Published online by Cambridge University Press: 21 November 2020
LGBTQ assimilationism has yielded important successes in the early twenty-first century, e.g., the legalization of same-sex marriage and solid support for the LGBTQ community in American culture, politics, and society. The conclusion nevertheless points to unresolved issues like religious exemptions to antidiscrimination and recent attacks on transgender rights. It recapitulates the movement's periods of high political visibility and strong activist mobilization, the shift in the 1990s toward intense visibility but low activist mobilization, and the near-total evacuation of sexuality from the movement's discourses, objectives, and modes of action. It finally emphasizes the persistence of offensive, unruly, sexualized forms of action, sometimes on the threshold of politics, and makes a case for the significance of an eroticized infrapolitics.
Keywords: LGBTQ movement successes and shortcomings, activist mobilization and demobilization, desexualization and demobilization, sexuality and infrapolitics
A winning movement
In the space of a few decades, homosexuality, transgenderness, and LGBTQ rights have become a poignant political issue in the United States. Long considered sick, perverted, or deviant, LGBTQ people have now achieved major institutional assimilation, particularly since obtaining the legalization of same-sex marriage, first on a state-by-state basis, and then at the national level. The movement for equal access to marriage bears significant similarities with the African American civil rights movement. The parallel between the end of prohibition on same-sex marriage and the Loving v. Virginia ruling, which ended the prohibition on interracial marriages in the South in 1967, has been emphasized many times in commentaries on the successive rulings by the Supreme Court, in the cases of Hollingsworth v. Perry (2013), United States v. Windsor (2013), and Obergefell v. Hodges (2015). One of the important differences between these two situations is that the Southern states remained unified in defending legal racial discrimination and segregation until the end, whereas new states rallied to the legalization of same-sex marriage with every passing year after 2004. Yet the geography of racism and that of homophobia and transphobia do overlap significantly.
In the United States, as elsewhere, the path to equal rights involves many different aspects of LGBTQ people's lives, of which marriage is merely the most visible.