Born This Way
Science, Citizenship, & Inequality
in the American LGBTQ+ Movement
[September 2023 with the University of Chicago Press]
Across protests and courtrooms, LGBTQ+ advocates often argue that sexuality and gender are deeply ingrained expressions of what circulates in one’s blood or is encoded within their DNA. Oppositely, conservatives respond by inciting panic over a contagious “gender ideology” that corrupts the brains—then bodies—of susceptible children. Yet, while this debate rages on, the history of what first compelled the hunt for homosexuality’s biological origin story may hold answers for the queer rights movement’s future.
Born This Way chronicles how LGBTQ+ advocacy intersected with the modern scientific study of gender and sexuality, birthing the identity politics that formed at their nexus. Starting in the 1950s and 1960s, activists sought expert allies to combat the idea that homosexuality is a mental illness. Joanna Wuest reveals how activists and attorneys exalted scientific authority which has remained central to LGBTQ+ rights struggles ever since. Born This Way also examines how conservative lawmakers and clinicians have pursued a politics of scientific uncertainty against equal rights and exposes the link between these efforts and industry campaigns against scientific expertise.
At once a celebratory and cautionary tale, Born This Way outlines the queer rights movement’s impressive victories, its powerful allies, and the ongoing assault on equality and science alike.