Gender Studies Essay

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Assignment: Comparative essay of two opposing theoretical articles:

  1. Use this week’s Shea and Whitla reading to help the process of comparing two theoretical works.
  2. One of the two essays must be the Somerville piece entitled “Scientific Racism and the Emergence of the Homosexual Body.” The other must come from an outside source (This needs the approval of your tutorial leader).
  3. Students will be expected to choose theoretical articles from different schools of thought relating to sexuality, i.e. gender studies; children’s studies; queer studies, etc. The second essay must come from a scholarly journal, such as differences, Signs, GLQ, Children’s Studies, Transgender Issues, Journal of Lesbian Studies, etc. (these will be elaborated on this coming Monday, Jan. 12 with a guest lecture from librarian, Kalina Grewal, who has vast knowledge concerning what journals might match well with the assignment).
  4. Once the essays are chosen, students must compare the two, providing their main argument. Some may support or relate to the argument found in Somerville’s piece; some may be similar.
  5. Next, give a brief introduction to the outside source (it’s main argument).
  6. Take a position on the two essays – agree with them, disagree with them – it’s your decision.
  7. The last component of the assignment is a reflection. What did you learn from the work done to complete it? Did it add to your knowledge or personal thoughts? Did it produce any revelations or new understandings of sexualities?

-must we use race as a factor in cultural assumptions that determine how individuals understand their relationships within this world, like in the case of homosexuality? Somerville (1994) says yes, I say no.

-does the dominance of scientific discourse associated with the dominant race during the late-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries mean that it was related to the invention of homosexuality? No, the relationship between scientific racism, medical discourse on sexuality, and the invention of homosexuality is that of coincidence but not causation. One may as well say that homosexuality was invented by the white population, which was the dominant racial group at that time.


Comparative Essay of Two Opposing Theoretical Articles


Introduction. 2

Article 1. 2

Article 2. 3

Comparison between the Two Articles. 4

Explanation of My Position on the Arguments Made in the Two Articles. 5

Reflection. 6

References. 7


Article 1

The first article (Somerville, 1994) discusses the issue of the emergence of homosexuality. In this article, homosexuality is viewed as a recent invention that emerged during the late nineteenth century. It emphasizes the role of theories of gender in shaping discourse on this invention. It also explores the role of discourse on the history of gender in providing insights on this discussion. For example, concurrent shifts in the way sex/gender roles are culturally organized have occurred. Similarly, changing ideologies of gender are said to play an important role in explaining the emergence of homosexuality.


            Somerville (1994) also examines the race factor in this debate, specifically the coincidence/relationship between race and invention of homosexuality. The author draws parallels between imaginary lines between black and white races during the late nineteenth century and the imaginary lines between homosexual and heterosexual demarcations. This article examines how discourses of race and sexuality during the late nineteenth century and early-twentieth century might not only be juxtaposed but also interlinked in a manner that illuminates them both.

            The article also examines the dominance of scientific discourse during this era and how it was linked to both scientific racism and the invention of homosexuality. The debate is on whether the invention of homosexuality coincided with or was caused by contemporary medical discourse and prevailing views on scientific racism. According to Somerville (1994), ideologies of race shaped understandings of gender from a scientific perspective. Sexologists used race to explain gender differences. Somerville (1994) argues that this may have contributed to the invention of homosexuality. This is a case of scientific discourse being shaped by prevailing scientific assumptions, views regarding race, and cultural conceptions. This indicates that race was merely one of the many factors that contributed to the invention of homosexuality.

In this article, the author also argues that sexologists were uneasy with the use of the term “homosexuality” to define the newly visible object they had discovered in their studies. Somerville (1994) draws parallels between this phenomenon and the contemporary uneasiness about miscegenation. This relationship may be coincidental, whereby the circumstances of the day influenced sexologists to draw parallels between race and changing sexuality/gender ideologies. The author also describes the contrast between physical and psychological conceptions of sexuality and their contribution to the emergence of homosexuality. In both cases, a link to racial discourse is made.

Article 2

            The second article, (Almeida et al., 2009), investigates the problem of perceived discrimination against LGBT (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender) youth based on their sexual orientation. Its main talking point is pegged on the presumed existence of an association between emotional distress and LGBT adolescents. In this article, an explanation for this emotional distress is explained. Emotional distress among LGBT adolescents is found to be as a result of perceived discrimination.

            This empirical paper generated several findings. One of them was that LGBT adolescents are more likely to be bullied than their heterosexual counterparts. Another finding was that emotional stress is manifested by self-harm, depressive symptomatology, and suicidal ideation (Almeida et al., 2009). The researchers found discrimination to be more prevalent among LGBT males than females. They also noted the possibility that the factors that contributed to depressive systems may be distributed differently among male and female LGBT adolescents. Sexual minority adolescents were found to live in an environment where their mental health could be affected negatively by the hostility therein.

The study emphasizes the need for efforts to be made to confirm these findings in future studies. Nevertheless, these findings are relevant for policy directions in Boston, Massachusetts where it was carried out in 2006. Almeida et al. (2009) argue that that despite efforts by the state to improve LGBT rights, discrimination based on sexuality is still rampant. This demonstrates the need for more concerted efforts to protect the inalienable rights of LGBT adolescents with a view to address the problems of emotional distress and perceived discrimination.

Comparison between the Two Articles

            Both articles examine the issue of LGBT although they do so from different conceptual and methodological perspectives. Somerville (1994) focuses on homosexuality and its emergence during the late nineteenth century. The author expresses his views as well as those of other scholarly works address the debate using the same conceptual approach. In contrast, Almeida et al. (2009) examine the state of this phenomenon in the present-day context. In this case, the debate goes beyond homosexuality to examine the wider LGBT framework. In Almeida et al. (2009), the debate on LGBT youth has been narrowed down to focus on only one theme: emotional distress and how it is influenced by perceived discrimination. Moreover, the article pins down their debate to a specific spatial-temporal context. In contrast, Somerville (1994) looks at the issue of homosexuality from a broader perspective of its emergence over a century ago and its relation to the debate on race.


Whereas Somerville (1994) reviews other scholars’ works on homosexuality, Almeida et al. (2009) report findings based on their own empirical study. The studies are also different in terms of the themes they discuss. Somerville (1994) explores the relationship between race and the emergence of homosexuality while Almeida et al. (2009) investigates how emotional distress affects LGBT adolescents due to perceived discrimination. Nevertheless, these two articles are similar in the sense that they contribute to the debate on the extent to which LGBTs are regarded as minorities by virtue of falling outside of the mainstream sexual orientation, which is heterosexuality.

Explanation of My Position on the Arguments Made in the Two Articles

I disagree with the way Somerville (1994) establishes a relationship between the emergence of homosexuality and the race debate during the nineteenth century. I hold the view that homosexuality would still have emerged at that time whether or not the race debate on “black” and “white” was ongoing. To argue that this relationship exists is like assuming that homosexuality was a creation of the white race, since this was the racial group whose members dominated medical and sexology discourse on the need to recognize the existence of homosexuality as a sexual/gender category. For this reason, I think that the race factor in the emergence of homosexuality was merely a coincidence. In case race played a role, which seems to have been the case going by Somerville’s (1994) arguments, it would be just one among the many sociocultural and historical factors that contributed to the emergence of homosexuality.

            I agree with Almeida et al. (2009) regarding the persistence of discrimination against LGBT adolescents based on their sexual orientation. It is true that this problem is a major cause of emotional distress for these people, and by extension perceived discrimination. These findings seem credible because of the way the researchers used an empirical approach to investigate a specific aspect of LGBT within a specific spatial-temporal context. The only problem is that towards the end of the paper, the authors emphasize the need for efforts to be made to confirm these findings in future studies. This statement implies that it may be wrong to use those findings as a basis for policy directions until they have been clarified through further research.


            The most important thing that I learned is that I should never underestimate the amount of time that is required to read two articles, highlight the main points, and finally compare and contrast them. This is a long exercise that requires a lot of concentration and analytical skills. I learned many things in the process of carrying out this exercise. For example, I realized that conceptual categorization of homosexuality as a sexual orientation did not exist prior to the late nineteenth century. The exercise also helped to change some of my personal thoughts regarding LGBTs. For example, I have realized that more needs to be done to fight for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. Finally, the work has enable me to understand various sexual identities in a new light; I now feel that LGBTs should enjoy the same rights as their heterosexual counterparts in terms of recognition by society.


Almeida, J., Johnson, R., Corliss, H., Molnar, B. & Azrael, D. (2009). Emotional Distress among LGBT Youth: The Influence of Perceived Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation. Journal of Youth Adolescence, 38, 1001–1014.

Somerville, S. (1994). Scientific Racism and the Emergence of the Homosexual Body. Journal of the History of Sexuality, 5(2), 243-266.

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