Must Identity Movements Self-Destruct? A Queer Dilemma


Joshua Gamson argues that the significance of the queerness phenomenon lies not in the gender definitions, but rather in the necessity, viability, and usefulness of such definitions. Gamson points out that insufficient attention has been paid to the tendency of such movements to destroy identities from within. He argues that identity definitions are both the source of political power and a potential source of oppression.

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Gamson employs several arguments to prove his point. Firstly, the author points out that members of the queer community perceive their own identity as fixed, thereby demanding it is legally recognized (Gamson 391). However, the tendency of their movement is to destabilize the traditional notions of gender categories. Gamson calls it a deconstructionist politics, aimed at destroying the conservative categories of gender perception. Gamson pinpoints a paradox: could it be that in their struggle for the queer rights, the socio-political foundations for gay and lesbian rights movements are to be undermined?

Collective identity is an essential component of any social action. Nowadays, the nature of collective identity is changing. Many point out that the queer movement does not protest against its outsider status but rather enjoys it. Thus, they do not defy the normality of social conventions but rather the very idea of normality. The very ideas of the usefulness of gender categories are thereby subject to reinterpretation or even rendered unnecessary.

Gamson concludes by emphasizing that the tendency of the queer to destabilize the conventional social categories has been underestimated. Fixed identities are necessary for the social life to thrive, including, ironically, the queer movement. Thus, fixed identity categories can be seen as both destructive and indispensable. Gamson points out that this paradox is yet to be studied further in order to gain a deeper understanding of the nature of social life.

Critical Response

Gamson makes a valid point by emphasizing the paradoxical nature of the queer movement’s protest. Indeed, it is necessary for social conventions to exist and for the gender categories to have certain boundaries that might delineate individuals according to certain characteristics. Paradoxically, neither transgender nor queer movements would have a possibility to revel in their outsider nature if it were not for the existence of fixed gender categories.

However, it is possible to assume that it is rather natural for every social movement to struggle against the conventional frameworks that actually made a particular social movement possible. This is why both the logic of the queer proponents and their opponents is valid, thereby creating a social paradox. Gamson is right in arguing that this phenomenon is yet to be studied in detail, as it might reveal interesting features of our modern social life. Moreover, further analysis of the contradictory character of these phenomena could serve as a basis for developing innovative methods of solving the current social problems.


Based on Joshua Gamson’s article it is possible to conclude that there are always two tendencies in our social life: stabilizing and destabilizing. Social movements can either be adopting the former or the latter approach. To this end, it is important to comprehend that every social movement will eventually strive to deconstruct certain conventions. The queer movement is no exception to that rule.

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Work Cited

Gamson, Joshua. “Must identity movements self-destruct? A queer dilemma.” Social Problems 42.3 (1995): 390-407. Print.

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"Must Identity Movements Self-Destruct? A Queer Dilemma." StudyCorgi, 8 Jan. 2021,

1. StudyCorgi. "Must Identity Movements Self-Destruct? A Queer Dilemma." January 8, 2021.


StudyCorgi. "Must Identity Movements Self-Destruct? A Queer Dilemma." January 8, 2021.


StudyCorgi. 2021. "Must Identity Movements Self-Destruct? A Queer Dilemma." January 8, 2021.


StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Must Identity Movements Self-Destruct? A Queer Dilemma'. 8 January.

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