Queer (In)Justice: The Criminalization of LGBT People in the United States.

Author:Beauchamp, Toby
Position:Book review
 
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Queer (In)Justice: The Criminalization of LGBT People in the United States.

By Joey L. Mogul, Andrea J. Ritchie, and Kay Whitlock

(Beacon Press, 2011).

The 2003 Supreme Court case Lawrence v Texas, which struck down sodomy laws in the United States, tends to stand in the cultural imagination as the moment in which queer criminalization formally ended. With the repeal of this antiquated law, it seemed to many the criminal legal system could now fully protect rather than punish queer and gender-nonconforming people. And indeed, it is now commonplace for local police to shepherd gay pride marches and for hate crimes legislation to sit atop the gay agenda, while cases of continued queer criminalization come to seem individualized and anomalous.

Turning "a queer lens" on law and order in the United States, Queer (In) Justice powerfully demonstrates how non-normative gender and sexuality are pervasively linked with crime both historically and currently. Drawing on extensive case studies, interviews, court records, and academic works, the authors argue that the policing of gender and sexuality is central to all facets of the criminal legal system, from police profiling and courtroom arguments to sentencing and incarceration practices. In each case, they stress the ways that gender and sexuality are mutually constitutive with race, class, disability, citizenship, age, and religion--a focus that not only accounts for the varying ways queer and transgender people experience the criminal legal system, but also complicates popular narratives about that system. For example, the common story of sodomy laws casts them as outdated relics of homophobic oppression, analogous to discriminatory laws for racial or gender segregation. The book addresses this story early on, explaining how sodomy laws are not singular or isolated, but emerged and shifted in various religious and colonial contexts that had as much to do with shoring up race and gender hierarchies as with forbidding particular sexual behaviors. By describing these laws' complex cultural underpinnings as well as their punitive measures that varied along lines of race, class, and gender, the authors lay groundwork for two of the book's major themes: that the criminalization of "deviant" gender and sexuality is always racialized and classed, and that this criminalization is systemic rather than born of a biased individual or single problematic law.

Queer (In)Justice builds these arguments first by...

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