The Tolerance Trap: How God, Genes, and Good Intentions are Sabotaging Gay Equality

photo of Suzanna Walters
Suzanna Danuta Walters, Professor of Sociology and Director, WGSS Program Northeastern University
Event Date: 
April 6, 2016
Event Time: 
2239 Lane Hall
Event Accessibility : 
Ramp and elevator access at the E. Washington Street entrance (by the loading dock). There are accessible restrooms on the south end of Lane Hall, on each floor of the building. A gender neutral restroom is available on the first floor.
Event Tags: 
photo of Suzanna Walters

What’s wrong with tolerance? And how could it possibly undermine real gay equality? In this talk, Walters considers how the pseudo-science of “born this way” can combine with demands for marriage equality and a place in the military to create a “trap.” The trap is to imagine that being tolerated is the same as robust integration for America’s gay citizens. We tolerate what we find unpleasant: pain, medicine, annoying relatives. Walters looks at how science, law and popular culture work to create a world where we have marriage equality and gay celebrities, but we also have historically high rates of violence against LGBTQ citizens, a variety of anti-gay legal initiatives and a supposedly gay-friendly Hollywood where very few stars actually come out. Tolerance is not the end goal, but a dead end for anyone seeking genuine equality.

Suzanna Danuta Walters’ work centers on questions of gender, sexuality, family, and popular culture.  Her most recent book, The Tolerance Trap: How God, Genes, and Good Intentions are Sabotaging Gay Equality (NYU Press, 2014), explores how notions of tolerance limit the possibilities for real liberation and deep social belonging. Walters’ previous book, All the Rage: The Story of Gay Visibility in America (University of Chicago Press, 2001), examined the explosion of gay visibility in culture and politics over the past 15 years and raised pressing questions concerning the politics of visibility around sexual identity. She has also written extensively on feminist cultural theory, mothers and daughters in popular culture, queer theory and LGBT studies, and popular culture.

Her institutional impact is equally extensive. Walters founded the first Ph.D. program in gender studies at Indiana University, where she was a Professor of Gender Studies and held positions in Sociology and Communication and Culture. Previously, Walters has taught at Georgetown University and the Center for Narrative Research at the University of East London. She is currently Editor-in-Chief of Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society.

Cosponsored by the departments of Communication Studies and Screen Arts & Cultures.