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The No-Nonsense Guide to Sexual Diversity

Baird, Vanesse
Publisher:  Between the Lines, Toronto, Canada
Resource Type:  Book

An examination of the ways in which tolerance and hostility have manifested themselves throughout history, and in current attitudes toward sexual diversity.


Abstract:  An examination of the ways in which tolerance and hostility have manifested themselves throughout history, and in current attitudes toward sexual diversity. Vanessa Baird divides her work into eight topics: globalization, social movements, history, homophobia, politics, religion, science and transgender issues. All chapters examine themes of power, patriarchy, oppression, and how citizens' lives intersect with the interests of the state.

The author examines varying forms of sexual expression, and the various moral responses to non-heteroesexual and minority sexual behaviours. Attitudes toward non-heterosexuality have ranged from peaceful acceptance to violent oppression and together have shaped a complex minority heritage.

Globalized news media have highlighted important human rights issues and have allowed minority communities to become aware of resources that are available to them. The advent of gay visibility has enabled people to overcome social isolation that would otherwise afflict sexual minorities in less-tolerant nations. Baird's brief history of the sexual minority movement chronicles important milestones of queer politics. Though she acknowledges parallels with feminism, Baird strives to make issues of sexuality distinct and valid in their own right. She emphasizes that constructions of gender and sexuality are not universal and that an understanding of each society's unique character is vital. The concept of a self-directed sexuality has existed in theory -- and practice -- throughout documented history. Baird examines cultures of sexual tolerance including ancient Greece and Rome, Africa, Europe, China, France, Native North America and medieval Islam. The variable balance between sexual freedom and procreative duties has shaped social standards and expectations, and the organization of social life.

Sexual orientation is frequently equated with morality, which has often led to violence against perceived sexual deviants. State and church-sanctioned prejudice is further compounded by social stigma and systematic discrimination. Though restrictive ideologies of the family have hindered formal acceptance of sexual diversity, leftist political parties have still managed to achieve significant gains in the field of rights legislation in many countries.

Scientific study of homosexual activity in the animal kingdom and an increased knowledge of behavioural psychology have both contributed to the broadening of theories of sexuality. Baird addresses the "nature versus nurture" debate and questions whether scientific research can be an asset, a detriment or an irrelevant side note to broader, more important human rights concerns. The work ends with an examination of emerging Trans Liberation issues and a brief comment on the importance of social activism.

The condensed nature of the "No-Nonsense" format makes this book it ideal for those unacquainted with studies of gender and sexuality. The inclusion of historical and contemporary references highlight the themes explored in the guide, and make an engaging topic even more accessible.

[Abstract by Heather Skelton]

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