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“Queering Criminology”: Overview of the State of the Field

Abstract

This chapter provides an overview of the treatment of sexual orientation and gender identity issues and LGBTQ populations in the field of criminology. The chapter advances three main points. First, it argues that there is very little data on LGBTQ people’s experiences of crime, both in terms of victimization and offending. Second, the overwhelming majority of criminological engagement with sexual orientation and gender identity occurred prior to the 1980s, and discussed these concepts insofar as assessing whether “homosexuality”—a term that was often employed to describe non-heterosexual sexualities and gender non-conforming identities/expressions—was or was not a form of criminal sexual deviance. Third, to date, there is little to no theoretical engagement with sexual orientation and gender identity in each of the four major schools of criminological thought: biological, psychological, sociological, and critical. I argue that these three points are a reflection of the historical and continuing stigma of the sexual deviance framework on the treatment of sexual orientation and gender identity concepts, and LGBTQ people in the field. This chapter makes a call to “queer criminology,” which in my view, requires overcoming the sexual deviance framework and reorienting criminological inquiry to give due consideration to sexual orientation and gender identity as non-deviant differences that may shape people’s experiences of crime and experiences in the criminal justice system more generally.

Keywords

  • Crime data
  • Criminological theory
  • Gender identity
  • Intersectionality
  • Offending
  • Queer
  • Race
  • Sexual deviance
  • Sexual orientation
  • Sodomy laws
  • Victimization

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Notes

  1. 1.

    These offenses include murder and non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, arson, other assaults, forgery and counterfeiting, fraud, embezzlement, stolen property (buying, receiving and possessing), vandalism, weapons (carrying and possessing), prostitution and commercial vice, sex offenses (except forcible rape and prostitution), drug abuse violations, gambling, offenses against the family and children, driving under the influence, liquor laws, drunkenness, disorderly conduct, vagrancy, all other offenses (except traffic), suspicion, and curfew and loitering law violations.

  2. 2.

    Questions involving demographic characteristics are part of the NCVS Basic Screen Questionnaire, which is a separate document from the NCVS Crime Incident Report, which asks about the criminal incidents themselves. The point made here is based on the latest released version of the NCVS Basic Screen Questionnaire (covering July 2008 through December 2009).

  3. 3.

    In the latest released version of the NCVS Crime Incident Report (covering July 2008 through December 2009), Question 161 reads: “Do you have any reason to suspect the incident just discussed was a hate crime or crime of prejudice or bigotry?” The participants can then answer yes/no. Question 162 reads: “Do you suspect that the offender(s) targeted you because of…” 162(e) states “your gender” and the participants can check yes/no/don’t know. 162(f) states “your sexual orientation” and the participants can check yes/no/don’t know. Question 165 asks about the evidence that made participants suspect that the incident was a hate crime or crime of prejudice or bigotry. 165(a) asks: “Did the incident occur on or near a holiday, event, location, gathering place, or building commonly associated with a specific group (for example, at the Gay Pride March or at a synagogue, Korean church, or gay bar)?” The participants can then answer yes/no/don’t know.

  4. 4.

    In the year that Braithwaite released his theory, Western Australia decriminalized homosexuality under the Law Reform (Decriminalization of Sodomy) Act of 1989. However, decriminalization laws had been enacted previously in other areas of Australia. For instance, South Australia became the first Australian jurisdiction to decriminalize sodomy in 1972. In 1976 and 1980, some aspects of homosexual behavior were decriminalized in Australian Capital Territory and Victoria. In 1983, Northern Territory decriminalized homosexual acts between men in 1983, and New South Wales in 1984 (Bull et al. 1991).

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Acknowledgments

Thank you to Loraine Gelsthorpe and Caroline Lanskey—and most especially to Michael Rice—at the Institute of Criminology at the University of Cambridge for their support and comments in helping me to develop these ideas. I am also appreciative of the useful suggestions of Dana Peterson and Vanessa R. Panfil.

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Woods, J.B. (2014). “Queering Criminology”: Overview of the State of the Field. In: Peterson, D., Panfil, V. (eds) Handbook of LGBT Communities, Crime, and Justice. Springer, New York, NY. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-9188-0_2

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