Gay, Inc. by Myrl Beam

Introduction by
David K. Seitz

Grounded in Beam’s experiences of frontline work and careful inquiry into the history and political economy of LGBTQ nonprofits in Chicago and Minneapolis, this book offers a persuasive indictment of the nonprofit form, as well as a deeply felt mediation on how savvy grassroots organizers struggle with its constraints.

G

eographers of neoliberalism have long inquired into the radical potential and the grave limitations of what INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence (2017) has called the “nonprofit industrial complex” and Jennifer Wolch (1990) has called the “shadow state.” Likewise, geographers of sexuality have long critically evaluated the neoliberal turn in gender and sexual politics (e.g. Puar 2006, Oswin 2008, Brown 2012). But few scholars have situated that neoliberal turn within the form of the nonprofit-industrial complex in as sustained and persuasive a manner as Myrl Beam in Gay, Inc.: The Nonprofitization of Queer Politics. Grounded in Beam’s experiences of frontline work and careful inquiry into the history and political economy of LGBTQ nonprofits in Chicago and Minneapolis, this book offers a persuasive indictment of the nonprofit form, as well as a deeply felt mediation on how savvy grassroots organizers struggle with its constraints.

Gay, Inc. should command the attention of geographers of neoliberalism, the third sector, health, gender, sexuality, class, and race in and well beyond the United States. This forum is based on a conversation that I had the pleasure of organizing at the 2019 Association of American Geographers Annual meeting in Washington, DC. It brings together the perspectives of geographers of labor, education, and LGBTQ community formation on this important project, and includes a response from the author. In addition to all the contributors to this forum, I would like to thank the Queer and Trans Geographies Specialty Group, the Socialist and Critical Geography Specialty Group, and the Ethics, Justice, and Human Rights Specialty Group for cosponsoring the session.


References
Brown G (2012)Homonormativity: A Metropolitan Concept that Denigrates ‘Ordinary’ Gay Lives. Journalof Homosexuality 59(7): 1065-1072.
INCITE!Women of Color Against Violence. 2017. The Revolution Will Not Be Funded:Beyond the Nonprofit Industrial Complex. 2nd Ed. Durham: DukeUniversity Press.
Oswin N (2008)Critical Geographies and the Uses of Sexuality: Desconstructing Queer Space. Progressin Human Geography 32(1): 89-103.
Puar JK (2006)Mapping U.S. Homonormativities. Gender, Place & Culture 13(1): 67-88.
Wolch J (1990)The Shadow State: Government and Voluntary Sector in Transition. NewYork: Foundation Center.

David K.Seitz is Assistant Professor of Cultural Geography at Harvey Mudd College.

essays in this forum

The Fantasy and Failure of Queer Activism and Non-Profits in "Gay, Inc." by Beyhan Farhadi

By highlighting the contradictions between the fantasy and the failure of non-profits, and of the contradiction inherent in the marketized discourse of compassion and community, Beam emphasizes resistance to these logics which are always in negotiation.

Responding to "Gay, Inc." by Preeti Sharma

This book raises much needed questions about the nonprofit form as a space of neoliberal governance that is a hybrid statecraft and a political and affective economy.

Political Worthiness: Homonormativity in the LGBTQ Non-Profit Sector by Rae Rosenberg

Through Beam’s detailed research on the political dynamics of LGBTQ+ non-profit organizations in Chicago and Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Gay, Inc. illuminates the ways in which capital mobilizes homonormativity within the queer and trans non-profit sector, and consequently dictates worthiness along the lines of race and gender within the LGBTQ+ community.

On Precarity and Trans Politics by Myrl Beam

Instead of repeating the mistakes of the mainstream LGBT movement, fighting for a form of inclusion that we know won’t protect us or even offer meaningful respite, we must shift our frameworks. We must begin the slow process of letting go of our desire for the state’s desire.