Trickle-Down Rights (Part 1)

April 24, 2013 in inQueery

The increasingly publicized debates around same-sex marriage have recently left the LGBTQ rights movement open to scrutiny; while many have demonstrated their support for this agenda, some remain skeptical of the emphasis mainstream political leaders are placing on the right to marry. Thatcher Combs—a junior sociology major at UC Berkeley—falls into this latter, and arguably, smaller group. During the Fall 2012 semester, Thatcher was awarded a fellowship from UC Berkeley’s McNnair Scholars Program, which aims to increase the number of underrepresented minority groups working towards doctoral degrees. The fellowship provides select undergraduate students with many opportunities, including: a closer relationship with University faculty; a stipend for the research project they are required to complete; the chance to have their project published in UC Berkeley’s McNair Journal; the opportunity to present their research at the Annual California McNair Scholar’s Symposium; and general support for the graduate school application process. For his research project, Thatcher has decided to focus on the LGBT rights movement and the discrepancy between gay rights, lesbian rights, and, specifically, trans rights. When asked about why he decided to make this the focus of his research, he explained:

I think there’s a huge misunderstanding in society about the cohesiveness of this LGBT movement; that it’s not as cohesive as people think it is, as well as the fact that when we focus on specific legislative issues, that it really—how do I say this—that it distracts from what are the real . . . issues in society. So focusing on same-sex marriage, for example, does nothing to change homophobia, and transphobia, it does nothing to change how many homeless kids . . . are queer. It actually doesn’t discuss anything about the racism, and the sexism, and the xenophobia we have in our society, as well as in the LGBT community. The LGBT rights movement is relatively new, and the addition of trans people to it only happened in the 1990s. I want to see historically how this movement has become what it has and what it has left behind in the process of normalizing, and accepting heteronormativity as the status quo, instead of actually working to change those things.

He will be conducting extensive archival research at the GLBT Historical society in San Francisco, and looking over Bay Area Reporters from the past forty years to see whether the LGBT rights movement has always had a normalizing tone. Additionally, he will be conducting interviews to see whether contemporary attitudes about the movement correspond with its agenda. These interviews will be focusing on the transgender community because :

“they are usually left out of these conversations in the national discourse, and I want to see whether it is necessarily good for trans people to be a part of a movement that is based on normality and normativity; and if it is good, to see how we can change the discourse of the movement to reflect the things that all LGBT people feel we should be focusing on,” he said.

Benjamin Marmolejo is a Staff Writer at InQueery & studies English at UC Berkeley.
You can follow Benjamin’s personal and business ramblings on Facebook

Benjamin is pictures on the left in the image above.