OKLAHOMO: Lessons in Unqueering America

By Johnson, Colin R. | American Studies, January 1, 2016 | Go to article overview

OKLAHOMO: Lessons in Unqueering America


Johnson, Colin R., American Studies


OKLAHOMO: Lessons in Unqueering America. By Carol Mason. Albany: State University of New York Press. 2015.

Sally Kern is a six-term member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and she does not like homosexuals. In fact, in 2008, Kern stated publicly that she considers homosexuality to be "the biggest threat our nation has, even more so than terrorism or Islam." According to the Sooner lawmaker this is because "studies show that no society that has totally embraced homosexuality has lasted more than, you know, a few decades. So it's the death knell of this country" (3).

Clearly, Sally Kern does not know much about history, American or otherwise. Given her stance on evolution (she is against it), Kern doesn't appear to know very much about biology either. That doesn't mean her undoubtedly very sincerely held beliefs should be entirely ignored or dismissed by serious scholars, however. In fact, as Carol Mason demonstrates in her incisive new book, Oklahomo: Lessons in Unqueering America, Kern's particular brand of paranoid apocalypticism actually constitutes an extraordinarily generative place to begin thinking seriously about how American society came to be where it currently is with regard to gender and sexual difference, which is to say pretty lost in the thicket and scared straight as a result.

As Mason shows, virulent homophobia of the variety Sally Kern continues to espouse is not a naturally occurring phenomenon, even on the windswept prairies of the Great Plains. Rather, it is a form of moral panic that had to be slowly and intentionally ginned up over time in order to help mask the increasingly anti-democratic leanings of the United States' white, neoconservative, nominally Christian elite. Mason is the first to admit that notable Oklahomans like Kern, Anita Bryant, and the Reverend Billy James Hargis did more than their fair share to help foment this panic; in fact, she dedicates entire chapters of her book to the task of chronicling the scandal-ridden careers of these three firebrands. …

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