternal hormone levels or drug use) set sexuality and gender in stone at birth. These explanations would say that if someone comes to an understanding of a different gender or sexuality later in life, he or she is either wrong or until then has been suppressing his or her "true" self.

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Psychology, on the other hand, leaves some room for events that happen after birth to effect individuals' sexual and gender identities. Psychology, particularly its psychoanalytic branch, believes that the early childhood experiences, especially those in infancy, are important in shaping the gender and sexuality that an adult will later display. Traumatic events in later life can also cause changes in gender and sexuality.

These conflicts between disciplines are not only important in terms of drawing disciplinary boundaries but also have important effects for the real everyday lives of glbtq individuals and communities. For instance, if the biologists are right, then glbtq individuals could no longer be asked by conservative political and religious figures to change who they are. On the other hand, a genetic root to homosexuality could lead to genetic testing and selective abortion of fetuses carrying this gene.

Some glbtq people worry that if the sociological explanation for homosexuality, bisexuality, and transgenderedness is accepted, they will be held responsible for their genders and sexualities. The idea of social construction, however, does not mean that individuals "choose" to be glbtq (though it provides for the fact that some individuals could possibly make that choice). Instead, it means that biology and early childhood experiences are not destiny, and that the structure of society leaves room for changes in an individual's sexuality and gender throughout the life course.

Mikaila Mariel Lemonik Arthur

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social sciences >> Overview:  Anthropology

Anthropology, the first of the social science disciplines to take sexuality--and particularly homosexuality--seriously as a field of intellectual inquiry in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, has achieved a new impetus in the post-Stonewall era.

social sciences >> Overview:  Etiology

The earliest etiologies--or theories of causation--of homosexuality date from European antiquity, but the search for a universal etiology has intensified as homosexual behavior has come under the scrutiny of science.

social sciences >> Overview:  Geography

Over the past 25 years, the academic discipline of Geography, especially its social scientific and humanistic branch, has been attuned to glbtq people, places, and natures.

social sciences >> Overview:  Hate Crimes

Hate Crimes are crimes towards persons or groups motivated by the victim's race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

social sciences >> Overview:  Identity Politics

Not limited to activity in the traditionally conceived political sphere, identity politics refers to activism, politics, theorizing, and other similar activities based on the shared experiences of members of a specific social group, often relying on shared experiences of oppression.

social sciences >> Overview:  Pederasty

Pederasty is the erotic relationship between an adult male and a boy, generally one between the ages of twelve and seventeen, in which the older partner is attracted to the younger one who returns his affection.

literature >> Overview:  Post-modernism

Post-modern theory has led to the problematizing of marginalized and "other" peoples and cultures and to viewing homosexuality as a social construction.

social sciences >> Overview:  Sexual Orientation

Sexual orientation indicates erotic attraction, whether toward people of the same gender (homosexual), the opposite gender (heterosexual), or both (bisexual).

social sciences >> Overview:  Women's Studies

Women's studies, an interdisciplinary academic field that was inaugurated at major universities around 1970, is now offered at every conceivable type of academic institution throughout the world.

social sciences >> Aron, Jean-Paul

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literature >> Foucault, Michel

One of the leading philosophers of the twentieth century, Foucault has had an enormous influence on our understanding of the lesbian and gay literary heritage and the cultural forces surrounding it.

social sciences >> Freud, Sigmund

The founder of psychoanalysis and the discoverer of the unconscious, Sigmund Freud initiated a fundamental transformation in the self-understanding of Western men and women, including especially the role of sexuality.

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Butler, Judith P. Bodies that Matter: On the Discursive Limits of "Sex." New York: Routledge, 1993.

_____. Gender Trouble (10th Anniversary Edition). New York: Routledge. 1999.

Foucault, Michel. The History of Sexuality Volume One: An Introduction. New York: Vintage Books, 1990.

_____. The History of Sexuality Volume Two: The Use of Pleasure. New York: Vintage Books, 1990.

_____. The History of Sexuality Volume Three: Care of the Self. New York: Random House, 1998.

Holliday, Ruth. "We've Been Framed: Visualizing Methodology." The Sociological Review 48.4 (2001): 503-22.

Humphreys, Laud. Tearoom Trade: Impersonal Sex in Public Places. New York: Aldine de Gruyter, 1975.

_____. Out of the Closets: The Sociology of Homosexual Liberation. Englewood Cliffs, N. J.: Prentice-Hall, 1972.

Kinsey, Alfred Charles. Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders, 1948.

Laumann, Edward O., et al. The Social Organization of Sexuality. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994.

Lemert, Charles. Sociology after the Crisis. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1995.

Ponse, Barbara. Identities in the Lesbian World: The Social Construction of Self. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1978.

Reinharz, Shulamit. Feminist Methods in Social Research. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.

Seidman, Steven, ed. Queer Theory/Sociology. Cambridge, Mass.: Blackwell, 1996.

Stacey, Judith. In the Name of the Family: Rethinking Family Values in the Postmodern Age. Boston: Beacon Press, 1997.

Tierny, William G. Academic Outlaws: Queer Theory and Cultural Studies in the Academy. London: Sage Publications, 1997.

Weston, Kath. Long Slow Burn: Sexuality and Social Science. New York: Routledge, 1998.


    Citation Information
    Author: Arthur, Mikaila Mariel Lemonik  
    Entry Title: Sociology  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2004  
    Date Last Updated September 19, 2005  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2004, glbtq, inc.  


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