Local writer creates Norm-Centered Stigma Theory in her new book

“Queers, Bi’s and Straight Lies” was released in April. Photo provided.

by Robin Dorner
Editor in Chief

Meredith Worthen has been writing about LGBTQ stigma for more than a decade. In writing Queers, Bi’s and Straight Lies, Worthen said she wanted to bring her ideas together in one source for people.

“I wanted people to learn about these issues in a way that considers the stigmatization of nine LGBTQ groups: lesbian women, gay men, bisexual women, bisexual men, trans men, trans women, non-binary and genderqueer people, queer women, and queer men,” said Worthen.

Worthen is a Full Professor at the University of Oklahoma in the Department of Sociology, Women’s and Gender Studies and Center for Social Justice.

In her research, she found a staggering amount of discrimination, harassment, and violence being reported among the 1,604 LGBTQ respondents.

“About three fourths (72 percent) of the queer men and queer women in the study reported sexuality-based discrimination, harassment and violence, and the vast majority (78 percent) of queer women reported gender-based discrimination, harassment and violence.

“One fourth (25 percent) of the bisexual women and the non-binary/genderqueer individuals reported gender-based violence, which was the highest percentage among all nine LGBTQ groups in this study.

She said the book provides strong evidence of the difficulties that LGBTQ people experience, but it also demonstrates differences across the nine groups examined that vary by gender and sexual identity.

The results she found presented throughout the text demonstrate variation in the stigmatizing experiences of LGBTQ people.

“No group is the same, yet there are parallels across the LGBTQ groups,” said Worthen. “Throughout the text, I am able to break LGBTQ stigma down into separate but related experiences and then weave these pieces back together. I demonstrate overlap while still pointing to the importance of separate considerations.

“I show how hetero-cis-normativity is at the core of LGBTQ stigma and the theory I created that focuses on the importance of norms in understanding stigma, Norm-Centered Stigma Theory (NCST), helps us to empirically examine these relationships with a critical focus on intersectionality.”

Worthen said the title is sort of a play on the cadence of the show title Queer Eye for the Straight Guy but it is much more than that.

“The title is a deconstruction of hetero-cis-normativity (straight lies) and the importance of centering of queer people (queers and bis),” she said. “The cover image is meant to represent rainbow smoke and represents the demystification and destruction of LGBTQ negativity.”

She said the book is for anyone who wants to learn about LGBTQ stigma.

“Queers, Bis, and Straight Lies provides a wealth of information about LGBTQ people’s lives,” said Worthen. “As Robyn Ochs, Speaker and LGBTQ+ Advocate noted when she reviewed the book, “Finally, a look at the stigma that disaggregates the experiences of nine subgroups within the LGBTQ+ community, including bisexual, pansexual, queer, non-binary people, and does so through an intersectional lens! This book covers not only stigmatizing attitudes and perspectives but also LGBTQ+ people’s experiences with discrimination, harassment and violence.”

Worthen has written nearly fifty academic articles and book contributions in her academic career.

“This is my first empirical book, and in it, I created Norm-Centered Stigma Theory (NCST), so it is certainly up there [among her favorites],” Worthen said.

“It’s hard to choose a favorite, but I would say that it is the piece that inspired this book entitled An argument for separate analyses of attitudes toward lesbian, gay, bisexual men, bisexual women, MtF and FtM transgender individuals, which was published in Sex Roles in 2013. This is where I started to bring forth the importance of examining LGBTQ people as separate groups, as non-monolithic, and as unique in their own right.”

Queers, Bi’s and Straight Lies is available in paperback, hardback, and eBook via the Routledge website and Amazon.com, as well as many other book retailers. 

From the promotional material for the book: Though there have been great advances for LGBTQ people in recent years, stigma, intolerance, and prejudice remain. “Queers, Bis, and Straight Lies: An Intersectional Examination of LGBTQ Stigma” offers an in-depth exploration of LGBTQ negativity through its ground-breaking use of Norm-Centered Stigma Theory (NCST), the first-ever theory about stigma that is both testable and well-positioned in existing stigma scholarship.

Based on research with more than 3,000 respondents, hetero-cis-normativity and intersectionality are highlighted as fundamental in understanding separate but interconnected discussions about LGBTQ individuals’ experiences with discrimination, harassment, and violence. With chapters dedicated to lesbian women, gay men, bisexual women, bisexual men, trans women, trans men, non-binary/genderqueer people, queer women, and queer men, Queers, Bis, and Straight Lies brings together empirically-driven findings that work toward dismantling “straight lies” in an innovative and impactful manner.

Through its novel and critical approach, Queers, Bis, and Straight Lies is the ideal resource for those who want to learn about LGBTQ stigma more broadly and for those who seek a nuanced, theory-driven, and intersectional examination of how LGBTQ prejudices and prejudicial experiences differ by gender identity, sexual identity, race/ethnicity, and class.

Copyright The Gayly. 5/9/2020 @ 4:07 p.m. CST.