Sunday, September 15, 2019
First Aired: 
Sunday, March 5, 2017

What is it

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Transsexual… it is safe to say that new ideas of gender and sexuality have broken into mainstream consciousness within the past few decades. What underlies each of these identities, however, is the notion of Queerness. But what defines what it means to be queer? Is it as much a political identity as it is a sexual or gender identity? How does ‘queerness’ subvert or challenge our notions of gender and sexuality? John and Ken welcome Susan Stryker from the University of Arizona, author of Transgender History: The Roots of Today's Revolution.

Listening Notes

What does it mean to be queer? Is it a sexual identity? Political identity? Or something else? Has it turned into simply an empty umbrella term? John and Ken introduce these questions as the episode begins. Ken suggests that the queer identity remains both contested and in flux.  John questions the usefulness of a term that has such a hard to define meaning. By examining the original definition of the word, however, they both can see why it this former slur has been reclaimed by people of varying genders and sexualities.

Our hosts are joined by Susan Stryker, Professor of Gender and Women's Studies at the University of Arizona and former Director of the Institute for LGBT Studies. Susan delves into the history of the word queer and the reasons for its reclamation. Ken remains puzzled about the particular choice of queer as the umbrella term for non-normative identities, to which Susan explains the historical beginnings of queer's modern usage and the benefits that it offers. An audience question via Instagram sparks discussion over the questions of what role pronouns play in one's life and identity.

An email question from an audience member brings up the issue of gendered bathrooms. Susan suggests that public bathrooms will inevitably require redesigning, and explains the need for education about the price of gendering bathrooms. Ken wonders how much accommodation the queer identity can make for accordance to the normalized structures and ideas that it seems to be in principle working against. John brings up the importance of television and the media in representing queer identities to society on a grand scale. These ideas and more and discussed with Susan as the episode comes to a close.

Roving Philosophical Reporter (seek to 6:43): Shuka Kalantari speaks with a trans woman who was forced to spend years in a male prison, and the choreographer of a queer-centric, dance theatre piece.

60-Second Philosopher (Seek to 46:03): Ian Shoales speaks about the complexities of being gay or lesbian in the past and the fall of Milo Yiannopoulos. 

Comments (2)

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Thursday, August 29, 2019 -- 7:47 AM

"Queer" is such an archaic

"Queer" is such an archaic term for other sexual orientations. I cringe whenever I hear or read it. One (this one, anyway) would think that with all the progress made by other-sexed individuals and groups representing them, that someone would have thought to erase this demeaning reference from the modern lexicon. Or maybe it is believed that it still makes a point, although I cannot fathom just what that 'point' might be. The 'N' word clings ferociously to our language, and, it remains acceptable for black people to use it among themselves. Question from a novitiate: is it ever acceptable for other persons of color (Hispanics; Indians; Asian/Pacific Islanders; etc.) to use the 'N' word? Or are they just as likely to be beaten to death if they were to do so so? I do not know, nor do I know if these sorts of questions are ever asked. With all the so-called political correctness and sensitivity flying around these days, one (this one) really begins to wonder how such contingencies might be overlooked. Trendiness has a way of eventually losing its appeal---and, impact. I don't follow anyone on Twitter; Facebook; Instagram or other venues. As long as my own life remains interesting, I can see no reason(s) for doing so. So, let's use queer in its' original context. Maybe some other-sexed people would also feel better about who they are? I hope this is not too radical for some to consider. If it is, those folks might ask themselves why they think so.

Maybe I'll set up my own blog, hmmmmmm? No, bad idea...I am not a follower(unless you count Philosophy Talk), so I ought not expect anyone to follow me.

Arendt's picture


Tuesday, September 17, 2019 -- 2:08 PM

Thank you for exploring this

Thank you for exploring this challenging topic; however, I have serious concerns about several aspects of this show:

1) That the show affirmed the gender fluidity movement's premise that sex is non-binary; and, seemed to suggest that the categories of female and male may very well have outlived their usefulness.

As a woman who has experienced eight "memorable" instances of sexual harassment, including 2 instances of violent sexual assault and 2 instances of lengthy, determined and aggressive stalking that may have resulted in rape or worse...all by male human beings, human beings with penises, I found the the show's dismissal of the bathroom issue as "silly"...alarming.

Not only are human males, on average, stronger and more violent than human females, they are also far more likely to commit all types of sexual harassment, including assault, stalking, exhibitionism and voyeurism. And, there is no reliable data that men who self-identify as women (many of whom retain male genitalia and are still sexually attracted to females) are any less violent than males who don't.

As such, women (i.e. human beings born with ovaries, human beings who are often subject to menstruation, pregnancy (sometimes, forced), child birth, lactation, and menopause) deserve sex-segregated spaces that acknowledge their material biological reality...sex-segregated communal toilets, showers, locker rooms, domestic abuse shelters, and prisons...spaces where girls and women are especially vulnerable to male sexual harassment.

2) That in a show on sex and gender, zero of the four voices heard (those of Ken Taylor, Josh Landry, Susan Stryker, and Ian Shoals) were WBW (women born women). How is this even possible? How can a discussion on sex and gender leave out the viewpoint of human beings actually subject to menstruation and pregnancy?

3) That in a show on sex, gender, and queerness ( VERY controversial issues these days), where were the voices critical of the gender fluidity movement?

Philosophy Talk presents itself as a show that questions everything. But, one has to wonder: is it really ready to question the assertions of the new gender fluidity movement?


Susan Stryker, Professor of Gender and Women's Studies and Director of the Institute for LGBT Studies, University of Arizona


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Spencer Giel

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