“One Dimensional Queer” by Roderick Ferguson— A Radical Potential for Change

Ferguson, Roderick. “One-Dimensional Queer”, Polity, 2018.

A Radical Potential for Change

Amos Lassen

The struggle for gay rights has long been regarded as one of single-minded focus on the fight for sexual freedom. This was once how we were seen by the rest of the world yet its origins are much more complicated than this single-issue interpretation would have us believe. If we were to agree with this we would have to acknowledge the powerful role sex has played in the history of the world.  Ignoring  gay liberation’s multidimensional beginnings underestimates its radical potential for social change. 

In “One Dimensional Queer”, Roderick Ferguson shows how queer liberation came out of various insurgent struggles crossing the politics of race, gender, class, and sexuality, and deeply connected to issues of colonization, incarceration, and capitalism. He traces the rise and fall of this intersectional politics and argues that the one-dimensional mainstreaming of queerness placed critiques of racism, capitalism, and the state outside the remit of gay liberation and falsely so. We see, of late, that activism is increasingly making clear that this one-dimensional legacy has promoted forms of exclusion that marginalize queers of color, the poor, and transgender individuals. Ferguson calls upon us to reimagine and reconnect the fight for social justice in all its varied forms.

We see here how race and sexuality came to be understood as separate formations in US history. The mainstreaming of LGBT cultures has been disastrous in terms of seeing our way out of the current crisis we inhabit. Ferguson offers solutions as well as critique.


“In this searing critique of pink capitalism and rainbow-approved state violence, Ferguson slays the flat misnomer that the 1969 Stonewall Riots were only about gay sex. Instead, he brilliantly contextualizes Stonewall multi-dimensionally in histories of anti-racist and anti-imperialist rebellion.”
Steven W. Thrasher, The Guardian and Northwestern University


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