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Queer Theory and Gender Studies

Updated/Revised Date: 17th Jul 2022
Author: Sexual Diversity | Contact:
Additional References: Queer Theory - Gender Studies Publications

Synopsis: Queer theory is grounded in gender and sexuality and whether sexual orientation is natural or essential to the person.


Queer Theory

Queer theory's origin is hard to define since it came from multiple critical and cultural contexts, including feminism, post-structuralist theory, radical movements of people of color, the gay and lesbian movements, AIDS activism, and many sexual subcultural practices such as sadomasochism, and postcolonialism. The term can have various meanings depending upon its usage but has broadly been associated with studying and theorizing gender and sexual practices outside of heterosexuality, challenging the notion that heterosexual desire is 'normal.' Queer theory and politics necessarily celebrate transgression through visible differences from norms. These 'Norms' are then exposed to be norms, not natures or inevitabilities. Gender and sexual identities are seen, in much of this work, to be demonstrably defiant definitions and configurations.

Main Section

Queer theory, or gender studies, is grounded in gender and sexuality and whether sexual orientation is natural or essential to the person, as an essentialist believes, or if sexuality is a social construction subject to change. Queer theory is not the same as Sexual Diversity Studies.

Queer theory explores issues of sexuality, power, and marginalized populations (women as others) in literature and culture. A primary concern in queer theory is how gender and sexuality are discussed. Therefore, a critic working in gender studies and queer theory might even be uncomfortable with the binary established by many feminist scholars between masculine and feminine. Many critics working with gender and queer theory are interested in the breakdown of binaries such as male and female, for example, how cultural definitions of sexuality and what it means to be male and female are in flux - (

Queer theory is a field of post-structuralist critical theory that emerged in the early 1990s out of the fields of queer studies and women's studies. Queer theory includes queer readings of texts and the theorization of 'queerness' itself. Queer theory examines the constitutive discourses of homosexuality developed in the last century to place "queer" in its historical context and surveys contemporary arguments for and against this latest terminology.

Queer theory is a diverse field of studies involving many disparate ideas. It's a rapidly expanding body of literature that seeks to answer questions about what is normal, how normal comes to exist, and who is excluded or oppressed by those notions of norms.

Queer focuses on "mismatches" between sex, gender, and desire. Queer has been associated most prominently with bisexual, lesbian, and gay subjects, but the analytic framework also includes cross-dressing, intersex, gender ambiguity, and gender-corrective surgery. Queer theory's attempted debunking of stable (and correlated) sexes, genders, and sexualities develops out of the specifically lesbian and gay reworking of the post-structuralist figuring of identity as a constellation of multiple and unstable positions.

The term "gay" normalized homosexuality. "Queer" marks both a continuity and a break with the notion of gayness emerging from gay liberationist and lesbian feminist models, such as Adrienne Rich's Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence. "Gay" vs. "queer" fueled debates (both within and outside of academia) about LGBT identity.

A critic working in gender studies and queer theory might even be uncomfortable with the binary established by many feminist scholars between masculine and feminine:

"Cixous (following Derrida in Of Grammatology) sets up a series of binary oppositions (active/passive, sun/moon...father/mother, logos/pathos). Each pair can be analyzed as a hierarchy in which the former term represents the positive and masculine and the latter the negative and feminine principle" (Richter 1433-1434).

List of scholars to further understanding of this theory:

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Latest Queer Theory - Gender Studies Publications

The above information is from our reference library of material relating to Queer Theory - Gender Studies that includes:

Embodying Queer History with Interactive Wearable Artifacts thumbnail image.
LGBTQ Collection, an archive of the Georgia queer community, features buttons representing the politics, identities, causes, and humor of the 1970s Atlanta LGBTQ communities.
Publish Date: 1st Mar 2023

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Definitions of sexual terms & acronyms.

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Definitions of gender related terms.

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• (APA): (2022, July 17). Queer Theory and Gender Studies. Retrieved September 23, 2023 from

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