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  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: June 2012

2 - Key debates and perspectives

from Section I - History, contexts and debates in LGBTQ psychology



• Social constructionism versus essentialism

• Liberalism versus radicalism

• The relationship between LGBTQ psychology and feminism

• The relationship between LGBTQ psychology and queer theory

• The relationship between LGBTQ psychology and critical psychology

• The relationship between LGBTQ psychology and positive social change

In Chapter 1, we introduced you to the history and contemporary development of LGBTQ psychology as a recognised sub-field of psychology. In this chapter, we further equip you to be an LGBTQ psychologist by exploring some of the theoretical and political issues that inform the field. We start by exploring two key debates underpinning much work within LGBTQ psychology: confrontations between essentialist and constructionist theories and between liberal and radical ideologies. Don't panic about our mention of theory, ideology and politics (things that make a lot of psychologists panic!) – these concepts can all be defined simply as an organised collection of ideas, a way of looking at things, a way of explaining things. At the same time, we acknowledge that these debates are rather complex and we encourage you to return to them once you have read some of the topic-based chapters and you have an understanding of the empirical research on which these debates are brought to bear.

In discussing the essentialism versus social constructionism debate we touch on a controversial issue – the aetiology or origins of homosexuality. Our view is that research on the aetiology of homosexuality is deeply problematic, as we explain below.

Further reading
Clarke, V. and Braun, V. (2009) Gender. In Fox, D., Prilleltensky, I. and Austin, S. (eds.), Critical psychology: an introduction, 2nd edition (pp. 232–49). London: Sage.
Clarke, V. and Peel, E. (2007b) From lesbian and gay psychology to LGBTQ psychologies: a journey into the unknown (or the unknowable)? In Clarke, V. and Peel, E. (eds.), Out in psychology: lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer perspectives (pp. 11–35). Chichester: Wiley.
Kitzinger, C. (1987) The social construction of lesbianism. London: Sage.
Myerson, M., Crawley, S. L., Anstey, E., Kessler, J. and Okopny, C. (2007) Who's zoomin' who? A feminist, queer content analysis of ‘interdisciplinary’ human sexuality textbooks. Hypatia, 22(1), 92–113.
Wilkinson, S. (1997a) Feminist psychology. In Fox, D. and Prilleltensky, I. (eds.), Critical psychology: an introduction (pp. 247–64). London: Sage.