April 17, 2024

The Evolution Of Colonial Gender Roles, Part 2 (Kevin Grane)

The following is the second of a two-part series. The first can be found here. The article originally appeared in The Journal for Cultural and Religious Theory 22:1.

New Colonial Influence

A consequence of the social and political movements taking place, coupled with the rising populations of affected individuals in the west, is the replacement of heteropatriarchal ideology surrounding the colonial influence on a globalized world. Many scholars still suggest that western gender ideology propagates a heteropatriarchal norm.[1] This sentiment is wildly outdated on several levels. Throughout this piece, we have observed the development of gender ideologies in America as intentionally making efforts to move beyond a patriarchal framework in lieu of a framework of gender equality.

While this project may not be entirely completed on the social level, it has been accomplished politically. As the gender gap continues to close in the US and the rest of the west, the political fight of the human rights movement has found a new subject in the LGBT+ movement. We have observed the political and social movements of LGBT+ communities mirroring their predecessor of the women’s rights movement, which is propagating a new ideology that transcends the gender binary altogether.                                       

Ideologies surrounding the normalization of gender fluidity and liberation from a heteropatriarchal standard can also be seen in Latin America by scholars such as Ochy Curiel in her work “Heterosexual Nation” wherein Curiel describes heterosexuality as a political regime that is to be left behind.[2] I suggest that the west is no longer influencing developing nations toward a heteropatriarchal norm nor are they propagating a norm of gender equality,  but instead are propagating a new normative framework that I call the “panarchy.”

Pan- here meaning ‘all’ and -archy meaning ‘rule’ or ‘govern’. This new panarchial norm moves beyond the binary system of the patriarchy/matriarchy and allows for those who exist outside of the gender binary to be included in the normative and socially acceptable familial unit. Panarchal ideology has already begun to engrain itself in the legislature of the west. Its progression may be seen in the following legislature and social acts:[3]

  • 1962 – Illinois becomes the first state to decriminalize homosexual acts between two consenting adults in private.
  • 1969 (June 27-29) – The Stonewall Riots, New York City. The Stonewall Inn was a gay bar in New York City. In response to an unprovoked police raid on an early Saturday morning, over 400 people, including gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and straight people protest their treatment and push the police away from the area. Some level of rioting continued over the next six nights, which closed the Stonewall Inn. The Stonewall Riots became a pivotal, defining moment for gay rights. Key people at the riots who went on to tell their stories were: Sylvia Rivera, Martha P. Johnson, Dick Leitsch, Seymore Pine and Craig Rodwell. Following the riots, several organizations were formed such as the Gay Liberation Front organization and the Gay Activist Alliance.
  • 1970 – The first gay pride marches are held in multiple cities across the United States on the first anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, including San Francisco and Los Angeles / West Hollywood.
  • 1973 – The American Psychiatric Association, after considerable advocacy by Frank Kameny and members of the Mattachine Society, change the classification of homosexuality as a mental disorder. It was not until 1987 that homosexuality was completely removed from the APA list of mental disorders.
  • 1974 – Elaine Noble becomes the first openly gay person to be elected as a state legislator; she served in the Massachusetts State House of Representatives for two terms.
  • 2003 – Lawrence v. Texas (Supreme Court Decision) rules by a vote of 6-3 that a Kansas law criminalizing gay or lesbian sex is unconstitutional, declaring the importance of constitutional liberty and privacy consistent with the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. It also overturns the court decision in Bowers v. Hardwick (1986) stating that the court had made the wrong decision.
  • 2010 – The U.S. Congress passes, and President Barack Obama signs the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” so that gay and lesbian people can serve openly in the military.
  • 2015 – Obergefell v. Hodges (Supreme Court Decision) votes 5-4 that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples by both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. This decision mandates that states must allow same-sex couples to legally marry.                                                                                 

Each of these acts serves as evidence for the progression of the US and the west toward adopting the panarchial framework into political and social discourse.  Today a new case has caught the attention of the public eye: The “Parental Rights in Education” bill. This bill, signed by Florida’s current governor Republican Ron DeSantis, states: “Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.”[4] This controversy encapsulates a plethora of education reform movements aimed at educating students from a panarchial framework. Resources such as the Gender Unicorn (Figure 5) have already been developed to encapsulate panarchial ideologies and present them as normative and acceptable throughout the country.

As a result, Ely Sanders, the Sexual Health and School Health Specialist for the Oregon Department of Education, notes that more young students than ever have been identifying with the LGBT+ community.[5] Within a mere seven years since the legalization of gay marriage we now see the legislation regarding the teaching of such ideologies in the public education system, thereby demonstrating how quickly such an ideology has engrained itself into notions of normative practice in the US.                                                                

Panarchial ideologies have spread across the west. At the behest of colonial influence, gay marriage has become increasingly globalized around the world. Legalizations include The Netherlands (2000), Belgium (2003), Canada (2005), Spain (2005), South Africa (2006), Norway (2008), Sweden (2009), Iceland (2010), Portugal (2010), Argentina (2010), Denmark (2012), Uruguay (2013), New Zealand (2013), France (2013), Brazil (2013), England and Whales (2013), Scotland (2014), Luxemburg (2014), Finland (2015), Ireland (2015), Greenland (2015), United States (2015), Columbia (2016), Germany (2017), Malta (2017), Australia (2017), Austria (2019), Taiwan (2019), Ecuador (2019), Northern Ireland (2019), and Costa Rica (2020).[6] In comparing these statistics to the development of the women’s rights movement according to the legalization of women’s suffrage, similar initial progressions can be seen. Therefore, it is permissible to suppose a similar trajectory of panarchial normativity is being adopted across the globe.

  Conclusion

By observing the women’s rights moment as a change in colonial gender norms, we can see how aligning with the human rights movement has paved the way for induction into the normative framework of political and social discourse. Similarly, as one addresses the growing LGBT+ movement and their recent alignment with the human rights movement, it is permissible to theorize the induction of panarchial gender roles into the normative political and social discourse of the west. Furthermore, panarchial ideologies have begun to engrain themselves into the fundamental education systems of the west, demonstrating an evolution of colonial gender norms beyond the heteropatriarchal, beyond gender equality and into a panarchial influence transcending the gender binary altogether.

This influence is accepting and affirming familial units involving individuals across the gender spectrum. These ideologies, being accepted by the colonizing west, may demonstrate a trajectory of global acceptance of panarchial normativity in the same way that the development of gender roles in the context of the women’s rights movement proved to be a precursor to a global reform at the behest of colonial influences.

Further Research

These postulates hold significant potential to affect the religious marketplace. Instances of abandoning gender separation and the acceptance of female and LGBT+ religious leaders demonstrate the influence of the evolution of colonial gender norms on a global scale. Further research may include statements by religious leaders condemning or accepting these norms. Such sentiments, laid out geographically and chronologically may demonstrate the progression of colonial panarchial normativity as it spreads across the religious marketplace.


Kevin Grane is a PhD student in the University of Denver-Iliff School of Theology joint doctoral program.


[1] Knutson, op. cit., 380–383. and Walsh. See also Walter Mignolo and Catherine Walsh, On Decoloniality: Concepts, Analytics, Praxis (Durham NC:Duke University Press, 2018), 39-41.

[2] Ochy Curiel, “La nación heterosexual”, Análisis del discurso jurídico y el régimen heterosexual desde la antropología de la dominación (Bogotá: Brecha Lésbica, 2013).

[3] “LGBTQ Rights Timeline in American History ” Teaching LGBTQ History.” Teaching LGBTQ History, https://www.lgbtqhistory.org/lgbt-rights-timeline-in-american-history/. 

[4]House Bill 1557 (2022) – The Florida Senate.  https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2022/1557/BillText/er/PDF.

[5] Keri D. Ingraham, “The Radical Reshaping of K-12 Public Education (Part 1): Gender Redefinition & Self-Selection,” Discovery Institute, June 2, 2021, https://www.discovery.org/education/2021/06/02/the-radical-reshaping-of-k-12-public-education-part-1-gender-redefinition-self-selection/. 

[6] Masci, David, et al. “Same-Sex Marriage Around the World.” Pew Research Center, October 28, 2019, https://www.pewresearch.org/religion/fact-sheet/gay-marriage-around-the-world/. 


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