Associate Professor of Government
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Gary Lehring earned his B.A. and M.A. from the University of Illinois and his Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
I teach a number of courses that explore the intersection of politics, gender and sexuality. I regularly teach the Politics of Gender and Sexuality (GOV 269) and have offered the seminars Gay and Lesbian Politics and Theory, Queer Theory, and The Body Politics: Politics of the Body. Additionally, I have directed WST 100: Issues in Queer Studies and regularly lecture in this course, when not directing it. In GOV 269, arguments that suggest gender and sexuality are natural expressions of a core identity are treated critically. Instead gender is treated as both a process and an institution, making political analyses and investigation both possible and unavoidable. Similarly, in my related seminars, the idea that sexuality should provide the basis of a politics of identity is kept under constant scrutiny, even as the ideas, history and culture of the lesbian and gay movement are investigated and explored.
My research focuses on the way that public policies help shape and change our understanding of lesbian and gay identity. I have published a number of articles on lesbian and gay politics including pieces about gay liberation, the political history of the gay movement Queer Nation and gays in the military. My book Officially Gay: The Political Construction of Gay Identity addresses this latter topic in greater detail. My new research project examines the intersection between globalization and identity politics, focusing on the emergent gay liberation movements in central America.
Officially Gay: The Political Construction of Sexuality by the U.S. Military
by Gary L. Lehring
In 1993, simply the idea that lesbians and gays should be able to serve openly in the military created a firestorm of protest from right-wing groups and powerful social conservatives that threatened to derail the entire agenda of a newly elected president. Nine short years later, in the wake of September 11, 2001, the Pentagon's suspension of discharge of gay and lesbians went largely overlooked and unremarked by political pundits, news organizations, military experts, religious leaders and gay activists. How can this collective cultural silence be explained?
Officially Gay follows the military's century-long attempt to identify and exclude gays and lesbians. It traces how the military historically constructed definitions of homosexual identity relying upon religious, medical, and psychological discourses that defined homosexuals as evil, degenerate and unstable, making their risk to national security obvious and mandating their exclusion from the Armed Services.
Officially Gay argues that this process made possible greater regulation and scrutiny of gays and lesbians both in and out of the military while simultaneously helping to create a gay and lesbian political movement and to shape the direction that the movement would take.
"Lehring has done an excellent job in positioning his argument in the current post-September 11th cultural/political/legal context. His gritty case studies enliven the analytical points he makes. Officially Gay is a book that is interesting and valuable to several fields—law and society, gay and lesbian studies, gender studies, and public policy studies." –Cynthia Enloe, author of Maneuvers: The International Politics of Militarizing Women's Lives