posted on November 20, 2012 15:55
Book by Victoria Clarke and Elizabeth Peel
Review by Shannon L. Young
Department of Media, Culture, and Communication
New York University
Out in Psychology is an ambitious anthology that offers a wide range of theories related to sexual orientation, sex/gender identity, and psychology. The main theme of the book is the notion of “inclusivity” (p. 3), the attempt to include multiple perspectives, experiences, and histories in the study of sexual minorities, including those of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people. The chapters within “draw attention to the centrality of visibility” (p. 1) for each of these communities and explore how the work of psychology can impact empowering social change.
The collection includes four sections, each one examining a particular facet of LGBTQ lives, including the history of LGBTQ psychology, the diversity of lived experiences amongst sexual minorities, workplace and lifestyle, and healthcare issues. Each chapter researches a different population or analyses a particular psychological framework in relation to working with sexual minorities. While some chapters seem best suited to psychology professionals, certain articles are particularly thought-provoking and could be useful to advisors. Damien W. Riggs’, “Recognizing Race in LGBTQ Psychology: Power, Privilege and Complicity” skillfully shows how psychological texts often view “race” as pertaining only to people of color, rather than as an identity factor that shapes every person’s experience. Riggs’ arguments remind advisors to question how we use the term “race” and to consider the role racial identity plays in all students’ development. Meg Barker’s chapter reviews popular Psychology textbooks to examine how sexual minority issues are represented; this chapter might interest advisors and students of Psychology. Two chapters on transgender issues, Clair Clifford and Jim Orford’s, “The Experience of Social Power in the Lives of Trans People” and Katherine Johnson’s, “Transsexualism: Diagnostic Dilemmas, Transgender Politics and the Future of Transgender Care,” offer timely reflections on the experiences of transgender people, a population who demands increasing visibility and responsive services on university campuses.
One of the book’s recurring themes is the diversity of issues that fall under the umbrella term “sexual minorities.” This point is illustrated in the oftentimes disparate perspectives, since each chapter explores a different issue, population, or psychological approach. With such a large range, it can be challenging to find an organizing thread in the book (aside from a general focus on sexual minorities). The editors acknowledge this ambiguity and view the text as an attempt to begin bridging such varied interests and bringing them into conversation. How successful the book is at doing this is less clear. Also, because the book’s contributors hail from the United Kingdom or Australia, the cultural and professional conditions seem strikingly different from a North American one. Although there is a kind of shared “Western” perspective, the language, political and social history, and therapeutic approaches differ from the context that a typical North American reader might bring to the book.
For advisors, the text is most useful to those who seek more information about the emotional life and psychological well-being of sexual minority students. In particular, the articles about bisexual and transgender issues, multiple identities, and the emergence of the label “queer,” are especially relevant as sexual and gender identities continue to shift and find new means of expression. The book offers advisors a critical vocabulary from which we can make new meanings of students’ sexual identity development.
Out in Psychology: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Queer Perspectives. (2007). Book by Victoria Clarke and Elizabeth Peel (Eds.). Review by Shannon L. Young. Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 497 pp. Price $200,00. ISBN # 978-0-470-01287-1