Is the United States a heterosexual regime? If it is, how may we understand the political position of those who cannot or will not align themselves with heterosexuality? With these provocative questions, Shane Phelan raises the issue of whether lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgendered people can be seen as citizens at all. Can citizenship be made queer? Or does citizenship require the exclusion of those who are regarded as queer to preserve the "equality" that it promises?
In Sexual Strangers, Shane Phelan argues that, in the United States, queers are strangers -- not exactly the enemy, since they are not excluded from all rights of citizenship, but not quite members. Rather, they are ambiguous figures who trouble the border between "us" and "them," a border just as central to liberal regimes as to other states. Life on this border structures both the exclusion of sexual minorities and their ambivalence about becoming part of the "mainstream."
Sexual Strangers addresses questions of long-standing importance to minority group politics: the meaning and terms of inclusion, respect, and resistance. Phelan looks at citizenship as including not only equal protection and equal rights to such institutions as marriage and military service, but also political and cultural visibility, as inclusion in the national imaginary. She discusses the continuing stigmatization of bisexuals and transgendered people within lesbian and gay communities as a result of the attempt to flee from strangeness, a flight that inevitably produces new strangers. Her goal is to convince students of politics, both academic and activist, to embrace the rewards of strangeness as a means of achieving inclusive citizenship, rather than a citizenship that defines itself by what it will not accept.