But the ascendancy of queer analytics in studies of the West has created some difficulties not present when we work in non-Western cultures. Indeed, queer perspectives have had the effect of disparaging those whose sense of themselves is less antagonistic to so-called normativity than queer theorists would expect or consider desirable.
In particular, the pursuit of marriage equality and the emblems "Elliston ritualized homosexuality and christianity" family legitimacy have set off waves of outrage at the normativity and accommodation that such yearning presumably reveals. Since those seeking access to these insignia are the very LGBT people whose lives I have chronicled in my work, I find myself needing to defend the authenticity of their aspirations as I attempt to document the cultural patterns that shape their experience.
I arrived at this position unintentionally.
However, as an anthropologist, I had been trained to listen to people and to analyze what they told me about how they organize their Elliston ritualized homosexuality and christianity and what they believe in.
And I learned that lesbian mothers actually were or became fervent adherents of biological kinship as the foundation for the formation of solidary, reliable support networks. Further, they disparaged lesbianism as the main foundation for defining their selves and building supportive alliances, instead seeing motherhood as essentially trumping other aspects of their identities.
One mother I interviewed put it this way:. They can do exactly what they want to do at any given time. They situated their experience within a framework of nature, based on their beliefs about ineffable impulses that emerged from being women. At the same time, they tended to elaborate connections based on blood kinship as the most trustworthy sources of support, while denigrating alternative family forms as not naturally reliable.
Keeping such relationships going often entailed complex negotiations with family members, usually parents, who did not accept their sexuality, though many mothers reported that parental disapproval of their sexuality evaporated or dramatically lessened once a grandchild entered the picture see Lewin In other words, careful ethnographic observation and analysis forced me to give up my search for alternative kinship ideologies and to report on and respect what the women actually told me.
My next big project focused on same-sex commitment ceremonies. I conducted the research in the mids, before legal same-sex marriage existed anywhere in the world it was introduced in the Netherlands in Some of the ceremonies I studied entailed great expense; others were modest affairs. But all set out to celebrate the relationships in a wider community context than that offered by lesbian and gay social groupings.
Couples situated their unions expansively, with participation spilling over boundaries of gay communities as couples insisted on including family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, and participants of multiple generations to whatever extent was possible.
All-gay ceremonies sometimes occurred, especially when nongay relatives refused to participate or when an opportunity to stage a ceremony at a gay cultural event presented itself, but couples saw these as expedient yet not completely satisfactory ways to solemnize their relationships.
While further material advantages may accompany legal marriage e. In other words, such benefits are nice to have, even vital for some couples, but they also signify being married in the eyes of all who encounter the couple. As I reported in Recognizing Ourselves Lewinsome ceremonies depended on forms and symbols that echoed ordinary weddings. Couples used familiar rituals, usually officiated by clergy, to "Elliston ritualized homosexuality and christianity" themselves as deserving of recognition on the same basis as other married couples.
But their presentation of ordinariness often entailed sharp contrasts—attendants in drag along with the inclusion of familiar wedding-related texts, for instance. The two strategies, conformity and resistance, were locked in a passionate embrace, despite the intentions of the celebrants. I found similar patterns when I studied gay fathers, though I did so more than two decades after completing my research with lesbian mothers.
While these men experienced more public visibility and legitimation than the women I had worked with so many years before, they also tended to situate their paternal impulses in nature—and, sometimes, in the supernatural, as driven by forces that eluded simple explanations. We pick our friends by what time their kids take naps. My informants provided various models, but in all of them gay and parenthood were conceptually distinct.
One father had this to say:. When you think about importance, it ties to social responsibility and making a difference and growing and raising this hopefully happy and well-adjusted and productive and caring human being.
First, TFAM members almost never use the term queer in describing their identities. That is, worshipping in the expressive manner characteristic of many black churches in the United States and, for some, engaging in dancing, shouting, and falling out—all classic Pentecostal manifestations of inhabitation
Elliston ritualized homosexuality and christianity the Holy Spirit—constitute a way of Elliston ritualized homosexuality and christianity their place in a history and community and reclaiming a heritage, even if parts of the black community, especially homophobic families, churches, and clergy, have rejected them.
Marlon Bailey also worked with a population that did not use the word queer in his evocative ethnography, "Elliston ritualized homosexuality and christianity" Queens Up in Pumps. While the parents and couples I worked with demand access to particular statuses denied to them because of their gender and sexual identities, they still embrace naturalized understandings of both who they are and what they do.
Similarly, the Pentecostals who worship in TFAM congregations are carving out a place where they can worship in a manner otherwise inaccessible to them, but they still define themselves in terms of their spiritual achievements, regardless of how transgressive their gender or sexual presentations seem to be.
In other words, transgression in these contexts shrinks in significance when compared with the meanings attributed to being a parent, being recognized as a married couple, or experiencing spiritual transcendence.
At an American studies conference some years ago, I gave a paper that focused on the kinds of unexpected transformations that can follow from same-sex commitment ceremonies, intending to illustrate the power of ritual. I told the story of an upper-middle-class lesbian couple whose public behavior epitomized discretion and who had struggled to craft a ceremony that would avoid even a whisper of confrontation or public display of gayness.
After the ceremony, and to their surprise, the couple found themselves taking relatively dramatic public stands in support of gay rights and outing themselves in a number of settings, including their very conservative workplaces.
The shift was most evocatively represented by the changing meaning they attached to the rings they had exchanged in the ceremony. The first can be framed in terms of the aversion to real life implied by the statement.
The second is more complex, but directly connected to the first. It assumes that queerness unquestionably resides in visible, intentional, and effective subversions of mainstream Elliston ritualized homosexuality and christianity norms and the related expectation that explicit and palpable transgression is the only sort of queerness worthy of the name. Her work, and indeed all of cultural anthropology, tells us to base our conclusions on what our informants say and do, rather than using what our informants say and do to sustain already formulated ideas.
other concern about queer as a framework for anthropological scholarship concerns the claims we might make about how we do our work, implied in the transformation of one section of the American Anthropological Association from the Society of Lesbian and Gay Anthropologists Elliston ritualized homosexuality and christianity to the Association for Queer Anthropology AQA. Note the shift in prepositions from of to forimplying our mutual immersion in a kind of anthropology rather than an affinity based on identity.
But is there a queer anthropology?