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History Nonfiction Theory

Transgender History, Homonormativity, and Disciplinarity

By Susan Stryker, 2008

The current attention to homonormativity has tended to focus on gay and lesbian social, political, and cultural formations and their relationship to a neoliberal politics of multicultural diversity that meshes with the assimilative strategies of transnational capital. Lisa Duggan’s The Twilight of Equality? Neoliberalism, Cultural Politics, and the Attack on Democracy (2003), which describes a “new homonormativity that does not challenge heterosexist institutions and values, but rather upholds, sustains, and seeks inclusion within them,” is generally acknowledged as the text through which this term has come into wider currency. There is, however, an older formulation of homonormativity that nevertheless merits retention, one closer in meaning to the “homo-normative” social codes described in 1998 by Judith Halberstam in Female Masculinity, in accordance with which expressions of masculinity in women are as readily disparaged within gender-normative gay and lesbian contexts as within heteronormative ones.2 It is this earlier sense of homonormativity that is most pertinent to the thoughts I offer here on homonormativity and transgender history, both as an object of scholarly inquiry and as a professional disciplinary practice.

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