From chronicle.com, on "The Q Factor," by William Germano (The Chronicle Review, January 6):
The issue here seems to touch on practical politics (Bourdieu's "practice"). Marriage and military service are not the only targets of LGBT activists. Isn't the primary issue hate crimes, particularly in the form of bullying that leads children to kill themselves? Gay marriage and military service normalize sexual orientation and thus should lessen stigma that leads to murder and/or families turning their own children out on the street. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, hate crimes, including violent, murderous ones, against gays top all other categories of hate crimes in the United States. Isn't that a crucial issue of practice (in Bourdieu's sense, where symbols, behavior, and identity mutually fashion each other)?
Exclusion and stigma are manifestations of power, and thus they are political. Anti-bullying laws, gay marriage, and participation in the military are political acts aimed at changing the murderous power that is attacking the very being of so many so-called queer people. Practicality was a moving factor for Foucault and Bourdieu. For example, Foucault participated in street protests demanding prison reforms, and Bourdieu in protests for economic equality. Their actions should go a long way toward bridging the gap between academic queer studies and the existential experience of GLBT folks in our society.
Queer theory did accomplish many great things and revolutionized American society. Some of it has been good: Young people have many outlets in which to explore homosexuality, rather than having to test things out in the shadows. Some has been bad: Queer theory has contributed to the hypersexualization of children in this country and heightened many of the problems—harassment, outing, anxiety—that gay activists cite as signs of homophobia.
No example is more pertinent than the discussion of "mixed-orientation marriages" in 2006 by leaders like Dan Savage and Wayne Besen, which painted a dreary picture of closeted men ruining women's lives. The denunciation of closeted married men encouraged people to out secret bisexuals or gay men as a way of saving women from dire consequences, with the result that Americans learned that outing was OK. Tyler Clementi's roommate outed him, after which he killed himself, all while queer activists feigned ignorance about the effect of their militancy about "openness" on a culture of gossip, speculation, and embarrassment.
My sense is that queer theory will fade simply because other issues are more important, especially class inequality. With economic problems and elitism in the government so ponderous, there is something frivolous about speaking about sexuality so much. Going forward, a queer theorist who chairs the English department at Yale is a Yalie, not queer, and has to answer to the class inequality of his institution rather than cultural phantoms in the world at large.