Queer studies is the critical theory based study of issues relating to sexual orientation and gender identity usually focusing on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people and cultures. Universities have also labeled this area of analysis Sexual Diversity Studies, Sexualities Studies or LGBTQ Studies (Q for "Questioning"). Once only meaning odd or unusual, and later an anti-gay epithet, "queer" used in reference to LGBT communities remains controversial.
Originally centered on LGBT history and literary theory, the field has expanded to include the academic study of issues raised in biology, sociology, anthropology, the history of science, philosophy, psychology, political science, ethics, and other fields by an examination of the identity, lives, history, and perception of queer people. Marianne LaFrance, the former chair of the Larry Kramer Initiative for Lesbian and Gay Studies at Yale University, says, "Now we're asking not just 'What causes homosexuality?' [but also] 'What causes heterosexuality?' and 'Why is sexuality so central in some people's perspective?'"
Queer studies is not the same as queer theory, an analytical viewpoint within queer studies (centered on literary studies and philosophy) that challenges the putatively "socially constructed" categories of sexual identity.
Though a new discipline, a growing number of colleges have begun offering academic programs related to sex, sexuality, and sexual orientation. There are currently over 40 certificate and degree granting programs with at least five institutions in the United States offering an undergraduate major; a growing number of similar courses are offered in countries other than the United States. In 2003, the most substantial programs at City College of San Francisco, the City University of New York, University of California, Berkeley, the University of Chicago, and New York University. Other colleges that provide degrees in the subject include Yale University, University of California, Los Angeles, Sarah Lawrence College, University of Maryland, DePaul University, St. Andrews University, California State University Northridge, and University of Toronto.
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