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homophobia and heterosexism

  Though interrelated, these terms accurately refer to different exercises of oppression. Homophobia literally refers to the fear of lesbians, gays or otherwise queer subjects. The term is used vaguely, however, to describe sentiments ranging from the unease to disgust or hatred, and can be directed at others or oneself (see performativity; psychoanalytic theory, geography and). By contrast, heterosexism refers to the biases in society towards hetero-normativity (see queer theory), signalling the ways that heterosexuality is uncritically assumed (see discourse) or directly claimed to be the normal, best, or only form of sexuality. Both homophobia and heterosexism can take a wide variety of forms (e.g. feelings, actions, structures, etc.) or magnitudes (from subtle to blatant), and can be witnessed in a wide variety of geographies.

There are at least two ways that geography is implicated by these terms. By the early 1990s a growing number of geographers noticed a reluctance or \'squeamishness\' to discuss sexualities (see private and public spheres), signalling a certain homophobia (where ignorance is equated with fear) in the discipline\'s research agenda (Knopp, 1992). This point spurred a critique of the discipline\'s heterosexism even within its more progressive wings (Binnie, 1997). Out of these critiques emerged a substantive and impressively diverse strand of research that shows the importance and diversities of sexualities\' relations with space (see difference; sexuality, geography and).

A second, and much more disparate relevance has been detected by work that points to homophobia and heterosexism vis-à-vis geographers\' own sexualities. This theme can be traced through direct harassment (Valentine, 1998), the use of pseudonyms for authors or places in publications (e.g. Jay, 1997), or the relevance of sexuality to the ways geographers and explorers approached the field. Even the momentous decision to close Harvard University\'s geography department in 1948 was influenced partially by heterosexism and homophobia (Smith, 1987). (MPB)

References Binnie, J. 1997: Coming out of geography. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 15: 223-38. Jay, E. 1997: Domestic dykes: the politics of \'in-difference\'. In G. Ingram, A. Bouthillette, A. and Y. Retter, eds, Queers in space. Seattle: Bay Press, 163-70. Knopp, L. 1992: Sexuality and the spatial dynamics of capitalism, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 10: 651-69. Smith, N. 1987: Academic war over the field of geography. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 77: 155-72. Valentine, G. 1998: Sticks and stones may break my bones. Antipode 30: 305-32.



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