Queers bash back : LGBTQ gun owners and queer(ing?) politics in the United States

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2022-05-09

Authors

Combs, Thatcher Phoenix

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Since 2020, the United States has seen increased gun sales and gun violence. The Covid-19 pandemic and increases in violence against minorities have spurred a plethora of minorities to become gun owners. Yet, most studies of gun violence equate gun ownership with white conservative men. However, this focus provides an incomplete picture of a very diverse community of gun owners and the variety of reasons for gun ownership, with sexuality, gender, race, and class all shaping issues surrounding firearms and violence. This dissertation centers this complexity through the case of LGBTQ gun owners, who are caught in the crosshairs between the political Left and Right. I draw on 50 interviews, gathered from 2020-2021 with LGBTQ gun owners across the United States, to investigate the paradox of gender and sexual minority gun owners and ask: 1) How do some LGBTQ people become gun owners? 2) How do LGBTQ gun owners navigate their seemingly opposing identities as gender and sexual minorities and as gun owners? and 3) How do LGBTQ gun owners understand self-defense, violence, and guns? In answering these questions, I find that LGBTQ gun owners’ perspectives on self-defense, violence, and guns center on forgoing reliance on structural change and, instead, taking self-protection into their own hands. This individualized response focuses on how broader macro-level reliance on laws and policies for social change and progress may not reflect the everyday experiences of some marginalized groups. Furthermore, their perspectives highlighted historical denial of gun ownership as a means of disempowering minorities. This lens helps shape their understandings of (non)inclusion within LGBTQ and gun rights communities, as well as their politics. This dissertation illustrates how the centering of a queer analysis adds to sociological understandings of guns and hegemonic masculinity.

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