The Encyclopedia of Behavior Sciences specifies the core concepts of Western humanism as being identity, science, truth and authenticity . And out of the impulse to define the cultural relevance of these concepts as articulations of current social theory, normative identity movements have arisen to challenge the structuralist ideologies that produced them.
The main purpose of these identity movements was to transform society in such a way as to more accurately reflect individual interests and world view. For a movement to occur there needs to be a sense of common identity or purpose, and sufficient political/economic space to mobilize the movement. This was apparent in the labor rights movements and women’s suffrage movements of the late 19th and early 20th century. Ultimately, the fermentation of these efforts resulted in a variety of movements midwived by the Civil Rights Era. Beginning with racial freedom, women’s rights, and liberation from repressive binary sexual and gender strictures, its repercussions unleashed an avalanche of social upheaval, resulting in the American Psychiatric Association voting to remove the stigma of homosexuality as a mental illness from the Diagnostic Statistical Manual in 1973. Though much to the chagrin of the moral majority, this identity movement cut a swath which paved the way for a new path of the social deconstruction process, birthing the emergence of Queer Rights social action and advocacy groups. And thus the struggle with “gay rights” began, fueled by the conflict that arose between moralists and their rivals, the liberal thinking Americans who wanted nothing less than the same constitutional protections guaranteed all citizens: the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
After gay liberation began to build momentum in the United States there was no stopping the movement, as this fledgling identity movement galvanized a cohort to work incessantly to modify social norms that affect individual’s private, civil, and professional lives. Today the movement’s initiatives aim for acceptance of differences and want to change social stereotypes. These differences are of a sexual, intellectual, or physical nature, such as sexual orientation, whose participants feel that they are the victims of prejudice.
However, as the movement evolved and as research would eventually indicate, it became obvious that sex and gender were really two different aspects of a very complex subject. What had been formerly thought as ‘deviant behavior’ ultimately became accepted and embraced simply as naturally occurring aspects of human character that not only were beyond control, but that in fact were greatly misunderstood, and fascinating components of being human.
The Rise of Queer Theory: Evolving Trends in Gender Variance
Prior to the eventuality of the APA’s removal of homosexuality as a disorder, people who did not fit into nice neat binary categories either stayed hidden, or gathered in secret societies and social clubs that would never have been considered worthy of inclusion in a Norman Rockwell gallery depicting vignettes of mainstream society. Mainstream society had been groomed to reject with suspicion and disgust appearances of non-gender normative social models. As such, there were no visible Modern Day families, no Will and Grace, no Angels in America, and definitely no Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. Prior to the Civil Rights Movement, words and ideas like fag, dyke and queer represented the worst social stigma known to society. Deemed worse than wife beaters, murderers, and rapists, non-traditionally oriented folk were considered deviant, the lowest of the low, on par with child molesters.
However, the removal of homosexuality from the list of mental disorders in the mid 70’s dramatically changed the tenor of public discourse around topics of sexual orientation and behavior. Changes in clearly defined gender roles and characteristics began to be reflected in appearances of unisex hairstyles and fashion, erasing the boundaries that reinforced the assumptions of binary gender identification and expression. Once public silence had been broken on dialogues surrounding the mystique of non-hetero normative social and sexual practices in American culture in the 1980’s, a new wave of intellectual curiosity arose concurrently, taking the form of what came to be regarded as Queer Theory. According to the Encyclopedia of Behavior Sciences 
‘Queer theory’ is a theoretical movement with political counterparts that is in constant flux and development, and is characterized more by what it challenges and contests than by what it offers in the shape of a unified social theory. It draws on the work of theorists such as Eve Sedgwick and Judith Butler. Queer Theory ‘describes those gestures or analytical models which dramatize incoherencies in the allegedly stable relations between chromosomal sex, gender and sexual desire (Jagose 1996). In this sense, queer theory is a challenge to the obvious categories (man/woman, butch/femme), oppositions (man vs. woman, heterosexual vs. homosexual), or equations (gender/sex) upon which conventional notions of sexuality and identity rely’ (Hennessy 1993). Queer theory argues instead that sexual desire and sexual practices are not reducible or explicable solely in terms of identity categories, such as gender, race, class, or sexual orientation. It is radically anti-essentialist, in that it challenges a notion of homosexuality as intrinsic, fixed, innate, and universally present across time and space. Queer theorists reject any mode of thought that relies on a conception of identity as unified and self-evident (e.g., I have sex with people of. the opposite sex, therefore I must be heterosexual), and instead demonstrate that desires, sexual practices, and gendered identities are performances and enactments, rather than expressions of ‘true’ subjectivity. Heterosexuality is therefore challenged by queer theory not simply as a ‘hegemonic’ mode of identity, but as a false claim to unity and coherence that is constantly undermined by the incoherencies of sex and gender, incoherencies that the queer analytic hopes to expose and celebrate.
Since the early 1990s, ‘Transgender’ as a term has emerged rapidly in the United States to describe someone assigned to one gender who, in one respect or another, does not perform or identify as that gender, and has taken some steps, temporarily or permanently, to modify parts of their person in order to align themselves more authentically with their self-perception. The emergence of ‘Transgender’ has been shown to be evident in journalism, in popular media representations, in both legislative and academic settings, and in both advocacy and activism.
David Valentine, anthropological ethnographer and author of Imagining Transgender  (pg. 33) writes about how the institutionalization of transgender as a category was shaped by the convergence of several intersecting contexts, including those of public health, social services, academics and legislative realms. In his research, he found that many of those labeled transgendered by activists did not know the term or resisted its use. Instead, he reports, they identified as “gay”, a category of sexual rather than gender identity. In analyzing the differences between these two categories he rejects the conflation of these two categories as being contextually similar, and instead points out the distinctions between them.
Sexual orientation speaks more of specific behaviors engaged in by particular persons, whereas gender orientation speaks specifically about the manner in which a person expresses their psycho-emo-spiritual inclinations irrespective of their sexual inclinations. Sexual orientation belies the attractions that people have toward certain others relative to either character or genital attributes (or both). The concept of Transgender essentially separates the biological/sexual component from the psychic component, and removes the collectivism that in the past had drawn direct lines of association between sexual behavior and gender expression. No longer is it applicable to assume that because one’s gender is the opposite of their biological/genital appearance, that they are ‘gay’. Nor is it appropriate to assume that because they self-identify as “straight” that they are only inclined to engage in sexual behaviors with their binary opposite.
On the other hand, Transgender dissolves the idea of collectivity, and divides the categories of sex and gender into sorting bins that differentiate the two classifications as distinct and separate aspects of personhood. The old notion that those who do not conform to societally constructed ideas about gender norms are exhibiting ‘deviant’ behavior is replaced with non-stigmatizing language that affirms all gender expression as equally valid forms of variance. The general idea is this: a Transgender person is any individual who finds themselves left out of society’s usual gender roles. The term “Transgender” does not necessarily invoke any particular sexual orientation. Transgender people may identify as gay, straight, bisexual, or anywhere in-between .
Advocacy and Activism: Sprouting Wings
In terms of Advocacy and Activism on behalf of people who have been marginalized and discounted as a result of their non-conformance to socially sanctioned gender codes, initiatives have formed through subsequent decades consequentially protecting and defending constitutional rights as citizens of the United States. These efforts to secure equal rights have served individuals on a variety of levels.
On the individual level, following the removal of the homosexuality from the DSM, with homosexuality no longer perceived as a disorder to be treated and cured, individuals struggling with the internal stress and external pressure to conform, needed no longer deny their authentic natures. Furthermore, since sexual orientation was no longer considered by the psychological and medical fields to be pathological, the treatments took on less a curative approach, and became more supportive and affirming of the individual’s organic mental health process.
But it was one event in particular that spawned an era of advocacy and activism that would echo far into the future. The Stonewall riots of 1969 were, according to Wikipedia “ a series of spontaneous, violent demonstrations against a police raid that took place in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn, in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City. They are frequently cited as the first instance in American history when people in the homosexual community fought back against a government-sponsored system that persecuted sexual minorities, and they have become the defining event that marked the start of the gay rights movement in the United States and around the world”. David Valentine (Imagining Transgender) writes about the influence of Stonewall on the social institutional fabric, stating that, from the perspective of the Stonewall activists, that the pathologization of homosexuality was anathema, and furthermore was seen as central to the broader homophobic structures they sought to overturn (pg. 54). From that point on, gay and lesbian activists adopted a variety of tactics including disrupting meetings of the American Psychiatric Association, picketing events, and engaging in other protests. Their platform sought to change the idea that homosexuality was pathological, and that it was a natural variation of sexual behavior. This timely period coincided with ‘major transformations within psychiatry’ (pg. 55), particularly among those who were opposed to the pathologization of homosexuality. Also, the profession, coincidentally, was beginning to place more emphasis on empirically based research which led to the ultimate removal of homosexuality as a disorder from the DSM.
Subsequently, with the stigma now removed from institutions that usually referred to the DSM to take its cues regarding how to perceive and thus diagnose certain behavioral proclivities, the LGBT community began to gain more credibility, support and political power, as it began to sprout wings, in many realms, political, sociological, legal, and judicial. On the community level, mutual self-help support groups and organizations emerged in the form of LGBT community centers that sought to act as resource liaisons for mediation, service provision, and education to meet the needs of the individuals and their families who were frequently denied services because of their sexual orientation or gender status. These community services often link the individual with legal services, medical services, housing options etc. Colleges and Universities began to affirm LGBT history as a field of study, and created departments dedicated to research, while providing affirming support services for LGBT students and faculty. These types of organizations often work in concert with other local advocacy and activism organizations such as:
· P-FLAG: Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays
· MCC: Metropolitan Community Church
· HRC: Human Rights Campaign
· GLSEN: Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network
Finally, the passage of the Matthew Shepard Act ensuring protections against hate crimes for all persons (including sexual minorities) was signed into effect by president Barack Obama on October 28, 2009.
Our culture from birth attempts to label the individual according to its biological genital characteristics. And thus identities are constructed according the roles that each of the binary categories are assigned.
The conflation of two separate aspects of human lives, gender and sexuality, rely on the belief that sexuality and gender are in fact two separate domains. However, reflecting on the etiology of either, it is probably difficult to prove which began first, or which domain had more impact on the other. Even the earliest psychologists identified sexual behaviors in humans from birth, prior to the appearance of gender specific preferences. Gender is best understood as a construct, but the person does not consciously participate in the construction process until the ego appears in more highly developed form further along its developmental chain. By the time the physical/biological domain catches up with and intersects with the emotional/psychological domain, the result is more likely to be a product of the mix of both domains intersecting and modulating throughout all stages and channels of development.
In a binary system, there is a tendency to ignore the variety that exists outside the realm of the two extremes. Doing so does a disservice to those who do not fall into a binary category in either realm, gender or sexuality. The world is neither all black nor all white. Each aspect of created being displays a vast array of variance. Why would gender and sexuality be exempt?
In spite of the obsession with enforced binary codes being transmitted culturally through each succeeding generation, strides are being made to unpack the meaning of gender. And it is the emergence of the idea of ‘Transgender” that is helping construct a new lens through which to identify the subtle distinctions in gender. As scholars and activists continue to elucidate new versions of variance, it behooves us to reach back into the past and reclaim the identities that were once misconstrued as deviant, and in doing so, more authentically redefine who we are in the present, and ultimately construct positive and affirming sexuality and gender frames for future generations.
 Encyclopedia of Behavioral Sciences © 2001 Elsevier Ltd.
 Valentine, David, Imagining Transgender. Duke University Press, ©2007
NTAC= National Transgender Advocacy Coalition: http://www.ntac.org/
Nanda, Serena. Gender Diversity: Crosscultural Variations. Waveland Press, Inc. Long Grove IL, ©2000