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In New Book, OU Professor Presents New Theory on LGBTQ Stigma

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March 30, 2020

In New Book, OU Professor Presents New Theory on LGBTQ Stigma

NORMAN, OKLA. – In a new book, Meredith G. F. Worthen, professor of sociology at the University of Oklahoma, presents a groundbreaking theory of LGBTQ stigma – the first-ever theory about stigma that is both testable and well-positioned in existing stigma scholarship. 

In Queers, Bis, and Straight Lies: An Intersectional Examination of LGBTQ Stigma, Worthen introduces Norm-Centered Stigma Theory, which stresses the importance of the interplay between social norms, norm violations and social power. 

“I created this theory because despite a great deal of work about the significance of stigma, especially the work of Erving Goffman, there are no existing testable theories about stigma that are grounded in past work,” Worthen said. “Put succinctly, the central element of identifying and understanding stigma is norms, and because norms are built from privilege, this creates a hierarchy of non-stigmatized norm followers and stigmatized norm violators that is organized by social power.”

Through her research, Worthen demonstrates in the book that a thorough examination of the cultural sources of LGBTQ stigma is integral to understand the spectrum of stigmatizing attitudes toward LGBTQ people, as well as LGBTQ people’s experiences with stigma. 

Worthen’s research also shows it is important to continue having separate but interconnected discussions about lesbian women, gay men, bisexual women, bisexual men, trans women, trans men, nonbinary/genderqueer people, queer women and queer men to uncover both similarities and differences across their experiences. 

Queers, Bis, and Straight Lies provides information for those who wish to learn more about LGBTQ stigma 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. 

Worthen’s new theory draws on original survey data collected from more than 3,000 respondents in the U.S. between the ages of 18-64. The sample was stratified by U.S. Census categories of age, gender, ethnicity and census region. 

Queers, Bis, and Straight Lies is scheduled to be released on April 2 and will be available for eBook download from the Routledge website here:

In addition to being a professor at OU, Worthen is a researcher and activist who focuses on sociological constructions of deviance and stigma, gender, sexuality and LGBTQ identities, as well as feminist and queer criminology. Her work dissects multiple dimensions of prejudice in an effort to cultivate understanding, empathy and social change.