Book chapter

Children in LGBT Political Discourses in the United States (2020)

in: Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics

Abstract

The role of the symbolic child figure has shifted substantially within discourses of LGBT politics and activism in the United States since World War II. From the 1950s well into the 1980s, the putatively heterosexual child was portrayed as the potential victim of homosexuality—victimized by influence, predation, and infection. By the early 21st century, the child had become a figure who was often represented as benefiting from LGBT civil rights—either as the child of lesbian or gay parents whose union was strengthened by the acquisition of civil benefits and protections or as a young gay or trans person struggling to accept a non-normative identity. This cultural shift both reflected and helped generate specific governmental and institutional policies—from the sexual psychopath laws of the 1950s, to the emergence of school-based Gay-Straight Alliances in the 1990s, to the central role of the child in debates over same-sex marriage in the 2000s.