LGBT Activist/Author Comes to UMass

By Christiana McDougal


Self-proclaimed Marxist and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) civil rights activist Sherry Wolf will be speaking at Bowker Auditorium tonight, to discuss her latest book, “Sexuality and Socialism: The Struggle for LGBT Liberation.” In the past, her work has focused primarily on the oppression of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people, as well as on theories of how to stop such oppression

A strong advocate of LGBT rights for many years, Wolf is a member of the International Socialist Organization and is an associate editor for the International Socialist Review. “Sexuality and Socialism: the Struggle for LGBT Liberation” is an all encompassing assessment of this injustice in society.

According to Wolf, she became a socialist after a variety of experiences exposing societal injustice left her asking, “Why? Why is our society organized this way?” Wolf has sought not only to understand why and how American society is arranged in the way that it is, but to change it for the better. Her goal is to achieve total equality for members of the LGBT community through social action and coordination.

Wolf stresses the need for a grassroots organization to take charge and demand LGBT rights across the country without any exceptions. “We [the LGBT community and its supporters] no longer find it sustainable that we don’t have civil rights. It’s outrageous and we have to stop fighting…state by state for this little issue and that little issue. It’s not just small tweaks,” she said.

Wolf will also be promoting the National Equality March, which will be held in Washington D.C. on October 11. “That’s what the [Oct. 11] March for Equality is all about. We want full civil rights and we want them now.”

During a time when socialism seems to be the last thing most people want to accept as a possible political system for this country, Wolf embraces it.

“You look at the absurd wealth of a tiny minority and the vast hunger and environmental and social construction as a result of that and you have to say there is something profoundly wrong with that,” said Wolf.

She explained that the nuclear family is both “an incubator of gender norms” and a social construct that Wolf claims became common during the Industrial Revolution (alongside the evolution of capitalism in the United States). This helped set the traditional tones for roles for members of the family, with the father’s role becoming that of the breadwinner and wage-earner. The mother, in turn, became the homemaker and sole caregiver of the children, who would go on to work and attend school, all the while replicating such rigid family dynamics with their own progeny.

This precedent accounts for the cautious perception of a modern family made up, for example, of a homosexual couple and their children. It is seen as not having a place in the realm of the nuclear family. Wolf emphasizes the idea that sexual orientation is nothing but a social construct and that to try and fit each and every person’s sexual preferences into defined and suffocating categories doesn’t make any sense when taking into account the broad and varying inclinations of all people.

“A family does not have to look a certain way or act in a certain way […] family is a modern inclination in its current form,” said Wolf.

The belief that it is right for men to be attracted only to women and women only to men is precisely the ideology that Wolf hopes to do away with. In its place, she hopes with “Sexuality and Socialism” to champion the idea that a family can be constructed of whatever its member choose.

Wolf argues that the idea of family is not – and should not – be confined to a set system, but rather one that can change with the ebb and flow of both society and the specific makeup of each family unit. Perhaps one of the most integral points that her book touches on is that, “What humans have constructed they can tear down.” This statement can only reassure those who wish to break stigmas about sexuality within American society and to reevaluate the way in which it functions.

Wolf’s commitment and fervor to the cause of LGBT equality shines through in each and every article she has written, which have been featured in MRZine and Counterpunch magazine. Her reformist’s fervor highlights much of what she does, lending a sense of purpose and passion to each of her endeavors. This is a perfect recipe for a moving discussion that Wolf hopes will challenge and influence the public’s thoughts on a subject that has the capacity to evolve into one of the main points of interest for our generation.

* The Northampton branch of the ISO will be gathering a group of people planning on attending the National Equality March on October 11. For $60, attendees can arrive via buses leaving from Amherst and Northampton. More information on the local mobilization can be found at

Christiana McDougal can be reached at [email protected]