From Liberation to Transgression and Beyond: Gay, Lesbian and Queer Studies at the Turn of the 21st Century

Barry D Adam. Handbook of Lesbian and Gay Studies. Editor: Diane Richardson & Steven Seidman. 2002. Sage Publication.

In its relatively recent but flourishing history, lesbian and gay studies has moved rapidly through a series of major transformations. Even the act of naming such a body of knowledge is a contested undertaking. Gay and lesbian studies, like the communities and movements associated with it, was perhaps least problematic as a term sometime in the 1980s. Since then, ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian,’ which were certainly disputed names even as they gained widespread currency in the 1960s and 1970s, have been challenged by such terms as ‘bisexual,’ ‘transgender,’ and ‘queer.’ A leading journal in the field calls itself GLQ to try to avoid the charge of exclusivity. Yet all of these words taken together still cannot capture the full range of interests and topics pursued by scholars who write about the many manifestations of sexual and emotional connection, in their social and cultural contexts, that fall outside of the heterosexual realm. Two-spirited aboriginal people, historical romantic friendships, and acolyte-mentor relationships are but a few of the topics that exceed the terminology, but nevertheless draw together a great many researchers and theorists into communication with each other about how gender, sexuality, identity, power, and culture ‘work.’

Perhaps what gives some sense of commonality to these many endeavours is their opposition to the study of homosexuality that preceded them. The Cold War era of the 1950s was occupied almost entirely by a set of ideologies intent on annihilating homosexual desire and its social formations. Whether in legislatures, courts, churches, universities, or the mass media, talk of homosexuality, if permitted at all, turned on the question of whether it was sin, sickness, or crime. Scholarly debate, along with public discussion, largely addressed the issue of which tools of repression would prove most effective: psychiatry, law enforcement, or religious indoctrination. Gay and lesbian studies, then, emerged as an effort to decolonize science in that it sought to break the pathology paradigm and wrest the stories of homosexual experience from the monopoly of the social-control professions.

This transition in thinking from the 1950s to the 1970s exists in a yet larger historical context that merits consideration. The desire to document and celebrate the lives of people with homoerotic expression is as lengthy as literacy itself. Ancient recorded epics, such as the Babylonian Gilgamesh, the Greek Symposium, and the Roman Satyricon, contain central narratives of male sexual friendship, as do some of the oldest surviving texts of China, India, Persia, and Japan. Literacy has been much less available to women, but when nuns were first schooled in writing, female passion soon came into view as well (Murray, 1996). From the late nineteenth century until 1933, Germany became a center of scholarship rooted in gay community—most notably Magnus Hirschfeld’s Institute for Sexual Science, itself just one element of a larger gay and lesbian culture (Berlin Museum, 1984). The Nazi regime obliterated this first wave of gay and lesbian studies. By the 1950s, only a few lone pioneers in Europe and North America worked against tremendous odds to rediscover what was now ‘hidden from history’ (Duberman et al., 1989).

The gay and lesbian studies of the 1970s, then, were something of a ‘second wave’ like second-wave feminism. Also like women’s studies, gay and lesbian studies became possible only because of the larger social climate of change characterized by the so-called ‘new’ social movements of the 1960s. Movement and knowledge-creation were indistinguishable in a period when civil rights, women’s, and gay and lesbian movements sought to take back public and scholarly images and stories about themselves. Like the socialist and national liberation struggles that aimed to break the ideologies that legitimated the subordination of workers and of colonized peoples in Asia and Africa, the new social movements worked to re-found science in ways that better expressed their own experiences. All of these new knowledge projects thought of themselves as engaged in consciousness-raising and liberation by challenging social exclusion and creating the tools of self-empowerment.

Debates in gay and lesbian studies were the debates of movement thinkers about who we are and what we want. Key texts written by Jill Johnston, Adrienne Rich, and Mary Daly functioned as manifestos calling lesbians to act on a new vision of a women-centred society free of patriarchal domination. Similarly, Dennis Altman and Guy Hocquenghem postulated new utopias of free-floating desire unhampered by homosexual and heterosexual identities and boundaries. Gay and lesbian writing was struggling out of a long period of censorship and outright suppression. The promise of liberation was allowing people to glimpse the possibility of a new world free of prejudice, and to dream of radically rearranged societies where people could explore new options in loving and living together.

Transitions in the Late Twentieth Century

There are a good many social and cultural factors that shaped the new lesbian and gay studies in the last quarter of the twentieth century. Shifts in the socio-historical environment of the period, reorganization of movement groups and strategies, and new intellectual trends all contributed to thoroughgoing rethinking of studies of sexuality and gender. Over time, gay and lesbian movements, like the other new social movements around them, moved away from confrontation and radicalism (Adam, 1995). Part of this has to do with the colder political climate of the neo-conservative governments of the 1980s, embodied especially in the Thatcher and Reagan administrations, where reform movements and their constituencies were pressed into a more defensive posture in the face of global capitalism. Part of these changes also has to do with a modicum of success won, especially in advanced, industrial nations, through the attainment of basic antidiscrimination laws and the consolidation of social spaces resistant to police repression. The political strategies that proved most viable in liberal, democratic societies were typically civil rights arguments reliant on judicial and legislative reform. Lesbian and gay politics became somewhat more ‘domesticated,’ or perhaps ‘mature,’ through integration into conventional political channels, and homosexuality tended to become constructed as a minority, parallel to ethnic minorities, in contrast to the gay liberation image of homo-erotic desire as a potential in everyone.

The emergence of the AIDS epidemic in the early 1980s emboldened anti-gay forces to try to roll back newly acquired citizenship rights, but perhaps ironically, AIDS also led to new alignments between (some) governments and gay and lesbian communities, as AIDS service organizations were brought into health and social service systems and thus into further integration in mainstream state systems (Altman, 1988; Adam, 1997).

Commercialization also blunted liberationist rhetoric. Gay and lesbian worlds flourished in the post-Stonewall United States and in the European Union, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, anchored often by commercial establishments, such as bars and discos. Over the years, the growing size of Pride celebrations attracted the interest of major corporations who came to view gay and lesbian communities as underexploited sources of consumer buying power. The overtly political gay and lesbian press of the 1970s faded out as slick commercial magazines promoting fashionable and expensive ‘gay lifestyles’ came to the fore. This more de-politicized and consumerist environment emboldened a new class of conservative commentators both inside the gay press and in the mainstream press as well. All too often, the prominence of the new conservatives resulted in their being able to put their stamp on the meaning of gay and lesbian in public discourse, and to construct images of gay community that alienated not only many women, people of colour, working-class people, and youth, but many middle-class white men as well.

In this environment, then, the liberationist project lost sustenance and direction. In his 1990 review of the state of gay and lesbian studies in the United States, Jeffrey Escoffier (1998) lamented the growing disconnection between community and movement politics as the field began to migrate into the academy. A great deal of the new gay and lesbian studies of the 1960s and 1970s grew out of the excitement of discovering a lost history, so much so that early conferences subsumed all other research under the ‘history’ label. A wide range of people from inside and outside the academy turned up at the New York conferences of the Gay Academic Union in the mid-1970s to report on their findings, and many of these findings found their way into gay and lesbian community newspapers. At that time, even professional scholars pursued gay-related research ‘on the side’ of their regular work for fear that it would be seen as more stigmatizing than valuable inside universities. But the struggle of lesbian and gay caucuses inside disciplinary associations in the 1970s and 1980s succeeded in creating space inside the academy, and more and more work in the area began to emerge from students and researchers in the universities.

The Emergence of Lesbian and Gay Studies

Ken Plummer’s (1992) review of lesbian and gay studies in Europe and North America marvelled at the array of conferences, journals, and bookstores that had sprung up over two decades. Psychologists were displacing the homosexuality-as-sickness view with new investigations into homophobia, the irrational prejudice directed against homosexual practices and peoples. Sociologists, anthropologists, and historians were unsettling biological models of sexuality by showing how desire is deeply shaped by cultural context, and how pet notions concerning ‘the natural,’ ‘the moral,’ and ‘the desirable’ are peculiarly ethnocentric. Literary critics were exposing histories of censorship and distortion that had suppressed homoeroticism in novels, movies, and biographies.

Gay and lesbian studies was also changing as a result of internal dilemmas, and philosophical currents that affected other philosophies of change such as Marxism, feminism, and postcolonialism. As enthusiastic researchers went out to rediscover gay and lesbian history, they first looked for people much like themselves, only to discover that same-sex desire and relationships took often unfamiliar forms in other eras and cultures. This initial belief in a discoverable homosexual throughout history and around the world came to be known as essentialism (Boswell, 1989). Out of the dilemmas of essentialism came a scholarship that sought to understand how (homosexual) desire arose and was lived through in very different social and historical environments. This social constructionist view was perhaps best expressed in the work of Jeffrey Weeks in gay and lesbian studies and by Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann (1966) outside. In a groundbreaking trilogy founded in British history, Weeks (1977, 1981, 1985) showed the complex weave of social, historical, and semiotic currents that produced modern conceptions of what homosexuality is. Though same-sex sexual and emotional connections can be documented in many different societies and historical periods, the modern sense of homosexuality as an identity and a people is a relatively recent development.

Despite important differences in philosophical approach and genealogy, social constructionism tended to be identified as well with the work of Michel Foucault (1978) who treated the ways in which sexuality, and knowledge about sexuality, existed within regulatory regimes that give it shape and meaning. For Foucault, modern gay and lesbian identities and movements could scarcely be simply about ‘liberation’ because they built on the ‘homosexual’ category, an invention of western societies to police and contain desire. At the same time though, many of Foucault’s followers have forgotten his view that the politics of sexual identities is not just about limitation, but also about the generation of new pleasures and ways of living. This dilemma—or perhaps better said—dialectic continues to fuel debates among scholars and activists who want either to build up or tear apart ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’ categories (Gamson, 1998). Perhaps ironically, the personal is political credo of the liberationists was a stimulus for the Foucauldian revolution in social theory. It became increasingly difficult through the 1970s and 1980s to postulate that an essential homosexual waited to be liberated, just as Marxian ideologies ran aground with claims of an unsullied, militant, working class about to spring forth ready to effect a socialist revolution, if only ‘false consciousness’ could be punctured. Just as feminists began interrogating just what the category of ‘women’ means in the face of critiques by lesbians, women of colour, working-class women, and third world women, just what it is that unifies gay men or lesbians seemed increasingly difficult to discern. This deconstruction of core categories became a major academic industry in the 1990s, identified in social theory with postmodernism and in lesbian and gay studies with queer theory.

The Rise of Queer Theory

By the 1990s, liberation had given way to transgression as a leading project, and gay and lesbian studies had grown immensely, fragmented, and changed direction. Queer theory, set in motion by the pioneering work of Judith Butler (1990) and Eve Sedgwick (1990), strongly reinvigorated work in gay and lesbian studies (or perhaps one should now say, queer studies), set a new course for the area, and resulted in a wave of innovative, critical publications. Queer theory stepped back from the study of homosexuality to the question of how people and desires come to be separated into the two camps of homosexuality and heterosexuality in the first place. Sharing with deconstruction an interest in discovering the underpinnings of linguistic binaries like homosexual-heterosexual, male-female, white-black, and so on, queer theory proposed to delineate the regulatory regimes that sort sexualities and subjectivities into valued and devalued categories. The promise of queer theory was to move beyond the minoritizing logic of the study of a gay and lesbian ‘ethnicity’ toward an understanding of the ways in which heterosexuality and family pull the cloak of virtue around themselves by manufacturing a deviant other into which a great many people can be dumped and dismissed. A good deal of insightful work into the ways in which heterosexual masculinity constructs itself by simultaneously exploiting and denying its homoerotic impulse has emerged from this perspective. Though perhaps not an ‘official’ queer theorist, Mark Simpson’s (1994) provocative essays have exposed ways in which the simultaneous reliance on, and denial of, homoeroticism among men informs everything from football to action movies. In a send-up of the British ‘new lad,’ Simpson (1999: 8-9) observes how the quest for masculinity inevitably involves large doses of male bonding and ‘an exhausting schedule of boozing, shagging babes and fighting over football scores which is, in part, a hysterical attempt to ward off any suggestion of poovery and keep the homo tag at bay.’

Queer theory encouraged analysis not only of the overtly homosexual, but also a reading between the lines for patterns of absences and silences through which texts deny same-sex desire. It revealed how the manufacture of a reviled ‘homosexual’ in western societies has often been a method by which ‘heterosexuality’ and ‘family’ assured themselves of their superiority, rather like the way racism has loaded repugnant attributes onto people of colour in order to justify the privileges of white people. Queer theory hoped, as well, to jump the traces of gay/lesbian categories by embracing other outlaws from the patriarchal family often by celebrating boundary crossers such as transgender people and bisexuals. In one sense, queer theory recaptured a radical moment associated with gay liberation in its affirmation of the widespread nature of homoerotic desire and the artificiality of the homosexual-heterosexual division.

So strong has been the vigour of queer theory that Lisa Pottie (1997) discerns a trend toward the ‘selling’ of queer theory as a fashionable new commodity among academics and students, at least in English departments receptive to cultural studies. On the other hand, reports from other disciplines in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences show more scepticism concerning support for scholarship in the area, where gay, lesbian, and queer studies eke out an existence as an avocation of scholars hired to do other things (Taylor and Raeburn, 1995; Duggan, 1995a; Weston, 1996; Leap, 1998).

Still, queer theory is not without its own difficulties, generating a new range of problems in place of those it addresses. There has been a good deal of suspicion about the degree to which queer theory succeeds in being more inclusive of gender (Walters, 1996) and race (Samuels, 1999; Boykin, 2000). Perhaps of greatest concern to critics of queer theory is the politics that flow (or do not flow) from it (Edwards, 1998). Despite ritual references to the queer movement of the early 1990s, Queer Nation proved to be a short-lived phenomenon and queer theory lives on in the academy with a problematic relationship to gay, lesbian, or queer communities. Though deconstruction of heterosexuality is clearly a primary endeavour of queer scholarship, and many theorists have echoed Esther Newton’s call to deconstruct heterosexuality ‘first,’ it is gay and lesbian identities that are far more vulnerable to attack. Heterosexuality and its attendant ideological regime of family values, Hollywood romance, and professional reassurance have an immense cultural apparatus to recreate themselves as ‘natural,’ ‘biological,’ and thus unquestionable. ‘Gay’ and ‘lesbian’ are historically recent and comparatively fragile accomplishments that secure a social space that otherwise seems never to be available. Ironically, queer theory’s fascination with the hidden homoeroticism of ostensibly heterosexual writing—and most often heterosexual men at that—means that attention is turned away once again from the culture, experience, and self-expression of out lesbians, gay men, and queers.

The queer theory myth that ‘gay’ refers to sexual essentialism may never have been widely believed among gay men in any case (Adam, 2000). Queer theory expresses just one tendency in gay and lesbian communities: simultaneous with the questioning and reworking of gay and lesbian identities are dynamic historical trends toward an even wider embrace and growth of gay and lesbian identities and cultures. Indeed, it is because gay and lesbian spaces and identities have created a secure place that the queer critique can be launched. The deconstruction of ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’ proceeds by ignoring the strategic values of ‘necessary fictions’ (Weeks, 1993) which still have utility in creating and protecting safe spaces for gay and lesbian expression. Patricia Hill Collins (1997) observes how deconstruction arrived on the scene just in time to undermine a newly achieved sense of self and collective empowerment among people of colour; something similar might be argued for gay and lesbian communities. Queer theory, following social constructionism, has created such a large chasm between homosexual behaviours and identities, that it may now be time to deconstruct the behaviour-identity binary in order to understand why so many people wish to connect the two.1 Queer politics even show vulnerability to the ‘logic’ of the Vatican and the US military in its interest in clearing the social field of the gay and lesbian, portraying homosexual desire as a universal potential, and constructing emigrants from the patriarchal family as deviants. As Eric Savoy (1994: 145) remarks, ‘postmodern theory effects an ironic, indeed, an uncanny, return of homosexuality to something very like its premodern delineation—an inchoate and not-yet-emergent taxonomy of desires or acts that cannot quite be termed a “subjectivity”.’ Its construction of the ‘queer’ as the negation of respectability shows indebtedness to traditional, especially American, understandings of homosexuality as ‘deviance’ that tend to cover over the commonalities shared by the larger society. At times, denying gay and lesbian social formations by reducing them to ‘desire’ is a convergent discourse shared by conservative Christian and queer paradigms that can produce odd effects in real struggles in referendum campaigns and the courts (Patton, 1993; Gamson, 1998).

Queer theory’s insistence on the uniqueness of every cultural difference cannot explain what Indonesians or post-apartheid South Africans do get out of adapting gay ideas to their own context (Donham, 1998). To find cross-cultural resemblance or note the interest in things gay among peoples outside Europe and North America is to be accused of promoting a ‘transcendental gay or lesbian subject’ and of sexual essentialism (Boellstorff, 1999: 478), cold comfort for those who look to the International Lesbian and Gay Association and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission for defence of a wide variety of sexual and gender expression around the world. Its claim that ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’ are regulatory regimes cannot reconcile itself to the experience of those for whom such identities offer new possibilities, assurances, and self-realization.

Beyond Queer

Even this discussion of lesbian, gay, and queer studies presumes implicit boundaries around a definable field. The sense of a shift toward queer theory—and despite its claims to the contrary—its totalizing tendency to displace alternatives with its own canon, iconography, and preferred genealogy (Duggan, 1995a; Duggan, 1995b), comes up most clearly from a series of conferences in Toronto, Rutgers, and Iowa. A glance through a set of multidisciplinary survey books on lesbian, lesbian and gay, and queer studies reveals a much greater diversity of approaches and paradigms. These books (Cruikshank, 1982; Abelove et al, 1993; Blumenfeld and Raymond, 1993; Garber, 1994; Wilton, 1995; Beemyn and Eliason, 1996; Zimmerman and McNaron, 1996; Foster et al., 1997; Griffin and Andermahr, 1997; Medhurst and Munt, 1997; Nardi and Schneider, 1997; Ristock and Taylor, 1998) typically offer papers on pedagogy, survival in the academy, and individual disciplines, and reflect an eclectic mix of viewpoints. (Perhaps most notable about this set is that half of them address lesbian studies, and half gay and lesbian or queer studies, but none offer an exclusively gay male focus.) Dorothy Painter and Willa Young (1996: 106) distill a core of lesbian studies notables from their review of lesbian studies course outlines: ‘Audre Lorde, Barbara Smith, Adrienne Rich, Joan Nestle, Jewelle Gomez, Marilyn Frye, Lillian Faderman, Gloria Anzaldúa, Judy Grahn, and the Radicalesbians.’ Lambda Book Report struck a jury of fourteen in 1999 to identify the ‘100 best’ gay and lesbian novels of all time. Both of these attempts to identify a canon turn out to be highly US-centred. Still, the scattered and inconsistent nature of gay and/or lesbian studies courses, as well as their different disciplinary hosts, mean that there is often little overlap in texts from one course to another.

While queer theory has its greatest strength in literary studies, a rich research heritage has also been developing in a wide range of disciplines and topics, including studies of (homo)sexuality in societies around the world, in different historical eras, in various cultural media, in psychology and personal development, in sexuality and relationships, in politics and law, and in various communities defined by ethnicity, gender, religion, age, disability, and identity. Community history projects and archives continue to document lives and cultures (Roscoe, 1995). Programmes of study and research centres have come about in several places ( And despite the inwardness of gay and lesbian studies in the United States—Terry Goldie (1999: 15) remarks, ‘It is as if the Americanness of gay and lesbian studies is a given that requires no justification, no explanation and no apology’—gay and lesbian studies have lengthy histories in the Netherlands, Germany, France, United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia, and are showing vitality in Latin America and South Africa.

At the other extreme from queer theory is the study of AIDS. There is a scholarly tradition that draws on gay, lesbian, and queer studies to understand how AIDS has been manufactured as a moral and political entity in contemporary societies (Altman, 1986; Watney, 1987; Patton, 1990; Adam and Sears, 1996; Epstein, 1996; Levine et al., 1997), but this work tends to be sidelined by a biomedical AIDS research establishment where the lives of people living with HIV tend to be contained within a traditional scientific frame that takes them as objects of study while containing their experiences, aspirations, and activities as nothing more than the ‘psychosocial’ aspect of medicine. Reinforced by major funding agencies, this AIDS research mainstream refuses the significant questions raised by queer theory concerning the politics of science, that is, who observes whom and for what purposes? Safer sex practices can scarcely be understood apart from what people think and feel about sex, how it is a means of communication with others, and the ways in which people make sense of sexual discourses circulating in society, yet ‘normal’ science remains untroubled in its rationalist presumptions and agenda of trying to measure and impute personality deficits as ‘causes’ of unsafe sex (Kippax et al., 1993; Díaz and Ayala, 1999; Adam et al., 2000). While AIDS activists have made important inroads in the conduct of clinical trials and in drug distribution, the limitations of psychosocial research have led to distrust among AIDS service organizations and calls for more genuinely community-based research.

Now What?

Like postmodern feminism, gay, lesbian, and queer theories continue to struggle over issues of difference and equality (Felski, 1997), that is, how to fully recognize and include the multitude of social locations and experiences of homoerotically-inclined people at home and around the world, without sacrificing all sense of commonality out of which solidary networks become possible. ‘Gay’ and ‘lesbian’ remain popular forms of self-identification, experienced less as regimes of sexual regulation, than as bulwarks against heterosexism, supports for personal relationships, and modes of celebration of sensibilities and cultures, but ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’ are at the same time infused with the legacy of metropolitan ghettos and colonization by the pervasive market forces of global capitalism.

Certainly the need for critical reflection on contemporary issues facing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer peoples today remains no less than before. Perhaps in Denmark, where so much of the human rights agenda has been achieved, there is some reason for complacency (Bech, 1998). In the United States, where anti-gay forces wage active campaigns against the equality of gay and lesbian citizens, there is urgent need for more engagement of gay, lesbian, and queer studies with politics. Since 1977, local referenda have been used, election after election, to repeal antidiscrimination legislation (Herman, 1997; Witt and McCorkle, 1997), and since 1995, thirty-three of the United States and the national Congress have succumbed to a panic over ‘gay marriage,’ banning the legal recognition of same-sex relationships. Sodomy laws remain on the books in one-third of the states, from time to time proving not to be the ‘dead letters’ they are often claimed to be. The national uproar occasioned around admitting that gay men and lesbians are part of the military revealed the pervasiveness of national homophobia (Scott and Stanley, 1994) and the federal government determined to reinforce its system of official denial through continued expulsion of gay and lesbian military people. When murderers are discovered preying on gay men, the mass media are quick to impute collective guilt onto a spectral gay community supposedly threatening innocent heterosexuals, as in the notorious Dahmer case (Schmidt, 1994). People with AIDS remain vulnerable to the same system of spectralization that, from time to time, presents them as a national threat (Patton, 1990), a phantasm reproduced and policed at every border crossing into the United States, where sero-positive people are subject to detention and expulsion. While the map of homophobia has changed shape over time, it has scarcely faded away. Rabidly anti-gay subcultures flourish in most high schools producing the major class of perpetrators of anti-gay violence (Comstock, 1991). The ability of the Christian Right (Diamond, 1998) to construct a sometimes winning ideology around the idea of an effete, moneyed homosexual class demanding special rights in opposition to Godfearing, family-caring, patriotic Americans requires both cultural deconstruction and what the Marxian tradition refers to as praxis, that is, an adequate understanding of the social forces that keep such ideologies in operation and strategies for deflating them among the electorate. A cultural politics of deconstruction can be part of a process of opposing these homophobic projects, but is not enough in itself. Social change cannot be ‘reduced to the arena of cultural representation’ (Hennessy, 1995: 52). The rather too prevalent reliance by the gay and lesbian press on numbers of gay, or maybe-gay, characters on television sitcoms as a measure of progress trivializes these pressing problems that affect gay and lesbian lives.

So there is still a great deal more to be done in lesbian and gay studies, and there are as well a great many innovative and insightful studies coming out that are sure to impact not only ways in which gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people think about themselves, but also ‘mainstream’ beliefs and dogmas about how to live and love. Rather than rehearse a new list of the ‘greats’ in the area, and thus contribute to another exercise in canon-building, in these closing pages I would like to draw attention to perhaps under-appreciated work and underdeveloped research areas. (Developments in literary criticism, fiction, drama, poetry, and biography are reviewed elsewhere in this volume.) These include Steven Seidman’s (1996, 1997) volumes that attempt to stimulate a cross-fertilization of semiotics and social science to realize the initial promise of cultural studies in a ‘social postmodernism’ by turning the tools of postmodernism/queer theory to contemporary public debates. Some scholars are following up the other half of the Foucauldian agenda by documenting the new social formations that have arisen in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender worlds. Particularly noteworthy is new work on household, kinship, friendship, and family (Weston, 1991; Lewin, 1993; Arnup, 1995; Dowsett, 1996; Carrington, 1999; Nardi, 1999).

Ethnographies of same-sex relations and network formation in societies around the world continue to emerge, as have encyclopaedic overviews (Greenberg, 1988; Herdt, 1997; Adam et al., 1999; Murray, 2000). Historical research has been especially rich with separate treatment currently being accorded to each historical era and nation. City-level histories are sketching out in some detail the ways that homosexually interested people have found each other and developed networks and communities. Until recently, students were hard pressed to find sources of the experiences of people of Asian, African, Latin American, and aboriginal descent, but a wealth of work has started to emerge (Beam, 1986; Hemphill, 1991; Ramos, 1994; Martinez, 1996; Douglas et al., 1997; Eng and Hom, 1997; Jacobs et al., 1997; Smith, 1998). Writing by and about transgender people is challenging the pathology paradigms (Bornstein, 1995; Feinberg, 1996; Namaste, 2000), much like gay and lesbian studies challenged its predecessors. Several works offer philosophical reflections, social commentary, or personal perceptions (Adam, 1978; Plummer, 1992; Grosz and Probyn, 1995; Bech, 1997; Phelan, 1997; Stein, 1997; Eribon, 1999; Hollibaugh, 2000). And the cultures and histories of people outside the United States are increasingly coming into print in: Canada (Ross, 1995; Kinsman, 1996; Remiggi and Demczuk, 1998; Lahey, 1999), Australia (Aldrich and Wotherspoon, 2000), the United Kingdom (, the Netherlands (, Germany (,, members., France (Martel, 1999; Eribon, 1999), South Africa (Gevisser and Cameron, 1995), Argentina (Kornblut et al., 1998), the Philippines (García, 1996), and in the work of such individuals as Jacobo Schifer Sikora in Costa Rica, Luiz Mott in Brazil, Rudi Bleys in Belgium, and Massimo Consoli in Italy. There is lots more to be done. Dennis Altman (1998: 18) argues that researchers should

address such questions as, how do we reduce violence against homosexuals, and alcoholism and suicide within our communities?; is there a universal standard of human rights which should be applied to protect homosexuals in countries as diverse and brutal in their persecution as Iran, China and Romania?; what is the political economy which forces large numbers of transgender people across the world into prostitution and provides them virtually no protection or dignity?

The development of two gay and lesbian African-American church networks in major cities across the United States merits a chronicler. Even the world-wide Metropolitan Community Church is under-documented. The internationally popular Gay Games and the rise of organized athletics have not yet had a lot of scholarly attention paid to them. The aspirations and (limited) venues for gay male fatherhood, outside conventional heterosexual arrangements, need research. This is, of course, only a beginning of a list of many possibilities.

The debates and the diversity of LGBT studies are all signs of its vitality and of a wealth of new opportunities for exploration and development.