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Essay: LGBT subcultures can be a form of resistance against dominant cultures

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  • Subject area(s): Sociology essays
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  • LGBT subcultures can be a form of resistance against dominant cultures
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In recent years, there has been a deeper understanding of queer youth cultures, with society becoming more accepting. However, there is still stigmatisation towards LGBT youth which often leads to them creating their own subcultures which can be a form of resistance against dominant cultures. Queer theory is a movement away from the idea that there are just ‘men’ and ‘women’ in society today and that there is now a wider range of sexualities and genders which are more fluid (Saunders, 2017). Over the years, subcultures have had a variety of definitions and been the subject to change. Subcultures are groups of people who tend to have something in common with each other, which is often what distinguishes them from other groups within society (Hall and Jefferson, 2012). Foucault suggests that sexuality is not a natural feature of human life but a constructed category of experience which has historical, social and cultural, rather than biological origins. He highlighted the crucial role of institutions and discourses in the formation of sexuality and was concerned with how sexuality functions with society (Foucault and Hurley, 1990).

The Chicago School of Sociology built the foundations for subcultural theory and analysis and were interested in making sense of the groups cultures and considered the city a social laboratory. The focus was to carry out detailed ethnographic work and using participant observation to collect rich qualitative data. One of the major works to come from the Chicago school is the idea of ‘human ecology’ which suggests that the city is an ecological organism in which different groups are competing for resources and in society these subcultures have their own belief system. The Zonal Hypothesis provided an explanation of urban development, with the city evolving through concentric circles with each layer representing a different circle of social and cultural life. Burgess constructed a social map of the city to provide a deeper understanding of the social organisation of the city in which can be understood on a sociological basis; he suggested that the heart of the city is business district which is characterised by a small residential population due to high property value and zone of transition is characterised by residential deterioration and an area in which there is constant change, with the high levels of delinquency in this area a result of social disorganisation (Gelder, 2005)

Albert Cohen researched delinquent working class youth subcultures in the poorer areas of the city. He found that they were frustrated towards their status so in turn created a connection with others who were experiencing similar frustration and carried out delinquent activities.

LGBT youth make up 24% of the homeless population, often due to the rejection they faced from their family after ‘coming out’ (The Big Issue, 2017). This is increased where families were working class, where they already struggle to provide support to their member, but this demand is then intensified when an individual comes out as LGBT. Not only do they face this discrimination at home, it often continues into their education too from their peers. This sense of not belonging leads them to suffering from bullying and exclusion in all aspects of their lives, this can lead LGBT individuals to leaving the family home, mental health problems, abuse and victimisation, suicide and many other problems linked to their gender and sexuality. Being socially excluded from the dominant values leads them to form groups with people who have similar experiences or ideas as them.

One individual refused to describe their current state as being ‘homeless’ after leaving their family home but as a state of ‘displacement’, as they were just finding their feet after leaving their childhood family home and trying to find employment before starting a new life with a support system who were accepting of them and supportive. This can be seen as a form of resistance, as many LGBT youth are resisting against their family’s negative viewpoints by refusing to accept their opinions and leaving their homes with nothing and then seeking a better life for themselves and building a new support system. They often have no choice in leaving the family home, due to individuals feeling like they haven’t chosen to be a certain gender or sexuality, it is just who they were born as. There are centres across America which are dedicated to tackling youth homelessness, which are considered communities by those facing homelessness (Oakley, 2018).

The Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies (CCCS) were concerned with explaining the emergence of working class youth subcultures through subcultural theory and analysis in the period after world war II in Britain. They focused on a variety of British youth subcultures, including the Mods and Rockers, teddy boy culture and skinheads, looking at symbolic explanations to the behaviour of working class youth. The CCCS moved away from seeing youth subcultures as a form of deviance but more towards a form of resistance towards hegemony. Hegemony is how the dominant class in society maintains their authority and transmitting their ideologies throughout society to make the subordinate class conform to their beliefs, this is seen in institutions within society such as the police (Bates, 1975).

Within schools in the United Kingdom, it is guided to teach about issues including gender identity and same sex marriage. This however is just a guidance, so schools have the freedom to choose whether or not they teach about LGBT relationships, what information they provide about relationships and sex education. A large 95% of students had not learnt about LGBT relationships which is evidence that schools are failing to teach students appropriately about relationships (Beattie, 2018). Facing this challenge with many youth struggling to understand their identity, they turn to the online world to make sense of themselves. This is a place in which youth can find valuable information on LGBT and a support system as individuals are learning about themselves, where online it is easier to create links with people who LGBT youths say are often more supportive than their connections in their offline lives (Palmer et al, 2018). In some states in America, a workshop is taking place within schools to normalise minority genders and sexualities and to help stop the stigma surrounding LGBT relationships. (TedxYouth, 2013).

In the 1950s and 1960s, the LGBT community were still subject to violence and harassment and homosexuality was still considered to be a crime in 49 states. The Stonewall Inn is a gay bar in New York City, which was part of a huge movement in resistance for the LGBT community. The Stonewall inn was operated by the New York Mafia, who had an agreement with the police to keep the doors open and in order to make a profit they over charged customers for their drinks. Gay bars like the Stonewall were considered a safe haven for members of the LGBT community, however they were still subject to harassment and were threatened to be exposed to their workplace, friends and families. The police regularly raided the stonewall inn and those customers who were not wearing gender appropriate clothing were subject to violence or a fine. During the early hours of the 28th June 1969, police raided the Stonewall inn and was the outbreak of a riot which lead to become a successful movement in gaining rights for the LGBT community. If those individuals who were in the Stonewall Inn on the night of June 28th 1969 didn’t resist the police orders and fight back for rights, then the LGBT community could be a very different place today and many people may not be as accepting as they are in modern society.

In more recent years, the post subcultural theory towards youth subcultures would suggest that these subcultures no longer exist within society with the shift in dynamics within youth. They were critical of the CCCS, although they are still regarded as using a scientific method much of their work fails to reflect the twenty – first century and suggested that the era of working class youth resisting subordination was in the past. Post – subcultural sociologists would argue that in a modern society, the boundaries between clearly defined subcultures have become blurred and youth today have much more freedom to define themselves. They argue that in modern society, there is much more fluidity and individuals are no longer tied to one defining subcultures but can pick and choose aspects from various previously defined subcultures to create a sense of individuality.

Post modernists who argue that youth subcultures are in decline put forward the idea of a social group that is no longer tied to social class. Neo – tribes are a response to increasing individualisation, with people no longer seeing themselves as part of a social group but as an individual who can construct their own identity. A neo – tribe is still a social group, but is based upon emotional solidarity, lifestyle choices and consumer choices rather than a shared social position in society. Instead of a place in a subculture being ascribed, a place in a neo – tribe is achieved. Neo – tribes contain a wide range of social class backgrounds and are seen to be a type of escapism from individual’s weekly lives, where they can have fun rather than in the past where they were for political reasons and class based resistance. Individuals have the fluidity to move in and out of neo – tribes (Maffesoli, 2000).

In modern society, people are much more open to talking about their gender and sexuality. In the media, television and movie making, the once negative images of homosexual characters have been transformed into a more positive and up beat characters, and there has been a rise in the number of characters within the media. This positive image is a good step to normalising what many people still see today as a bad thing and to stop the stigmatisation surrounding the LGBT community, but one should not be ashamed of their gender or sexuality (McLelland, 2005). Big networking sites such as Facebook has over 60 gender options to choose from and video games, such as the sims, has lifted the gender restrictions when creating characters. This can be seen as a revolutionary step for the LGBT community, as their previous years of resistance against societal norms has allowed them to be recognised when creators are making changes to their content (Wortham, 2016). Shows such as Ru Pauls Drag race are a form of resistance and a voice for the LGBT community, it pushes the boundaries set by society and the government. In America, under the election of the new president they have seen a backwards movement in LGBT becoming normalised and they are once again being marginalised. Those who participate in drag are seen as a form of political resistance against society and they are fighting for what the equality they believe in (Cooper, 2017).

Overall, subcultural theory has given us a greater insight into the obdurate forms of resistances about LGBT or queer theory resistance. A key movement in the resistance of LGBT and queer cultures is the Stonewall movement in New York, without this form of resistance much of the rights the LGBT community have today wouldn’t exist. The Chicago school provides evidence about how LGBT groups in areas of lower income are more likely to suffer from discrimination but resist through rejecting the negative stigma and work towards making a better life for themselves. There is evidence that the education system is failing the LGBT community by not providing enough information about the diverse range of genders and sexualities seen within society today, so youth use online sources to find the information, which can be considered a form of resistance. This is because LGBT individuals go online and create an online subculture with those experiencing similar struggles. Although the LGBT community still has a long way to go to gain equality, the forms of resistance are a strong voice in their fight.

9.1.2019

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