GA(y)TEKEEPING IDENTITY & CLAIMS TO JUSTICE: Mainstream Discourse on ‘Gay’ Marriage and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (2003-2015) & The Boundaries of Community within LGBTQ Political Organizing

The focus of “GA(y)TEKEEPING IDENTITY & CLAIMS TO JUSTICE” is multidimensional. The first major dilemma the project seeks to address is how we can better understand the ways in which identity has been deployed and constructed by the national LGBTQ rights organization, Human Rights Campaign, while engaging in political debates about same-sex marriage and LGBTQ access to military service. Within this discussion, I will explore how and why generally, the ideologies deployed by HRC are suggested to be assimilationist reproductions of marriage and family that reinscribe exclusionary social barriers for those who live outside those norms (Beyond Marriage 2006, Spade and Willse 2013, Bernstein Sycamore 2013, Nair 2014). The second major area of this scholarship would work to illuminate the ways in which this construction not only informs political agendas, but social lives. These concerns can be summed up by the following questions: How do assimilationist reproductions of marriage and family construct legitimacy for LGBTQ populations? And to delve deeper, I then ask, who does this construction leave out and what are the repercussions of this discourse?

To situate these questions, I will first examine two discursive sites: 1) political statements and documents related to same-sex marriage and military engagement circulated by the Department of Justice and 2) the Human Rights Campaign media campaigns and focuses. The trends that emerge from these two sites will be put into conversation in an effort to highlight the ways HRC appeals to mainstream, and as others have argued, establishment ideologies within their campaigns. In an effort to articulate these questions and goals, this talk will have the following trajectory: 1) A review of literature that shapes the epistemological assumptions and theoretical framework of this project 2) Next, I will discuss findings related to the ideological and political constructions put forth by HRC. As previously mentioned, scholarly discussions of community and Human Right Campaign’s national discourse will take place through content analysis. Special attention will be paid to HRC’s mission, social media (Facebook and twitter), and press releases related to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) and “marriage equality”. The research will also feature personal interviews with members, (past and present) of different LGBTQ activist organizations that have been active throughout the age of DADT and Marriage Equality. These narratives will be integrated in the analysis of both the Human Rights Campaign and Department of Justice’s media discourses in an effort to bring the impact of these trends to life. 3) I will highlight the problematic nature of assimilationist ideologies and show how queer and trans activists, particularly youth of color, have been organizing against these inequalities.


Part of panel Confronting the State: Power, Activism, and the Self
October 1, 2016, 11:15–13:00