LGBT variables

Gilbert (2003) lists 9 variables that must be considered when talking about class. They are:

occupation, household income, wealth, personal prestige, association, socialization, power, class consciousness, and social mobility.

So, I thought I would think about the institutionalized LGBT movement and the variables that must be considered when thinking about the hierarchy that exists within it. They are:

occupation, personal income, wealth, personal prestige, association, socialization, power, label consciousness, and gender normativity & conformity.

Some of them have stayed the same. Below are Gilbert’s definitions of his variables:

(1) OCCUPATION – a social role that describes the major work that a person does to earn a living.

(2) HOUSEHOLD INCOME – the inflow of money over a given period of time, expressed as a rate and measured per household

(3) WEALTH – assets held at a given point in time

(4) PERSONAL PRESTIGE – people have high prestige when people in general have an attitude of respect toward them. it is necessary to study prestige in 2 says: (a) by asking people about their attitudes toward others, and (b) by watching their behavior.

(5) ASSOCIATION – people who share a given position in the class and status structures tend to have more personal contact w/each other than w/those in higher or lower positions. Such patterns of differential contact are significant bc they promote similarities in behavior and opinion and a sense of community among the members of a class.

(6) SOCIALIZATION – the process through which an individual learns the skills, attitudes, and customs needed to participate in the life of the community.

(7) POWER – Weber defined it as the potential of individuals or groups to carry out their will even over the opposition of others.

(8) CLASS CONSCIOUSNESS – the degree to which people at a given level in the stratification system are aware of themselves as a distinctive group with shared political and economic interests.

(9) SOCIAL MOBILITY – the extent to which ppl move up or down in the class system. implies an extended time dimension and cannot be uniquely assigned to the economic, social, or political aspects of stratification systems.

*****************Here begins the hard part***************************

Some of these things are also relevant to an LGBT hierarchy. Others, however, must change. So, here are my current thoughts (though not fully expressed yet) on how/why these make sense:

(1) OCCUPATION – how influential is your job? how prestigious is your job? How many people look up to you? Do you have domestic partner benefits? Are you asking for domestic partner benefits? Did you choose to work for your company because they offer partner benefits? You can see how these become problematic because of class position – the key word here is choice.

(2) PERSONAL INCOME – because a lot of LGBT people are not part of traditionally defined households, the measure of income becomes personal, rather than household. The measure is still a rate of the flow of money over a period of time, just to an individual, rather than to a group of individuals. Key questions here are: how much can you afford to donate to LGBT causes and nonprofit organizations? How much do you donate? The second question becomes simultaneously more and less important – if you donate, no one asks about your opinions. If you do not donate, people assume you do not care about LGBT issues.

(3) WEALTH – how much are your assets worth? Similar to personal income, but on a MUCH larger scale – people with major wealth are expected to endow foundations, and leave part of their wealth to foundations and non profits upon their deaths. They often have things named after them…

(4) PERSONAL PRESTIGE – the economic factors above can confer personal prestige, but sometimes that’s not the case. But, think about the people you know in the movement and the people you would classify as having prestige… Ask yourself if they also have money – either wealth or income.

(5) ASSOCIATION – do you know the right people? Can you drop the right names?

(6) SOCIALIZATION – have you learned the appropriate LGBT talking points? Is gay marriage (or same-sex marriage to some) the biggest issue on your gay agenda?

(7) POWER – how many strings can you pull?

(8) LABEL CONSCIOUSNESS – how willing are you to stick to your label? Do you identify as queer? genderqueer? those’ll knock you off the A-list so fast you’ll be grabbing Kathy Griffin’s ankles.

(9) GENDER NORMATIVITY AND CONFORMITY – this is the biggie. Do you look like a lesbian? a gay? a woman? a man? This is the one that divides pretty harshly – but it’s also a class division. Think about who can afford to “look the part” in the right way… do wealthier lesbians still have mullets? Do wealthier gay men still drive Mustang 5.0s? I seriously doubt it… These are important – appearance is important.


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