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 and subject to change. Queer theory is not the same as Sexual Diversity Studies.
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 both queer readings of texts and the theorisation of 'queerness' itself. Queer theory examines the constitutive discourses of homosexuality developed in the last century in order to place "queer" in its historical context, and surveys contemporary arguments both for and against this latest terminology.
Queer theory is a diverse field of studies that involves a lot of disparate ideas. It's a rapidly expanding body of literature that seeks to answer a series of 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 analytic framework also includes such topics as 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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