How Nonprofits Made The LGBT Movement Straight


Myrl Beam started to notice the ways big philanthropy, corporate sponsors and wealthy donors stymied the LGBTQ movement from his own experiences working in nonprofits. He found it hard “seeing how difficult it was for people with the very best of intentions to do the kind of work that they wanted to be doing,” he tells us. “To have impact on the world that they wanted to be having.”

Now, assistant professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, Beam has written Gay Inc: The Nonprofitization of Queer Politics about how a radically contrarian, intersectional and anti-authoritarian movement took a conservative turn in the past three decades, as LGBTQ organizations began to seek out wealthy donors who would support them.

In this podcast, Beam argues that the movement’s embrace of the nonprofit model has had an enormous and troubling impact on a once radical movement. He critiques the movement’s focus on marriage equality; an issue less important to vast swaths of LGBTQ people, who face pressing problems like poverty, unaffordable housing and inadequate healthcare. Beam also laments how following society’s dominant norms of marriage and kids, has limited rather than expanded the horizons of queer life today.

Additional Resources:

Beam’s book: Gay Inc: The Nonprofitization of Queer Politics

Scholar & Feminist Online: At the Limits of “By and For”: Space, Struggle, and the Nonprofitization of Queer Youth

Study: Gay couples face pressure to marry, conform to relationship status quo

Los Angeles Times op-ed: ‘Marriage for all’? How about marriage for none?

Featured Image: Myrl Beam (credit: Julia Righetti)

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