Queer Generations: theorizing a concept

Year: 2016

Author: Marshall, Daniel, Cover, Rob, Rasmussen, Marylou, Aggleton, Peter

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Drawing on archival research in queer youth history in Australia, conducted as part of an ongoing study of belonging and sexual citizenship among gender and sexual minority youth, this paper will outline efforts to theorise the notion of “queer generations”. Beginning with reflection on the utility of the concept, we will discuss how this idea can be deployed to think about difference across time, gender and sexuality. Considering queer generations in the context of the extant sexual citizenship literature we will reflect on how generational knowledges can stabilise queerness while also illustrating new critical insights.Reflecting on the significance of key historical landmarks including the decriminalization of homosexuality in Australia across various jurisdictions since the 1970s, this paper will consider how “generations” of gender and sexual minority youth have been shaped by histories of shifting attitudes towards sexual and gender difference. Relatedly, this paper will consider the implications for theory, practice and research of investigating generations of young people growing up under radically altered conditions of possibility in relation to sexuality and gender. How do these shifting variables structure how we thing about sexuality, gender, generation and history?Drawing on Jeffrey Weeks’s work theorizing sexual citizenship and queer theories of childhood and growth (including Elspeth Probyn, Angus Gordon and Kathryn Bond Stockton) this paper develops a theoretical approach to the notion of queer generations in the context of deploying this term in the analysis of historical experiences of growing up different in terms of gender and sexuality in Australia since the 1970s. In these ways, this paper will offer insights not only into people’s lived experiences of sexual and gender difference as young people in Australia over the last forty years; it will also provide a critical reflection on the notion of “queer generations” to thus make it available as a tool for conceptual analysis in broader discussions of sexuality, gender, and history.ReferencesGordon, A. (1999). "Turning Back: Adolescence, Narrative, and Queer Theory." GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 5(1): 1-24. Probyn, E. (1995). "Suspended Beginnings: Of Childhood and Nostalgia." GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 2(4): 439-465. Stockton, K. B. (2009). The Queer Child, or Growing Sideways in the Twentieth Century. Durham, Duke UP. Weeks, J. (1998). "The Sexual Citizen." Theory, Culture & Society 15(3-4): 35-52.