Date of Award

5-2017

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Political Science

Major Professor

Anthony J. Nownes

Committee Members

Patricia K. Freeland, David J. Houston, Patrick R. Grzanka

Abstract

The existing political archetype of sexual minorities in the United States present lesbians, gays, and bisexuals as more ideologically liberal and Democratic than heterosexuals, as well as politically driven by issues specifically related to LGBT life. Ascribing political distinctiveness based solely on identification with a group, however, commits the fallacy of “difference-as-explanation” (Shields 2008:3030), equating a “shared [LGBT] history of sexual oppression and [LGBT] political sympathies” (Duong 2012:381).

Post-modern theories posit that social positions in society, i.e., socially-constructed categories of identity, exist as part of a simultaneously-experienced and mutually-reinforced “matrix of oppression” (Collins 2000:18). The personal meaning and political effects associated with a particular identity can only be understood in relation to the other social identities an individual occupies and the related structural inequalities which reinforce identity-based asymmetric power distributions.

Using sample survey methodology, I conduct a web-based survey of 1216 sexual minority adults residing in the United States. Informed by a cross-disciplinary approach, I measure cognitive and affective aspects of sexual and racial identity – not simple dummy indicators – in order to analyze the effects of intersecting socially-constructed identities on political attitudes (i.e., toward income inequality, government provision of services, private vs. public rights, and policy-specifics such as gun control and immigration) and behaviors (i.e., political participation and alienation from the political process).

My findings progress the study of LGBT politics beyond existing literature by quantitatively demonstrating that sexual minority politics are motivated by more than simple group identification. The analysis shows that sexual minorities use cognitive and affective evaluations of society as well as relational identity comparisons in their internal political calculus. The data suggest that liberal (i.e., economically redistributive, pro-civil rights, or anti-status quo) political claims, as well as participation in and alienation from the American political system, occur as sexual minorities evaluate their own sexual and racial identities in relation to heteronormative, racist, and androcentric power structures in society. Furthermore, these internal and relational comparisons extend across identity categories and exhibit separate and ignificantly different main and interactive effects.

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