LGBTQ&A: Who We Are and How We Know – Abstract

From the nature of self-knowledge to the role of childbearing in society, there are a number of philosophical problems which queer people are uniquely situated to address. Questions which have inspired robust debate in Western philosophy stand at the heart of modern queer experience: What does it mean to know myself? What do we owe each other? How should I value my own happiness? Who am I? My study of LGBTIQ history, along with my own lived experience, has taught me that constructions of heterosexuality affect every aspect of social reality: Friendship, family, labor, love, aging, dying, justice. Nothing escapes the fray. The goal of my research is to propose a new model for understanding queer identity, and to use this model to explore other areas of philosophy through a lens of queer normativity.

My research will fall into three broad categories: Metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics, or application. The metaphysical questions concern the existence of queer identity and gender: What does it mean for an identity, or a person, to be queer? Could “queer” people exist in a just society? Is gender a biological, historical, or social reality, assuming it exists at all?

The epistemological questions concern how people understand queer identity—both their own and other peoples’. I will use the framework Fricker introduces in Epistemic Injustice to examine injustices which prevent queer people from understanding their own identities, and I will explore the consequences of the closet metaphor for “outness.”

Once I’ve laid the groundwork in metaphysics and epistemology, I will consider the ethical implications of my arguments, and apply the model I have created toward particular (as yet undecided) areas of social life, such as those listed above.

The ultimate end of this research is social justice. On a more personal level, I stand to learn something about myself by working on this project. I have long identified as gay and queer, and I am currently trying to determine my own gender identity. Studying the metaphysics of gender in class has already improved my understanding of my own gender, as different philosophical perspectives have given me new models to understand myself and my place in the world. I believe that this research would lead me to a place of greater comfort with and understanding of myself, and hope that the work I do in pursuit of this knowledge will be helpful for others as well.


(Credit to Emily Parrott, who suggested “LGBTQ&A”)