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Queer of Color: History and Theory


Gender is a socially created trait used to distinguish between males and females. It is also used to assign social roles and responsibilities. It is associated with the way society nurtures individuals with respect to their culture, expectations, and other elements. Queer, on the other hand, denotes the ‘unusual sex’ or gender that is prescribed by the society. In most societies, queers are minorities compared to heterosexuals and cisgenders. They include homosexuals, bisexuals, and transgender persons.

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In this paper, the author will write three essays on queer of color. The first essay will highlight queer of color theory and critique, while the second will be about the challenges encountered by scholars in documenting the history of queers of color. The last essay will touch on why African American studies are dominated by heterosexual voices, while queer research is under the control of white voices.

Queer of Color Theory

Defining Queer of Color Critique and Theory

According to Marcus (2005), the theory denotes a presumed ‘not normal’ formation in society. In this case, heterosexuals are structured to operate in a particular way when it comes to issues touching on interactions between males and females in society. For example, it prescribes the behavior of a normal female in their feminine state, class, and race. Social activities, such as marriage, are mostly addressed here. The theory emphasizes on the people of color (Brown 2008).

The queer critique, on its part, dates back to the 1970s. It came into existence when femininity was mainly associated with the female gender (DiGrazia & Michel 2005). The resulting gender biases are also seen between the 1970s and the 1980s. It took a new dimension of radical feminism and its relation to HIV/AIDS, a condition that is mainly associated with the queer community of color (DiGrazia & Michel 2005). The discrimination against this group became far-fetched and started to assume racial connotations. To this end, blacks were victimized as a result of their sexuality. The assumption was that this was a white man’s ‘thing’.

Queer theory also attempts to explain what could be termed as unnatural when it comes to gender and sexuality. Some of the issues addressed here include the feminists among the gays and lesbians. There are several other things that are done outside the norm, which are also described as queer. Ford (2007) lists a number of these elements. They include, among others, exile, as well as coalition and secession in identity politics. The elements are attached to various norms.

Essential Elements in Queer of Color Theory and Critique

Different scholars in the queer of color theory and critiques adopt varying approaches and perspectives to describe the social elements that they feel qualify as queer situations. Some of the most conspicuous elements, and which appears prominently in the essays contained in the book Black Queer Studies: A Critical Anthology by Johnson and Henderson (2005), include sex, gender, social class, race, and religion.


Sex applies to the physical anatomy of humans. It is used to categorize them into either male or female. There are many cases involved in sex ambiguity, and which do not fall under the two categories that are known to society (Johnson & Henderson, 2005). The other sex genders, such as the intersex, are considered to be queer in the society. They are treated differently as a result. The treatments have a lot of effects. They may also be discriminatory. Most of these ideas are fuelled by color, some of which are considered bad luck and unnatural. Another aspect of sex that is visible and is of major concern is the femininity of the females as required by society. The idea is most challenged when it comes to the queer group. The same applies to the males who are expected to be masculine, according (Marcus 2005).

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According to Johnson and Henderson (2005), gender is a social construction. It is assigned to two groups of either a woman or a man. Any other characteristic that is out of that norm is presumed unnatural. As a result, it is not welcome in the society. In most cases, gender is used unfairly to force roles and responsibilities into areas where they do not necessarily apply.


According to the queer of color theory, race is used unfairly to describe and discriminate against people and things that are considered by the mainstream society as belonging to a particular group of people (Johnson & Henderson 2005). According to Ford (2007), the queer culture is considered white. As such, any black person practicing things that are considered unnatural, such as homosexuality, is considered an outcast and a ‘copycat’ of the West. According to Brown (2008), majority of blacks do not consider racism as a hindrance to the achievement of their full potential in their sex life. However, there are few people who have been affected by race in their choice of partners.

Social class

Some people disregard themselves or are discriminated against by those who feel that they belong to a particular group (Johnson & Henderson 2005). In such cases, people of a particular “class” or group tend to limit social interactions amongst themselves. One of the definitions of queer theory describes the situation as materially different compared to the experiences of a particular gender identity.

The above elements form the backbone of those issues used to describe queer critiques. However, such issues as globalization, sovereignty, neo-liberalization, terrorism, immigration, and citizenship also apply. They are regarded as important aspects of life (Johnson & Henderson 2005).

Writing the History of Queers of Color

Obstacles Encountered by Scholars in Writing the History of Queers of Color

In an attempt to explain some of the challenges experienced by scholars in writing about queer and color issues, a group of researchers from the Massachusetts University conducted an experiment with students to help identify some of these obstacles (DiGrazia & Michel 2005). A number of issues were identified from this study. For example, it was found that the use of the word queer is not an easy thing among scholars writing the history and experiences of queers of color. However, it is important to note that primacy and queer cannot operate as umbrella terms. It was also found that gender, queer, color, and race are related. Sexuality, religion, as well as social class are also intertwined. According to DiGrazia and Michel (2005), many scholars do not feel free to use such words in their studies. As such, their writings and research are hindered.

It is a challenge to determine whether or not the body and authority when referring to queer is admissible only to academicians and readers. The reason is that the two are not exactly identical (Aboudaif 2015). Another thing that is conflicting is the issue of generative category. It puts most scholars in a precarious position especially in cases where the society feels that the researchers are creating other identities, which they cannot associate with. The situation is evident given that it is not easy to assign sex to individuals who feel like they are in more than one body. As such, it is difficult to describe or give them names when writing about queers of color. As a result, one can conclude that the material consequences of different bodies are made apparent at virtually every level of an individual’s cumulative life (Brown 2008).

According to Aboudaif (2015), scholars should rethink the theory and critique of queer of color. The reason is that there are new contemporary ideas and hypotheses that should be taken into consideration. In addition, the field is evolving. It is argued that the queer of color, as defined by early scholars, is irrelevant to the modern society. It relates gender studies and the dynamism of human sexual orientation. A lot of these issues are brought about by the ‘hybridity’ and proliferation of future cultures (Aboudaif 2015). As such, it becomes almost impossible for scholars to define and describe the ever changing queer society.

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The Fear of Consolidating Social Categories as a Challenge in Queer of Color Studies

In most cases, scholars working on sexuality issues are concerned that the society will accuse them of disfranchising the norm and creating new ‘normals’ (Brown 2008). The situation is evident when terms like transgender, bisexual, and intersex arise. The fear has been a great challenge to most scholars writing the history of queers of color. The reason is that the society is considered the judge of character (Brown 2008).

Sex Dynamism and Queer Writings

According to Marcus (2005), the future of culture is ever changing. It is characterized by hybrids and other elements that are not easy to link to national, political, and social formulae. According to Aboudaif (2015), the future is not confined to political correctness and persecution of people based on their sexual orientation. As such, it is clear that terms change all the time. New terms makes it hard for writers of queers of color to cope and remain relevant.

Body and Authority in Queer Studies

According to Aboudaif (2015), the term sex is biologically expressed. The physical attributes associated with one’s sex are as a result of genetically inherited materials. Individuals, such as those regarded as intersex, have a complex anatomy. As a result, the authority of identity should be biological when it comes to categorization of individuals in their “sexes’ and gender. In some cases, people feel that they are enclosed in bodies that do not belong to them. The experiences make it hard for researchers to exclusively categorize such persons into a particular sex bracket.

Social Manifestations of Queer Writings

In their work, DiGrazia and Michel (2005) identify some fears that are faced by scholars in the field of queer studies. Most of these researchers are trying to determine whether or not the queer studies are able to establish a link between globalization, immigration, citizenship, and neo-liberalism in the society with respect to the queer of color. Scholars also need to understand whether or not the queer of color theory provides a critical response to the racist innuendos in white queer theory. The situation is seen as one of the elements in queer of color, which is linked to the creation of social class and discrimination (Johnson & Henderson 2005). Scholars have to deal with these obstacles.

Heterosexual Voices in African American Studies and White Voices in Queer Studies

The Dominance of Heterosexual Voices in African American Studies

There are several reasons why heterosexuals dominate the African American studies. For example, most heterosexuals are prolific writers who are not afraid of the unknown.

The heterosexual voices of prolific writers

The idea of “normal” is believed to have evolved with time. As a result, majority of writers in the history of African American studies were heterosexuals (Aboudaif 2015). They include, among others, Judith Butler, Leo Bersani, Lauren Berlant, and Lee Edelman. All of these scholars identify themselves as heterosexuals. The development is synonymous with the evolution of queer color theory as far as history of queer is concerned. Most of these scholars are believed to have introduced new dimensions into the normal human perspectives. In addition, they were individuals who were biologically and socially different from what is regarded as normal in the society (Ford 2007).

Prolific scholars, such as Roderick Ferguson, are well known in the field of African American studies. Ferguson is especially known for his writings in Aberrations in Black: Towards a Queer of Color Critique (Aboudaif 2015). His works have been used to define queer color. It is the basis on which the standard of comparisons between the heterosexual and the ‘abnormal’ occurrences in the society is anchored. The works of these writers further focus on the female feminist gender of the society. Their voices are also dominant in the definition of social factors, such as marriages, in the society.

The fear of the unknown

According to Marcus (2005), most of the books and other writings touching on homosexuality and bisexuality were not easily found on the shelves of most public libraries forty years ago. Where they occurred, the texts were described as feminism (Marcus 2005). According to Johnson and Henderson (2005), there has been a complex and mixed reaction to the topic of sexuality. In addition, privacy concerns, shame, and secrecy prohibited most homosexuals from providing comprehensive information on their sexual lives. The situation discouraged most writers from taking part in the field of African American studies. However, the trend is changing and most of these books are prominently displayed in public. People from the queer color group have also been the minority in the society since the early 1970s. The situation is believed to have provided unfair advantage to the heterosexual scholars in the field of African American studies (Ford 2007).

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The dominance of the white voices in the field of queer studies


The history of colonization and immigration is an important tool when it comes to the issues touching on the presumed Western form of education. According to Aboudaif (2015), the history of this form of formal education dates back to the 18th and 17th centuries in the European countries. The history can be traced back to the 19th century in the Western nations (Aboudaif 2015). It is one of the reasons why the field of queer studies is dominated by White voices.

Bias in formal education among earlier scholars

The beginning of the 20th century marks the time when most scholars embarked on studies regarding gender and sexuality (Brown 2008). Some of the scholars include David Eng, Judith Halberwstan, and Jose Esteban. The list is made up of researchers who are predominantly White. In addition, formal education and other resources were made accessible to White scholars at the time.

Aboudaif (2015) indicates that during the 21st century, most writings in gender and sexual issues were affected by the culture, beliefs, and social status of the scholars. Most Whites took advantage of this skewed allocation of cultural resources. What this means is that the people of color suffered from gender and racial specificity. They also presented an invisible line that distinguished them from other African American persons. In addition, the person of color was neglected in relation to the oppression of social, religious, and educational ideas.

Stringent African American perception

In the context of the African American society, the rules of the society are so cruel. The situation is especially critical for individuals opting to write on queer work (Marcus 2005). The difficulties are coupled with oppression from the Whites and discrimination on the basis of educational levels. There is also the presumed lack of consumers for the products of people of color for cultural and religious reasons.


The African American field of study has, for a long time, been dominated by heterosexual writers. One of the reasons for this is that those people who identified as queer were afraid of becoming visible in the scholarly field. The field of queer studies has also been dominated by white voices. The reason is that for a long time, people of color could not access the resources needed to conduct research in this field.


Aboudaif, Said. 2015. “After Criticism, a Call to Rethink Queer Theory.” The International Journal of Humanities & Social Studies 3, no. 3: 76-80.

Brown, Clarence. 2008. “Racism in the Gay Community and Homophobia in the Black Community: Negotiating the Gay Black Male Experience.” Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Web.

DiGrazia, Jennifer, and Boucher Michel. 2005. “Writing in Queeries: Bodies, Queer Theory, and an Experimental Writing Class.” Composition Studies 33, no. 2: 25-44.

Ford, Richard. 2007. “What’s Queer about Race?.” South Atlantic Quarterly 106, no. 3: 477-484.

Johnson, Patrick, and Mae Henderson. 2005. Black Queer Studies: A Critical Anthology. London: Duke University Press Books.

Marcus, Sharon. 2005. “Queer Theory for Everyone: A Review.” The University of Chicago Press Journals 31, no. 1: 191-218.

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