Born This Way
Science, Citizenship, and Inequality in the American LGBTQ+ Movement
[advance contract with the University of Chicago Press]
In the twenty-first century, there has been a profound and pervasive erosion of gender and sexual norms throughout American political culture. Despite an uptick in talk of “gender fluidity” and the “spectrum of sexuality,” however, the most politically and legally resonant renderings of sexuality and gender persist as “bioessentialist” ones. Reigning conceptions in science and politics alike gesture towards the ostensibly determinative role that genetics, brain structures, and hormonal balances play in what it means to be a man or a woman, gay or straight, cisgender or trans. Advocates and litigators have no trouble finding evidence and expert witnesses for these claims as top journals in the sciences continue to publish studies that plumb the genome, brain, and blood flows for the supposedly heritable nature of behavior and identity.
In examining the tenacity of these bio-visions, Born This Way reveals that political campaigns, litigation, and public discussion of LGBTQ+ rights are not--and never have been--far removed from psychology, endocrinology, genomics, post-genomics, and neuroscience. By documenting social movement politics, the political economy of biotechnology, contestations within professional scientific and mental health associations, and transformations in the law, the book demonstrates how this narrative of identity has been produced and reproduced since the mid-twentieth century. It illuminates the ideological nature of these scientific theories and explains how they have come to bear on questions of constituency, rights, and citizenship in American politics.