Queer is a broad term that has been used to describe homosexuals and transgender individuals. For this research, the term will be used about homosexuality. In the recent past, there has been conflicting calls on whether or not the rights of queers should be respected in law (Halwani 25). While this has elicited some conflicting responses, it brings to light the position of the contemporary society on whether or not queers should be accepted in society. Several laws have been put in place to safeguard the interest of the queers and reflects the acceptance that the people have received in the contemporary world. It is important to note that the issue of homosexuality has not begun in the recent past. Queers existed in historic times. The perception of society towards this group of people may have changed with time but the group has largely persisted in society over time. Several similarities as well as differences exist in the way the society perceived the homosexual group of people in the past and even presently. Such differences in perception are indicators of transition in the level of acceptance of homosexual individuals in our societies. This research examines the similarities and differences in the way the society perceives queers in the United States and how such perceptions compares with the perceptions in other parts of the world.
The History of Queers in America
The homosexuals, Lesbians, gays and transgender people have long been in existence in the American society. In the civil war era this group of people were all classified under one umbrella of sodomy. During this era, homosexuality was considered a taboo in most cultures within the American Society. In 1976, Sarah Greene and Gwen Broude carried out a cross-cultural ethnographic study to establish the ancient perceptions about homosexuality (Halwani 25). This study involved forty-two ancient cultures represented in the United States today. The findings of this study indicated that nine cultural communities out of the forty-two communities accepted homosexual people or ignored their impact or effect in society. Five of these communities did not have any understanding of the very concept of homosexuality. While ten of these cultures considered homosexuality as undesirable, they did not prescribe any forms punishment for people engaged in homosexuality. In seventeen of these cultural communities, homosexuality was a great and punishable offense (Halwani 35).
Before the European colonization, Indigenous Americans had largely accepted the role and the place of queers in the society. People with such sexual orientation were identified at a younger age and nurtured by elders to identify and confine themselves to the social as well as spiritual roles associated with their sexual orientation. Most communities in Latin America equally accepted the practice of homosexuality and transgender people as part of the community during the Pre-conquest era (Tortorici 164). Such communities included Aztecs, Quechuas, Zapotecs and the Mayans among others. The Spanish conquerors who conquer the region were surprised to find that the practice of homosexuality was largely accepted among these communities (Wilson 263). They introduced punitive measures to curb what they considered as a vice in the community. They instituted punishment for homosexuality that ranged from stoning, being fed to dogs to Public executions for people engaged in homosexuality.
In summary, there was a level of acceptance to the practice of homosexuality in some communities of the ancient centuries in America. This acceptance was largely characterized by lack of punishment as well as the goodwill from elders in nurturing and bringing up queers within these communities. However, other communities were not tolerant to such sexual orientations and had harsh punishment for people engaged in homosexuality.
The Lives of Queers in America Compared to Other Foreign Countries
There has been tremendous progress in the social lives of queers in America compared to other countries. First, the civil rights movements have closely adjudicated the rights of the queers. The center of this advocacy has been on the equal opportunity for education, employment and the overall social space within the American community. The civil rights movement that began in the mid of the 20th century has seen an unprecedented increase in the level of acceptance and the general level of improvement of the gay and lesbian people communities in America (Wilson 263). The number of gay marriages has greatly increased in the wake of civil rights movements. Moreover, gay people are free to identify themselves and their sexual orientation despite the controversy surrounding such sexual orientation. As such, the contemporary American culture has developed a level of acceptance that has enhanced tolerance towards queers.
On the contrary, homosexually remains a controversial topic largely in most other parts of the world. In the Arab world and the Middle East by extension, homosexuality has not been adopted and accepted. The non-acceptance can be traced to the Islamic religion that dominates this region. Given the narrow separation between state and religion in these areas, the religious beliefs largely dominate governance institutions (Stockdale 502). The Islamic religion strongly condemns homosexuality. Consequently, the region remains conservative in the developing global arguments about the rights of gay and homosexuals. Under the legal and religious framework of the region, homosexuality is largely condemned, and such people do not express their sexuality in public (Tortorici 164). A similar case is witnessed in African countries. The African culture has no place for queers. As such, there still exists strong stigmatization for people from the same sex who engage in sexual activities.
The legal space in America is equally accommodative of queers. Several laws have been passed that seek to safeguard the interest of the queers in a community where they are the minority. The 1972 Equal Employment Opportunity Act and subsequent amendments as well as supporting legislations prohibited employment discrimination based on sexual orientation (Wittman 338). Such legislative frameworks have eliminated stigmatization and prejudice against queers and enhanced their ability to integrate with the community. Consequently, it has enhanced their livelihood and levels of acceptance in the contemporary American society. Such laws the safeguard the interests of queers are equally evident in most countries in America and Europe.
On the contrary, the Asian and African countries have distanced themselves from the question of gay rights. The legal framework in the majority of the African and Asian countries does not recognize same-sex marriages. The idea of having sex with a person of your gender has not gotten legal support and acceptance. Consequently, many homosexual people practice their sexual activities in secrecy. In the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Yemen and Saudi Arabia among others, homosexuality is an offense under law that is punishable by death (Stockdale 502). Therefore, engaging in sexual intercourse with a person of the same gender is a capital offence in these countries. The severity of this punishment has resulted into lack of tolerance for homosexual people in these countries. As such, the legal and legislative framework in relation to queers in most of the Muslim countries of the Middle East largely differs from that of the United States.
The concept of homosexuality has largely found application in the contemporary political scenes both in America as well as in other countries albeit in different ways. Political leaders in America have greatly used the concern for homosexual people in achieving their political objectives. As the American society moves to be an inclusive society, issues of discrimination have increasingly become important to the society. As such, the rights of homosexual people have largely dominated the political scenes in America.
President Bill Clinton used the controversy around sexual orientation in what was seen as a move to solidify his reelection. He signed into law the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996. Among other things, this law set to disregard any same-sex marriage. It excluded same-sex marriages from the legal definition of marriage. This populist move was seen to attract the many religious Americans that were increasingly condemning same-gender sexual intercourse and the practice of same-sex marriage (Kallen, 127). The position of Americans about same-sex marriage has since shifted. Consequently, the politics of homosexuality have equally changed. The American society has become more tolerant towards homosexuality. President Obama also used the politics of homosexuality in his political bid. The president advocated for the rights of homosexuals in a move that was seen to solidify his political bid and secure a second term. The Republican Party has largely exemplified the biopolitics surrounding the issue of sexuality in America. The party has garnered support from people who do not largely agree with its fiscal and economic ideology but mainly agree on social conservatism particularly about the question of morality and ethics. Overall, the politics of homosexuality have majored social conservatism topics.
The American biopolitics about homosexuality has been centered on the fundamental concern for freedom that has characterized the American social space. Religions and the related laws have been seen to be oppressive to sections of the society. As the society and structures of governance tend to be more secular, the religious rules become more irrelevant. Moreover, the definition of morality is no longer pegged on religious precepts. Therefore, the victimization of homosexuals is seen as a way of holding them captive. The freedom movement in the 21st century has advocated for the freedom of homosexuals (Jakobsen 290). Consequently, political leaders have sought to align themselves this dominant biopolitical view of freedom.
The biopolitics surrounding homosexuality in most other countries particularly in the Middle East and in Africa is different. In such countries, there is a narrow distinction between religion and morality. The moral laws are largely drawn from the religious requirements (Stockdale 502). Consequently, there is a strong connection between religious requirements and the biopolitics of these regions about homosexuality. With high condemnation from religious circles, political leaders who wish to remain relevant have to voice their decent for Queers (Jakobsen 293). In countries Qatar and Saudi Arabia, political leaders who show any support for people who undertake sexual intercourse with members of their gender are greatly rejected. A similar case is witnessed in most African countries. In such countries, the cultural backgrounds condemn having sex with a member of the gender similar to yours. Therefore, political leaders have voiced their condemnation of this act in a bid to remain politically relevant to their respective countries.
The social classification of the gay community has largely differed based on race. With increasing liberty and freedom of association, the gay community has become largely accepted as an integral part of the community. The gay movements have come up to bring the members together and collectively advocate for their recognition in the community. Consequently, the social status of the gay community has greatly increased in the recent past. The advocacy for gay rights has led to the creation and recognition of a social group known as the gay community in America (Wittman 336). This community enjoys the freedom of association like any other group of people within the American community. There are special nightclubs dedicated to the gay and lesbian people in the US. Therefore, the members have come up and largely been accepted as a part of the American community.
However, this acceptance has largely been skewed towards the whites. Several other races have not largely been accepted as part of the gay and lesbian community. The visual concept of male beauty largely portrays the White as the race with such beauties. For instance, many Gay Pornographic movies depict gay people to be mainly white. The “beautiful” and feminist male actors in these movies are mainly white (Fung 136). This has created the notion in the United States that the concepts of male beauty can only be associated with the whites. As such, the Asians and the Chinese are yet to be accepted into the gay and lesbian communities. However, the emergence of pornographic films featuring male Chinese actors taking the feminist role in gay sexual intercourse have shaped the stage and perception. Sum Yung is one of the few Chinese characters have been introduced in the gay porn film industry that is largely dominated by the whites (Fung 138). He featured in the gay porn film “Below the Belt” and had since become the epitome of the Chinese face in American gay porn.
The social places for homosexuals have equally been associated with the white people. This is due to the growing misconception that the gay and lesbian communities comprise only the whites. As such, it has been difficult for the gay people from other races and particularly the Asians to be accepted in the social places considered exclusive for the gay community. This can be partly attributed the Chinese cultural backgrounds that prohibit homosexuality and have hence contributed to the hiding of the identity of most homosexuals among the Chinese culture (Fung 136). In essence, their race is largely viewed to be non-homosexual. However, the reality is that many of the Chinese community members are homosexuals but have not openly expressed their sexual orientation due to the fear of stigmatization. Therefore, some form of discrimination has emerged against the Chinese homosexuals who wish to join other homosexuals in exclusive homosexual events and places (Fung 138). Similarly, the African homosexuals have largely taken the male role in homosexual relationships. As such, the concept of “male beauty” equally excludes them. Therefore, their desire is not much for the pleasure of anal sex but the release of sexual pressure through ejaculation regardless of the means through which they do so.
Homosexuality has brought about significant changes in the perception of gender as roles. The traditional definitions of gender were very clear by the biological and reproductive outlook. This traditional approach has informed many types of research on issues of gender. Moreover, most gender-related policies are often contracted on this traditional view of gender. However, critics have argued that this traditional approach of gender in gender-related policy-making substantially leaves out the queers (Adolfsen 1238). Researchers as well as policymakers are now taking the approach of gender patterns or gender practices rather than the traditional identity. The emphasis in the contemporary approached being interrelationships between different gender.
Homosexuality has significantly impacted approach to gender issues particularly in America. There has been a shift in identifying gender from the traditional biological approach to the contemporary gender relativity. In the context of the American culture, it is increasingly becoming difficult to assign a gender depending on the biological outlook (Adolfsen l240). The acceptance of lesbians, gays and transgender people as part of the society has greatly shifted the perception of the issues related to gender identity. Masculinity and feminism are not exclusively because of biological outlook but also a construct of the sexual orientation of the people (Frackman 446). As such, it is not enough to have a penis to be considered a man. Your sexual orientation equally dictates whether you are to be assigned the male or female gender. This gender liberalism has greatly shaped gender identity in the confines of the American Culture.
However, the gender identities in many parts of the world largely remain a preserve of the biological outlook of an individual. This is mainly the case in most conservative culture as well as countries that are largely dominated by religion. As already noted, most countries in the Middle East have disregarded the concept of homosexuality. Their connection to the Islamic religion has eliminated the possibility of queers interfering with the traditional gender identities. In such countries, the reproductive outlook and the role of an individual in the reproductive process define gender (Stockdale 502). Moreover, such communities have outlined clear gender roles in their societies based on their cultural backgrounds and religious convictions. Similarly, most countries in Africa have not changed their perception and definition of gender roles and identity in the wake of advocacy of the homosexual rights. The cultural background in these countries has confined them to the traditional biological approach to gender identity. Therefore, policies relating to gender are executed based on the traditional sense of gender.
Queers have suffered great prejudice and harassment in different parts of the world. This has largely been attributed to the misconception about this category of sexually oriented people. While the gay and lesbian community in the United States has made tremendous steps in the fight against discrimination and the pursuit for societal recognition, many other countries have not yet recognized and accepted queers (Kallen 130). The level of success in the fight against prejudice can be evaluated using the existing legal framework as well as the freedom of identity that homosexuals enjoy in their respective countries.
For the American society, social stratification is not very evident against the gay or lesbians. The growth of gay movements in the 1970s resulted in tremendous progress about the recognition of gay and lesbians (Wittman 336). Several legislations have since been put in place to protect the gay and lesbian people against discrimination in any form. Moreover, numerous litigations sought to establish a level field for queers with their counterparts with straight sexual orientation. Moreover, the homosexual people in the United States have enjoyed political goodwill from leading political leader. Therefore, the contemporary American society is greatly tolerant to the queers. The level of prejudice and discrimination had tremendously reduced if any within this society. With the access to equal opportunities in employment and education, they have largely been integrated into the larger American society despite of their sexual orientation.
While this integration is largely evident in America and most parts of Europe, many other countries in the world still experience social stratification particularly in line with sexual orientation. Homosexuality is highly stigmatized in strict Islamic countries such as Qatar and the United Arab Emirates among others (Frackman 446). As already noted, such countries have punitive laws against homosexuals. Consequently, such societies have highly stigmatized homosexuals. They do not have the freedom to express their sexual orientation openly. Moreover, they do not have a place in the formal societal and social settings of these societies. The African cultures have equally set aside homosexuals. In most African countries, the concept of homosexuality is culturally unacceptable. Therefore, homosexuals are viewed with contempt and treated with prejudice in the African communities, thus great social stratification among these cultures.
In conclusion, the issue of homosexuality dates back to the early centuries. Ethnographic studies have revealed that homosexuality was evident in different communities in ancient days. Moreover, the level of tolerance and the existence of punishment varied from one community to another. While some communities were more tolerant of homosexuality others were less tolerant and put in place very harsh punishment for people engaged in the act. Despite the existence of such punishment, homosexuality has continued to exist to date.
Several differences exist from the way the United States and other countries have dealt with issues related to homosexuality. Whereas the United States has set laws that are tolerant of homosexuals, many other countries and Asian countries, in particular, have set punitive laws against homosexuality. The impact of this has been a difference in social acceptance, gender identity issues, social stratification and the direction of biopolitics in these respective countries. Moreover, the cultural differences have brought about racial stratification among homosexuals. The political goodwill has equally contributed to the integration of homosexuals to the American society Contrary to major cultures across the world. As such, homosexuality continues to persist in contemporary society albeit as different levels and in different structures from the traditional forms.
Adolfsen, Anna, et al. “Multiple Dimensions of Attitudes About Homosexuality: Development of a Multifaceted Scale Measuring Attitudes Toward Homosexuality.” Journal of Homosexuality, vol. 57, no. 10 2010, pp. 1237–1257.
Frackman, Kyle. “Persistent Ambivalence: Theorizing Queer East German Studies.” Journal of Homosexuality, vol. 12, no. 2 2018, pp. 444–461.
Fung, Richard. “Looking for My Penis: The Eroticized Asian in Gay Video Porn.” A Companion to Asian American Studies 2007, pp. 235–253.
Halwani, Raja. “Essentialism, Social Constructionism, and the History of Homosexuality.” Journal of Homosexuality, vol. 35, no. 1 2008, pp. 25–51.
Jakobsen, Janet R. “Sex Freedom = Regulation: WHY? Social Text.” Duke Univ. 2005, pp. 286- 310
Kallen, Evelyn. “Equality/Equity-Seeking Protest Movements 2: Gay and Lesbian Rights.” Social Inequality and Social Injustice, vol. 2, no. 3 2004, pp. 120–140.,
Stockdale, Nancy L. “Female Homosexuality in the Middle East: Histories and Representations SAMAR HABIB.” Women’s History Review, vol. 21, no. 3 2012, pp. 501–503
Tortorici, Zeb. “Against Nature: Sodomy and Homosexuality in Colonial Latin America.” History Compass, vol. 10, no. 2 2012, pp. 161–178.,
Wilson-Buford, Kellie. “From Exclusion to Acceptance: A Case History of Homosexuality in the U.S. Court of Military Appeals.” Journal of Homosexuality, vol. 60, no. 2-3 2013, pp. 250–272.
Wittman, Carl. A Gay Manifesto. Jay and Young. 1979, pp 331-339