The making of sexualities: sexuality, identity and equality

Simon Forrest, Viv Ellis

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This quotation, from an essay written in the 1940s by the American poet Robert Duncan, is an apposite epigraph for this chapter. It is indicative, in a number of ways, of the content of the chapter, and comes from an essay to which we will return in our discussion of the key issue of sexuality and identity. First, it identifies a struggle for human rights, equality and freedom on the part of those oppressed because of their sexuality. Second, Duncan’s speculation on the possibility of ‘any other order’ draws attention to a definition of sexuality as a cultural field that is subject to both construction and reconstruction as part of a historical process.Third, decontextualized as it is, the quotation appears to allow for diversity of sexual potential rather than delimiting categories such as heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual or transgendered. Finally, the epigraph actually comes from an essay by a homosexual male, which demonstrates that, even with categories based on sexual behaviour, there is no single or simple identity across the category, neither no one homosexuality nor heterosexuality. Duncan was arguing against such separate identities. It is this reading that provides the context for this chapter in which we aim to trace some of the history of the oppression of sexualities other than heterosexuality and consider the implications of recent events and campaigns for the progress of the struggle for equality of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trangendered (LGBT) people.Within this enterprise we will consider attempts to define and represent sexuality, particularly in the modern era, moving towards a discussion in which we focus on conceptions of sexuality per se rather than individual categories, these categories being relatively recent cultural effects. So although we may try in this chapter to generalize about sexuality as a cultural field, yet self-consciously hangour comments on a history of categories, especially (but not exclusively) the male homosexual, we will inevitably come back to the very problematic nature of the production of these separate (and multiple) identities (and communities) based on sexual behaviour.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEducation, Equality and Human Rights
Subtitle of host publicationIssues of Gender, 'race', Sexuality, Disability and Social Class
EditorsMike Cole
Place of PublicationAbingdon UK
Number of pages27
ISBN (Electronic)9780203155523
ISBN (Print)9780415584173, 9780415584166
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes

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