Queer as Black Folk?

36 Pages Posted: 26 Jun 2007 Last revised: 22 Mar 2012

Catherine E. Smith

University of Denver Sturm College of Law

Abstract

On the 40th anniversary of Loving v. Virginia, Queer as Black Folk? critiques mainstream lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) political advocacy that invokes the "same as mantra" - comparing LGBT rights to black civil rights - as an organizing strategy to build meaningful coalitions between LGBT and black communities. Although such comparisons are necessary in courtrooms or legal briefs in which advocates are bound by legal precedent, sameness arguments fall short as a technique to foster interracial dialogue on LGBT issues. This article uses social psychology literature to explain why sameness arguments fail and offers an alternative model for forging LGBT-black coalitions.

Social Identity Theory ("SIT") explains how individuals, as self-identified members of groups, engage in group behaviors that lead to in-group favoritism and out-group derision. The LGBT sameness arguments, criticized in this article, trigger these in-group/out-group dynamics between white LGBTs and black heterosexuals (and black LGBTS), creating significant barriers to cross-group coalitions and understanding. LGBT advocates should avoid sameness arguments and reframe the dialogue.

In order to unify subordinated groups, LGBT advocates of all races must reframe the discussion around what social psychologists call superordinate goals — objectives that are important to members of both LGBT and black communities and are difficult to achieve separately. Doing so will allow LGBT and black communities to develop unifying theories that challenge not only homophobia, but racism and sexism as well. Queer as Black Folk? offers two examples of potential superordinate goals for advocates' consideration: the prevention of discrimination against members of both communities (black LGBTs), and the expansion of the definition of "family".

Suggested Citation

Smith, Catherine E., Queer as Black Folk?. Wisconsin Law Review, Forthcoming; U Denver Legal Studies Research Paper No. 07-30. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=996464

Catherine E. Smith (Contact Author)

University of Denver Sturm College of Law ( email )

2255 E. Evans Avenue
Denver, CO 80208
United States

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