Date of Award

2020

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

Abstract

Identity Positivity in Decolonial Worlds: Making Room for Gender and Sexual Possibility defines identity positivity as theory that makes room for a full range of gender and sexual diversity, including LGBTQIA+ identities that are already well understood (such as gay and transgender) as well as forms of gender and sexual variation that are less known (such as asexual or mati) and identities still forming. Identity Positivity emphasizes the role of European and US colonial violence in enforcing western forms of gender, homophobia, and transphobia over the last 400 years, but it also criticizes Eurocentric queer theory for decades of advocating for conceptions of identity that also support western colonial power. This dissertation argues that pedagogical and reading practices that take these critiques into account have two main outcomes: first, recognition of gender and sexual variation that already exists; and second, creation of more space for people to be able to explore their own gender and sexuality apart from rigid definitions of what is acceptable for queerness. This second outcome is especially important because gender and sexually diverse people have high rates of mental distress and suicide risk, which are compounded by stigma against mental distress. Academic practices that assert wider ranges of diversity for gender and sexual variance, therefore, help readers and students see their identities, and by extension their very lives, as possible and worth pursuing. This dissertation explores these possibilities by recognizing radical identity theory in texts produced by online asexual communities, arguing for decolonial pedagogy in queer and transgender studies classrooms, reexamining what is queer in Michelle Cliff's fiction, and recognizing the value of mental distress in Cameron Awkward-Rich's poetry. Utilizing decolonial theory, queer and transgender of color criticism, and disability and mad studies scholarship, Identity Positivity argues for new ways of seeing LGBTQ studies that make room for all of who gender and sexually diverse people are and can be.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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