Justice and Civil Rights for the LGBTQ Community: Has America reached a post-conflict state?

By
Jessica Palaoro

May, 20019

Introduction

With the legalization of same-sex marriage and the broader acceptance of LGBTQ people, America appears to be on its way towards a “post-conflict” state regarding LGBTQ issues. Surveys on changing views on LGBTQ rights have shown dramatic increases in public acceptability of homosexuality and gender nonconformity across almost all domains – including civil liberties, employment nondiscrimination, marriage, adoption rights, and support for LGBTQ children.[1] Vast structural policy reform, as well as changes in attitudes and relationships towards the LGBTQ community have already been achieved in America through activism, positive media representation, and intergroup contact. However, much of this progress has been hindered by identity conflict and met with firm resistance from the Religious Right. Additionally, the critical disjuncture between the most privileged and least privileged within the LGBTQ community has led to continued injustices and systemic violence against queer and transgender minorities. Therefore, while the struggle for civil rights for LGBTQ people in America might be considered post-conflict, the struggle to end injustices towards the LGBTQ community is lagging due to the influence of the Religious Right on politics and the need for a more robust antihegemonic queer movement. [2]

History of the Conflict

Before the “discovery” of North America, indigenous cultures had long embraced a plethora of nonbinary genders, “third sex” figures, cross-dressing, and gay and lesbian sexual behaviors. [3]   With the influx of European exploration in the Americas also came many clashes with the indigenous Americans, including conflict concerning their non-normative beliefs in gender and sexuality. European settlers in what is now the United States upheld strict concepts of gender and sexual behavior and attempted to eradicate all behaviors and customs that violated European gender and sexuality norms through violence, enslavement, forced conversion, and even murder.[4] While colonization was not a battle against sodomy and homosexuality, sodomy did become a convenient excuse for demonizing and dehumanizing native Americans, with antisodomitical fervor serving as “justification for sexual violence used to seize Indigenous lands and eradicate or expel its inhabitants.”[5]

Gender nonconformity and homosexuality have long been associated with dehumanization in America, including queer criminal archetypes and concepts of LGBTQ people having disease, danger, contagion, sexual predation, and violence. [6] This negative trait characterization continued for centuries, allowing America to deny LGBTQ people’s humanity.[7] Bronski (2011) writes that “in the European mind, the non-gender-normative and non-sexual-normative body – however, defined in each period and circumstance- was the dangerous body, the less-than-human body, even the disposable body.”[8] Sodomy laws, the cornerstone of the criminalization of homosexuality, originated in America when it was still a British colony; these laws regulated and criminalized LGBTQ sexuality and were used as a justification for dehumanization by political elites.[9] From English Protestantism to Puritanism, these European ideas made their way to America with the colonists and then ingrained themselves into centuries of American culture and thinking about LGBTQ people.

This oppression and injustice continued into the 19th and 20th centuries with social purity groups and reformers addressing what they perceived as dangerous immorality by painting the LGBTQ community as depraved and unsafe.[10][11] In 1953, President Eisenhower ordered that sexual perversion and homosexuality were grounds for dismissal, banning suspected or openly LGBTQ people from federal employment.[12] This federally condoned  “Lavender Scare” brought hysteria over homosexuality in America to the forefront, as political leaders who believed the LGBTQ community to be a hidden threat to America went on witch hunts which led to mass firings of LGBTQ government workers in the 1950s.[13] In the 1960s, the U.S. government refused to hire LGBTQ people, police frequently raided gay bars, LGBTQ people were not allowed to serve in the military, and little organized gay rights activism existed.[14]

However, in 1969, at the Stonewall Inn in New York City, gay, lesbian, and transgender patrons of LGBTQ bars rose up to violently confront police harassment. [15] The Stonewall patrons became the face of the LGBTQ resistance and its attempt at challenging America’s onerous regulation of gender and sexuality. Stonewall is widely considered by historians as the birthplace of the modern LGBTQ rights movement. The widespread media coverage of Stonewall inspired other LGBTQ people and their allies to use grass-roots efforts and legislation to fight for LGBTQ civil rights, however this was countered by the development of a religiously-based political power.

The Formation of the Religious Right

Due to media ridicule of Bible literalism in the 1920s, evangelical and fundamentalist Christian leaders had chosen to withdraw from the public arena and were not active in politics during most of the 20th century; this changed in the 1970s with the threat of social reform.[16] Christian leaders questioned their earlier laissez faire approach to politics when key legislation began to threaten their beliefs, including: the invalidation of school prayer, Roe v. Wade, the court-mandated racial integration of public schools, the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), the disbandment of gender roles, and the LGBTQ rights movement.[17]  Fundamentalist Christians leaders, such as Pat Robertson and Jerry Fallwell, seized the political opportunity to advocate for antigay policies in government, and to prevent policy that diverged from their religious values. [18]

Robertson, Fallwell, and others formed the Religious Right on the belief that God will punish America for anything beyond heteronormativity – that is, any sexual or gender expression that veers from monogamous, heterosexual, procreative, and cis-gender.[19] In opposition to the Democratic party’s embrace of civil rights, the ERA, and other social movements, the Religious Right’s leadership chose to align themselves with the Republican Party.[20] The extent to which the Religious Right movement impacted early LGBTQ activism is explained by Pierceson (2016) when he said that “the Religious Right would oppose every positive policy development for sexual minorities with its increasing clout, especially in the Republican Party. The Religious Right effectively painted sexual minorities as deeply immoral and a threat to American values and culture – indeed a threat to the country itself.”[21] The danger to sexual and gender minorities from the Religious Right continues even today, as most anti-LGBTQ legislation support comes from either strong conservatives or the deeply religious. [22]

Identity and the LGBTQ Response

The Religious Right and many conservative Republicans have their identity strongly tied up with a Christian America founded on the moral values prescribed in the Bible, to the point where they cannot abide other religions (in a land founded on religious freedoms) or groups who go against what they believe to be a biblical lifestyle. Incompatible worldviews produce “dialogues of the deaf” and people, such as the Religious Right who see the LGBTQ community as a threat to their way of life, tend to be the most narrow-minded, with religious affiliation and church attendance strongly associated with intolerance.[23] [24]

 Frame transformation is a process where political actors modify group identity framing and existing political interests to change the group prototype in order to garner broad support and attract more members.[25] This is the process by which the Republicans embraced the Religious Right.  Likewise, as a counter to the Religious Right, LGBTQ groups forged a strong united front, pooled resources, and developed a shared agenda.[26] Leaders of of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender interest groups worked to create a coalition to participate in politics through lobbying, and to project critical mass through parades and other national events.[27] While this worked to build LGBTQ solidarity against the Religious Right threat, it did so at the cost of marginalizing the particular experiences and exclusions of those who are part of the subcategories within LGBTQ – such as queer, transgender, bisexual, gay people of color, or intersex.[28] This marginalization continues to impact the less privileged within the LGBTQ community through discrepancies in the systemic injustices experience by the most privileged and the least privileged in the LGBTQ community.

The frame transformation apparent in both the Religious Right/Republicans and the Democrats/LGBTQ community indicates that these groups have developed and strengthened their symbolic differences, and, as a consequence of this border formation, a “them” versus “us” dichotomy has developed. Social Identity Theory posits people search for groups that provide security, protection, and certainty, and then model their behavior on group beliefs, norms, and goals. [29]  In addition, under Social Identity Theory, religious and political in-group elites play a critical role in defining the group and its boundaries, and when the group’s “distinctive ways of life” are challenged, they perceive that group boundaries are endangered, and in response,  mobilize.[30] This was demonstrated in both the formation of the Religious Right as a political force, as well as in the consolidation of the subcategories of the LGBTQ community.

LGBTQ Activists want Civil Rights – What does the Religious Right Want?

Religious freedom is often cited as the reasoning behind injustices perpetuated against the LGBTQ community within the United States. In fact, the Religious Right, which might be best understood as a political party, rather than a religious movement, believes that Christians need to treat secularism as a direct threat, as well as offer a conservative Christian stance on all political policies.[31] The Religious Right holds that their worldview should encompass culture, economy, science, history, society and politics. However, their predominant goal is the reformation of secular government, starting with the First Amendment’s religious liberty protections.[32]

This goal has, in part, been supported by the United States Supreme Court which ruled on the First Amendment’s supersession over LGBTQ anti-discrimination laws. In the landmark case, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple because he felt that doing so would violate his religious beliefs. As Justice Anthony Kennedy explained, “the religious and philosophical objections to gay marriage are protected views and in some instances protected forms of expression.”[33] Under current American law then, there are at least some situations where sincerely held religious beliefs can override anti-discrimination law. Yet, Justice Kennedy also recognized that “gay persons and gay couples cannot be treated as social outcasts or as inferior in dignity and worth” and historically, the Supreme Court’s rulings have made it clear that religious freedom is not absolute and can be limited by neutral laws.[34]

The circumstances under which religious freedom can be used to deny service to LGBTQ people will be tested soon, as the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to take three cases that will, collectively, help to determine the future of the Religious Right’s goals and LGBTQ rights (and their post-conflict status) in the United States. Two cases will look at discrimination based on sexual orientation. The third will look at a case where a transgender woman was fired due her boss’s religious belief that the he would be “violating God’s commands” by allowing her to dress in women’s clothing.[35]

Systems Change and LGBTQ Civil Rights

Systems thinking involves the interaction, interconnectedness, and relationships among parts, and approaching conflict from a holistic view, rather than linear.[36] The conflict surrounding LGBTQ rights is very deep-rooted, therefore, to change the wider system that is contributing towards the conflict, a complex adaptive systems approach is needed to connect independent processes and people towards desired social change.[37] The SAT Model posits that sustainable reconciliation in complex conflict systems, such as the conflict in America over LGBTQ civil rights and justice, requires change in three domains: the structural, attitudinal, and transactional.[38]

LGBTQ Activism and Structural Changes

Structural reform involves changing systems and policies to ensure they meet people’s basic human needs, and while Lederach (2003) has suggested that structural reform on its own will not transform conflict, structural changes are a good place to start.[39] [40] Grassroots Mobilization Theory states that if there is enough opposition to a conflict through positive conscious-raising efforts and social change campaigns, then political leaders will have to pay attention. [41]  In their effort to change policy and transform American society, the LGBTQ community attempted to increase their political power by means of legal/political systems and grassroots mobilization. Post-Stonewall, activists increasingly used large-scale demonstrations to bring political leaders’ attention to the need for LGBTQ-friendly policies, such as marriage equality, the elimination of sodomy laws, and the passing of nondiscrimination policies.[42]  

Through the work of grassroots organizations, the fight against the oppression of LGBTQ people through structural reform finally came to fruition in the 2000s. Sodomy laws were declared unconstitutional in 2003 by the U.S. Supreme Court. [43] This is typically considered the point where the criminalization of homosexuality ended. After a long-term campaign for the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity within the protections of federal hate-crime laws, in 2009, the Hate Crimes Prevention Act was passed.[44] Additionally, President Obama repealed the ban on openly gay servicemembers in 2011, and same-sex marriage in America was made legal nationwide in 2015.[45][46] Due largely to years of work from LGBTQ grassroots organizations, nonprofits, and activists, sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in the workplace is now illegal under federal law.[47] Activists also focused on electoral politics and policy change within the Democratic party, which eventually led to openly LGBTQ candidates.[48]

LGBTQ activists naively assumed that by removing legal sanctions against the LGBTQ community, civil rights and justice would soon be realized. [49] Unfortunately, addressing anti-gay laws did not solve the cultural difficulties, discrimination, and homophobia LGBTQ people face in modern American society. Lederach emphasized striving for, not only structural reform, such as the passing of LGBTQ-friendly legislation, but also changes in the attitudes that precipitated the conflict in the first place.[50] Likewise, conflict theorists have suggested that relationships between the parties in conflict must be transformed for reconciliation to take place.[51] Consequently, while structural change via American law and policy transformation is a start, attention must also be given to the prevailing attitudes and relationships that are the root cause of LGBTQ systemic injustice.[52]

Changes in Americans Attitudes towards the LGBTQ Community

Within the general population of America there have been monumental, reconciliatory shifts in American’s attitudes toward LGBTQ people– evolving from moral intolerance to tolerance, from injustice to justice, and then to public recognition and support.[53] The Public Attitudes Theory, as defined by Ricigliano (2012), posits that conflict is motivated by attitudes of intolerance and prejudice, which can be addressed by changing public opinion through the media.[54] With the emergence of a national dialogue on gay rights and a shift in  news coverage of  LGBTQ issues, American attitudes towards homosexuality began changing in the late 1980s and early 1990s. This was largely due to the work of LGBTQ activists during the AIDS crisis. [55] In fact, scholars consider AIDS the “making of the gay revolution,” due to the impact the epidemic had on procuring government recognition, resources, and assistance, as well as inspiring widespread humanizing media coverage.[56]

Greater societal acceptance of LGBTQ people was further solidified through positive popular media portrayals, which triggered a cultural shift in how American youth, and Americans as a whole, see LGBTQ people.[57][58] It is now commonplace to have openly LGBTQ people star in television and film; some examples include Ellen, Will & Grace, Brokeback Mountain, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, and Modern Family. LGBTQ individuals are now also prominent in mainstream American society. Most recently, with the congressional midterm election of 2018, the number of openly LGBTQ people in Congress has reached double digits.[59] Representation and visibility are key to first changing public attitudes, and this visibility of LGBTQ has made a remarkable change in American’s perceptions of the LGBTQ community.

Transactional Assessment

Positive depictions of LGBTQ people in the media, in turn, led to more LGBTQ people feeling safe to “come out”. LGBTQ identity was normalized, and as such, LGBTQ people no longer found it necessary to hide their gayness or their partners in order to be accepted by their communities.[60] This led to more straight, cis-gendered Americans knowing and caring about people who are LGBTQ. As disapproval towards homosexuality dissolved in this wake of increased familiarity, negative attitudes towards lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals began to evaporate.[61] With attitudes transformed, approval for comprehensive and wide-ranging LGBTQ civil rights policy followed.

Transactional peacebuilding refers to the processes by which interpersonal relationships are built, with emphasis on the inclusion of structural and attitudinal changes.[62] Relationships can be the catalyst that enable people to rise above social divisions, with the potential for peace “located in the nature and quality of relationships developed with those most feared.”[63] The Intergroup Contact Hypothesis posits that intergroup contact drives a reduction in prejudice, stereotyping and discrimination. [64]  When this attitudinal change is combined with structural change, intergroup relationships are built, and reconciliation can occur, but the process is cyclic. According to Pew Research, as of 2013, an overwhelming percentage of Americans (87%) say they know someone who is LGBTQ. [65]  These interrelationships have, in an interesting feedback loop, led to an increase in overall public support for gay civil rights, demonstrating Ricigliano’s theory that when transactional change drives and coalesces with structural and attitudinal change, broad systemic change occurs.[66] [67]

Approaches for the Resolution of the Identity-Based Aspects of the Conflict

While the SAT model can be used to explain and predict the reconciliation of the LGBTQ community with mainstream America, there is still the identity conflict behind the Religious Right to consider. Group-based identities play a vital role in sustaining and exacerbating intergroup conflicts through identity threat.[68] The Religious Right define themselves as a “coalition of righteousness,” whose fundamental beliefs include “legally opposing the advancement of gay rights, marriage between same-sex partners, the acceptance of openly gay member of the armed forces, and the legalization of same sex contact.”[69] Indeed, the Religious Right believe that increasing tolerance of homosexuality and the LGBTQ community in America is specifically linked to national decline.[70]

Threat narratives are a major source of identity-based conflict, and as threat narratives permeate a group’s deeply held beliefs, they become difficult to disengage.[71]  However, regardless of how stubborn collective identities and threat narratives are, they have the potential to be redefined, with redefinition resting in the hands of elites who used the collective identity for their own religious or political purposes.[72] Similar to the impact visibility and intergroup contact had on mainstream America, positive interactions between individual members of the Religious Right and the LGBTQ community should lessen the threat narrative and reduce conflict, especially if the intergroup contact leads to a restructuring of identity in religious and political elites. Examples of this abound in modern American politics. In fact, “within prominent Republican families . . . children – gay, transgender, and straight — are playing decisive roles in changing their parents’ views.” [73] Indeed, some of the most effective LGBTQ civil rights lobbyists are the children of Religious Right/Republican politicians.[74]

Additionally, according to Tilly (2016), political and religious identity can change over generations, through new, more positive intergroup interactions and the formation of new, non-threatening narratives.[75] Research has shown that religious groups entering their second generation are susceptible to instability.[76] This indicates that, while the generation that founded the Religious Right have what seems to be a fixed and immovable stance on the issues of homosexuality and LGBTQ civil rights, their children and the generations that follow may not hold fast to those same beliefs giving hope that future reconciliation is possible.

Comparing LGBTQ and other Socio-religious Conflicts in America

Most Christian denominations, minus the Religious Right, view LGBTQ rights as a social justice issue, not a religious issue, but this is not the case for religion’s stance on abortion.[77] Roe v. Wade triggered a wave of religious coordination against social change that reached far beyond the Religious Right.[78] What accounts for the disparities in the acceptance of gay rights in the United States compared to the acceptance of abortion, as both were considered intractable conflicts 25 years ago?

A partial explanation involves the difference in influx of positive media depictions of the LGBTQ community which categorically changed American society’s attitudes and support for LGBTQ civil rights. However, abortions are not often portrayed in popular media and when they are, the depictions are typically inaccurate and rarely show women exercising their right to choose.[79] Likewise, while individuals are rarely forced to stay “in the closet” to find acceptance,  abortion is not “normalized” and still considered a taboo subject in America. Nevertheless, abortion is a common experience for American women (nearly one in four women in the United States will have an abortion by age 45), but, because women do not talk about their experience, people think it is less common than it actually is.[80] So, while legal protections for LGBTQ people have expanded in the past two decades and are nearing a post-conflict state in America, reproductive choices and abortion rights are beginning to erode.[81]

Roadblocks to Reconciliation – President Trump and Conservative Republicans

The post-conflict stage is considered by experts to be particularly precarious, with a high chance of a resurgence of conflict within the first ten years.[82]  Alarmingly, this statistic seems to apply to the conflict transformation of LGBTQ civil rights issues within the United States. International human rights protections have been extended to include sexual orientation and gender identity, but “compared to democracies in Canada and Western Europe, religious conservatives impart significant and disproportionate clout on the [American political] system, particularly through a strong alignment with the Republican party.” [83]  Due to the Religious Right influencing America’s political landscape, the United States has fallen behind many other Western nations in LGBTQ protections.[84]   While fundamentalist and evangelical Christians have been spoilers in this complex system, those interested in maintaining the status quo for political reasons have also been a roadblock to LGBTQ civil rights and justice.

There is a connection between leadership and the process of conflict development or transformation, with the role of a leader being one of the most critical influences on conflict dynamics. The Theory of Group Dynamics proposes that a leader’s role is the agent of change or stability in a group; therefore, leaders critically shape the group.[85]  Leaders serve as role models to much of the populace, so their open support of LGBTQ civil rights and humanity promotes societal reconciliation, while their rejection or limitation of LGBTQ civil rights promotes social discord and division.[86]

While not all Republicans are supportive of anti-LGBTQ policy, there is a discrepancy between the two political parties’ track-record on LGBTQ civil rights. For example, there is a dramatic difference in the impact President Obama and President Trump have had on LGBTQ civil rights; this is also visible in the difference in laws passed by a Democratic vs. a Republican Congress. President Obama frequently emphasized his support for LGBTQ-friendly legislation and the LGBTQ community at-large.[87] Conversely, when President Trump took office, there was an extreme rise in morality politics, and Republican politicians began supporting “religious liberty laws,” which resulted in the repeal of anti-discrimination protections, bathroom bills, and elimination of LGBTQ adoption rights in some states.[88] The Trump administration also rescinded the Department of Education’s guidance protecting transgender students and proposed a transgender military ban.[89]

The most recent Trump-Pence administration assault on LGBTQ rights falls under the guise of “religious liberty,” and involves a faith-based rule that will allow medical providers to cite their religious or moral beliefs in refusing to provide a broad spectrum of services — including lifesaving care for LGBTQ patients.[90] This new “protections of conscience” rule will federally sanction health care providers refusal to treat preventative care for AIDS or HIV, hormone therapy and transgender transition related care, in-vitro fertilization for gay couples, as well as abortion and sterilization procedures.[91] On the day the new faith-based rule was announced, Vice President Pence was quoted as saying that President Trump “has taken steps to ensure that the federal government will never, ever penalize anyone for their religious beliefs ever again.”[92]

Conflicts cannot be reconciled amid mistrust, and mistrust festers when discrimination is officially sanctioned, as is the current obstruction of LGBTQ civil rights under the Trump administration.[93] Good governance requires the government to take into account the views of minorities in decision-making, as well as protect the human and civil rights of  minorities to ensure that they have equality before the law and opportunities to improve their well-being.[94][95] According to Boulding (1990), social systems and institutions of the law, such as the constitution, the Supreme Court, and elections, develop resistances to  “check and correct the pathologies of power” without excessive social costs leading to improved governance.[96] This implies that any pathologies of power that are currently impeding the LGBTQ communities drive towards justice and civil rights, should be naturally corrected by good governance.

Roadblocks to Reconciliation – the Generic “Gay Experience”

Another point to consider when looking at roadblocks to reconciliation is the idea that group identity framing, which meshed the LGBTQ subcategories within the broader LGBTQ framework, created a disconnection between the most privileged and the least privileged in the LGBTQ community. Marginalizing the experiences of queer and transgender people, gay people of color, and the poor and homeless LGBTQ led to homonormativity, which Smith (2017) defines as the “normalization of a racialized and classed vision of LGBTQ individuals and couples as assimilated into the mainstream of society.”[97] Certainly, the generic “gay experience” of injustices cannot be accurately described or considered, because class, race, and gender are critical components of which LGBTQ subcategory will bear the brunt of discrimination, prejudice, marginalization, and even violence in America.[98]

In the past, most LGBTQ advocacy organizations were dominated by white, gay, and affluent leadership and membership. While Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) have been hailed as saviors in post-conflict societies, they have also been portrayed as also being self-interested organizations that partake in activities that are not helpful and even damaging. [99]  This conclusion has been supported by research by Beam (2018), who posited that domestic non-profits within the United States are dangerous to LGBTQ social movements and have previously hindered their ability to achieve justice and equality.[100] Mogel et. al (2011) point out that:

Since the late 1970s the growing constellation of national nonprofit LGBT advocacy organizations, as well as many of their state and local counterparts, have been dominated by white, middle-class leadership and membership, and have also relied heavily on the financial support of affluent, white gays. As a result, their agendas tend to favor assimilation into the racial and economic status quo over challeng[ing] the systemic violence and oppressions it produces. [101]

As it is, there is now a steep disjuncture between issues that are the primary concerns of the most privileged within the LGBTQ community (wealthy white gay men and to a lesser extent wealthy white lesbians), such as gay marriage and legal equality, and the injustice and systemic violence that effect the majority of LGBTQ people.[102] Examples of issues that are still impacting the least privileged members of the LGBTQ community include queer youth homelessness, inhumane treatment of LGBTQ people at the hands of the criminal justice system, HIV/AIDS, sex work, violence against transgender people, especially transgender people of color, and brutal deportation policies.[103][104] It stands, then, that for reconciliation to occur, America needs to move towards a more robust antihegemonic queer movement that encompasses the needs of all LGBTQ people.

One area that is currently not reconciled but is making noteworthy progress towards a post-conflict state is that of transgender rights and visibility.  Television shows such as Orange is the New Black, Transparent, and I am Jazz have debuted with critical acclaim. Openly transgender politicians, such as Danica Roem, have been elected. Transgender advocate, Caitlyn Jenner, graced the cover of Vanity Fair. Yet, while transgender issues are beginning to move from the margins to the center, there is still significant conflict regarding transgender issues with President Trump’s controversial transgender military policy going into effect this month.[105] Likewise, in America under President Trump, the conflict surrounding transgender people in public bathrooms is currently serving as ammunition to advance a terrifying regressive shift toward far-right conservative ideals.[106] While increased visibility through media and intergroup contact has led to the large-scale acceptance of LGBTQ individuals in America, it has also served to strengthen extreme resistance to LGBTQ rights among the Religious Right and Republicans; thus, public opinion change has not translated at the same rate as public policy change.[107][108]

So, Is America Reconciled?

Reconciliation exists when groups in conflict can “put aside feelings of hate, fear and loathing, [and] perceptions of the other as dangerous and sub-human;” however, there are degrees of reconciliation, and a fully integrated, homogenous America is a long term goal, potentially spanning decades or even centuries.[109] America has embraced vast, encompassing structural changes, as well as a complete overhaul of most its societal beliefs and attitudes about the LGBTQ community.[110] The prejudiced and discriminatory ideas that shaped America in the past have been transformed into acceptance, inclusion, and equality.

Even conservative/religious America can be considered trending towards a post-conflict state, with more than 5,000 churches welcoming LGBTQ people as members and taking supportive stands on LGBTQ issues including marriage equality and freedom from discrimination.[111] In addition, four of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, representing over ten million people, have passed LGBTQ inclusive policies.[112] Even more surprising, moderate Democratic and Republicans alike are both citing their Christian faith and endorsing LGBTQ equality.[113] The vestiges of LGBTQ discrimination inhabit mainly fundamentalist and evangelical religious sects, with the most incendiary rhetoric and policies stemming from a handful of high profile anti-gay religious leaders and organizations.

 Additionally, notwithstanding Trump’s White House and the threat it brings to LGBTQ rights – there are even progressive cultural shifts happening in “red states,” with many small and mid-tier cities passing nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people .[114]  Proving that, when positive changes have occurred en masse, and reconciled views are distributed throughout all of America, the feelings of the political elites, such as conservative Republicans, have little chance of undermining the reconciliation process.[115]

Conclusion

Conflict transformation implies that the destructive nature of conflict can be transformed by improving relationships and social structures, by altering the perception of difference between people, and by improving mutual understanding.[116] This has happened in America. While cultural change is often prolonged during conflict transformation, and peacebuilding interventions can have slow, back-and-forth results that take decades to build, they can happen in an instant once critical mass is reached.[117] [118] American stands at a tipping point, where LGBTQ Americans have achieved civil rights, but must now focus on keeping those rights that remain under threat from the Religious Right. Systemic injustices that continue to impact the less privileged within the LGBTQ community – the gay people of color, intersex people, the queer people who refuse to inhabit an assigned gender, and poor, homeless LGBTQ people - must also be addressed. For complete social transformation to be achieved, all of America needs to embrace a more inclusive and broader conception of justice and equality. Yet, glimpses of reconciliation are appearing on the horizon, and the future is promising for the LGBTQ community.

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[1] Jeremiah Garretson, The Path to Gay Rights: How Activism and Coming Out Changed Public Opinion (New York: New York University Press, 2018), 8-20.

[2] Jeremiah Garretson, “The How, Why, and Who of LGBTQ ‘Victory’: A Critical Examination of Change in Public Attitudes Involving LGBTQ People” in LGBTQ Politics: A Critical Reader (New York: New York University Press, 2017), 264.

[3] Michael Bronski, A Queer History of the United States (Boston: Beacon Press, 2011), 1-7.

[4] Bronski, A Queer History of the United States, 2.

[5] Mogel et al., Queer (In)justice, 3.

[6] Ibid, 23.

[7] Bar-Tal, “From Intractable Conflict Through Conflict Resolution to Reconciliation,” 354.

[8] Bronski, A Queer History of the United States, 17.

[9] Mogel et al., Queer (In)justice, 9-10.

[10] Bronski, A Queer History of the United States, 86.

[11] Jason Pierceson, Sexual Minorities and Politics (Boulder: Rowman & Littlefield, 2016), 30.

[12] Ibid, 20.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Michael Klarman, From the Closet to the Altar: Courts, Backlash, and the Struggle for Same-Sex Marriage (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), x.

[15] Pierceson, Sexual Minorities and Politics, 29.

[16] Ibid, 30.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Rebecca Barrett-Fox, God Hates Westboro Baptist Church, American Nationalism, and the Religious Right (Lawrence: University Press Kansas, 2016), 139.

[19] Pierceson, Sexual Minorities and Politics, 31.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Garretson, The Path to Gay Rights, 4.

[23] Christopher Mitchell, “Reconciliation: Ending the Hatred”, in The Nature of Intractable Conflict: Resolution in the Twenty-first Century (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2014), 268.

[24] Marjoka van Doorn, “The nature of tolerance and the social circumstances in which it emerges”, Current Sociology Review 62 no. 6 (2014), 916-917

[25] Zein Murib, “Rethinking GLBT as a Political Category in U.S. Politics,” in LGBTQ Politics: A Critical Reader (New York: New York University Press), 19.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Ibid.

[28] Ibid, 30.

[29] Karina Korostelina, Social Identity and Conflict: Structures, Dynamics, and Implications, (New York: Palgrave Macmillian, 2007), 29.

[30] Ibid.

[31] James Sanford, Blueprint for Theocracy: The Christian Right's Vision for America: Examining a Radical "Worldview" and Its Roots, (Providence: Metacomet Books, 2014), 1.

[32] Ibid, 3.

[33] Anthony Kennedy, “Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, 584 U.S. ___ (2018),” https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/584/16-111/, (June 4, 2018).

[34] Ibid.

[35] Amy Howe, “Court to take up LGBT rights in the workplace,” https://www.scotusblog.com/2019/04/court-to-take-up-lgbt-rights-in-the-w..., (April 22, 2019).

[36] Robert Ricigliano, Making Peace Last: A Toolbox for Sustainable Peacebuilding (Boulder: Paradigm Publishers, 2012), 22,26.

[37] John Paul Lederach, The Moral Imagination: The Art and Soul of Building Peace (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 88.

[38] Ricigliano, Making Peace Last, 39.

[39] John Paul Lederach, “Conflict Transformation,” Beyond Intractability, October 2003, https://www.beyondintractability.org/essay/transformation (accessed April 8, 2019).

[40] Lederach, The Moral Imagination, 91.

[41] Ricigliano, Making Peace Last, 27.

[42] Ibid, 30.

[43] Mogel et al., Queer (In)justice, 10.

[44] Pierceson, Sexual Minorities and Politics, 111.

[45] Martin Duberman, Has the Gay Movement Failed? (Oakland: University of California Press, 2018), 66.

[46] Pierceson, Sexual Minorities and Politics, 100,117.

[47] Ibid, 109.

[48] Ibid, 30.

[49] Mogel et al., Queer (In)justice, ix.

[50] Lederach, “Conflict Transformation”.

[51] Hugh Miall, “Conflict Transformation: A Multi-Dimensional Task”, (Berghof Research Center for Constructive Management, 2004), 3.

[52] Lederach, “Conflict Transformation”.

[53] Marjoka van Doorn, “The Nature of Tolerance and the Social Circumstances in which it Emerges,” in Current Sociological Review, (2014), 908.

[54] Ricigliano, Making Peace Last, 27.

[55] Linda Hirshman, Victory the Triumphant Gay Revolution: How a Despised Minority Pushed Back, Beat Death, Found Love, and Changed America for Everyone (New York: Harper Collins, 2012), 170.

[56] Garretson, The Path to Gay Rights, 5.

[57] Ricigliano, Making Peace Last, 27.

[58] Bronski, A Queer History of the United States, 237.

[59] Bo Erickson, “Number of LGBT in Congress reaches double digits”, CBS News, November 12, 2018, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/number-of-lgbt-in-congress-reaches-double-d.... (accessed April 8, 2018).

[60] George Chauncey, Why Marriage? The History Shaping Today’s Debate over Gay Equality (Cambridge: Basic Books), 57.

[61] Garretson, The Path to Gay Rights, 3.

[62] Ricigliano, Making Peace Last, 101-102.

[63] Lederach, The Moral Imagination, 63.

[64] Sharon Brehm, Saul Kassin, Steven Fein, Social Psychology (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2005), 177.

[65] Pew Research Center, “Views of Gay Men and Lesbians, Roots of Homosexuality, Personal Contact with Gays”, May 5, 2013, https://www.people-press.org/2013/06/06/section-2-views-of-gay-men-and-l..., (accessed April 8, 2019).

[66] Garretson, The Path to Gay Rights, 8-16.

[67] Ricigliano, Making Peace Last, 179.

[68] Lee Jussim, Richard Ashmore, and David Wilder, “Social Identity and Intergroup Conflict,” in Social Identity, Intergroup Conflict, and Conflict Resolution (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 4.

[69] Barrett-Fox, God Hates Westboro Baptist Church, American Nationalism, and the Religious Right, 126.

[70] Ibid, 125.

[71] Daniel Rothbart and Karina Korostelina, Identity, Morality, and Threat: Studies in Violent Conflict, (Boulder: Lexington Books, 2006), 1, 13.

[72] Herbert Kelman, “The Role of National Identity in Conflict Resolution: Experiences from Israeli-Palestinian Problem-Solving Workshops,” in Social Identity, Intergroup Conflict, and Conflict Resolution (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 195.

[73] Ben Schreckinger, “Kids of Republicans pull parents to the left on gay marriage,” https://www.politico.com/story/2015/04/republicans-gay-marriage-117400, (April 27, 2015).

[74] Ibid.

[75] Charles Tilly, Identities, Boundaries, & Social Ties (London: Routledge, 2016), 211.

[76] Barrett-Fox, God Hates Westboro Baptist Church, American Nationalism, and the Religious Right, 169.

[77] Lee Walzer, Gay Rights on Trial: A Reference Handbook (Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, Inc., 2002), 4.

[78] Ibid, 5.

[79] Scott Skinner-Thompson, Sylvia Law, and Hugh Baran, “Marriage, Abortion, and Coming Out”, Columbia Law Review 116 no. 8 (2019).

[80] Guttmacher Institute, “Abortion Is a Common Experience for U.S. Women, Despite Dramatic Declines in Rates,” https://www.guttmacher.org/news-release/2017/abortion-common-experience-..., (October 19, 2017).

[81] Skinner-Thompson et al., “Marriage, Abortion, and Coming Out”.

[82] Kristina Hook, “The Coordination Quandary: Applications and Implications of Post-Conflict Coordination Principles”, Beyond Intractability, March 2013, www.beyondintractability.org/essay/coordination-quandary. (accessed April 8, 2019).

[83] Jonathan Symons and Dennis Altman,” International norm polarization: sexuality as a subject of human rights protection”, International Theory: A Journal of International Politics, Law and Philosophy 7, no. 1 (2015).

[84] Pierceson, Sexual Minorities and Politics, 2.

[85] Richard Schaefer, Sociology (New York: McGraw Hill, 2010), 484.

[86] Bar-Tal, “From Intractable Conflict Through Conflict Resolution to Reconciliation” 362.

[87] Barack Obama, “FACT SHEET: Obama Administration’s Record and the LGBT Community,” https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2016/06/09/fact-sh..., (June 26, 2015).

[88] Pierceson, Sexual Minorities and Politics, 5.

[89] Samantha Allen, Real Queer America: LGBT Stories from Red States (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2019), 301.

[90] Charlotte Clymer, “Trump-Pence Admin Allows Medical Providers to Deny Lifesaving Care to LGBTQ People,” https://www.hrc.org/blog/trump-pence-admin-allows-medical-providers-to-d..., (May 2, 2019).

[91] Ibid.

[92] Mike Pence, “Remarks by Vice President at the National Day of Prayer Service,” https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-vice-president-p..., (May 2, 2019).

[93] Paige Arthur, “Identities in Transition: Developing Better Transitional Justice Initiatives in Divided societies” (International Center for Transitional Justice, 2009), 5.

[94] Yap Kioe Sheng, “What is Good Governance?,” (Bangkok: United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific).

[95] Kirsti Samuels, “Rule of Law Reform in Post-Conflict Countries,” in Social Development Papers: Conflict Prevention and Reconstruction 37, (October 2006), 2.

[96] Kenneth Boulding, Three Faces of Power, (London: Sage Publishers, 1990), 66.

[97] Miriam Smith, “Homonationalism and the Comparative Politics of LGBTQ Rights” in LGBTQ Politics: A Critical Reader (New York: New York University Press, 2017), 458.

[98] Mogel et al., Queer (In)justice, xviii.

[99] Patrice McMahon, “NGOs in Post-Conflict Peacebuilding: Partners in Peace?” (Gulen Institute, 2011), 1.

[100] Beam, Gay, Inc., 4-5.

[101] Mogel et al., Queer (In)justice, xviii.

[102] Beam, Gay, Inc., 6.

[103] Ibid, 10.

[104] Duberman, Has the Gay Movement Failed?, 165.

[105] Hallie Jackson and Courtney Kube, “Trump's controversial transgender military policy goes into effect,” https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/trump-s-controversial-transgende..., (April 12, 2019).

[106] Beam, Gay, Inc. 200.

[107] Susan Burgess, “LGBTQ Politics and Public Opinion in the United States,” in LGBTQ Politics: A Critical Reader, ed. Marla, Brettschneider, Susan Burgess, and Christine Keating (New York: New York University Press, 2017), 250.

[108] Garretson, “The How, Why, and Who of LGBTQ ‘Victory’”, 264.

[109] Mitchell, “Reconciliation: Ending the Hatred”, 274.

[110] Bar-Tal, “From Intractable Conflict Through Conflict Resolution to Reconciliation” 358.

[111] The Human Rights Campaign, “Faith Positions”, https://www.hrc.org/resources/faith-positions, (accessed April 8, 2019).

[112] Believe Out Loud, “Christianity and LGBT Equality,” https://www.believeoutloud.com/background/christianity-and-lgbt-equality, (2019).

[113] Ibid.

[114] Samantha Allen, Real Queer America, 8,11.

[115] Christopher Mitchell, “Reconciliation: Ending the Hatred”, 272.

[116] Brad Spangler, “Settlement, Resolution, Management, and Transformation: An Explanation of Terms”, Beyond Intractability, September 2003, https://www.beyondintractability.org/essay/meaning-resolution. (accessed April 8, 2019).

[117] Peter Coleman, Lan Bui-Wrzosinska, Andrzej Nowak, and Robin Vallacher, “A Dynamical Systems Perspective on Peacemaking: Moving from a System of War toward a System of Peace,” in Volume Two: Peacemaking from Practice to Theory, ed. Susan Nan, Zachariah Mampilly, and Andrea Bartoli (Santa Barbara: Praeger, 2012),646.

[118] John Paul Lederach, Reina Neufeldt, and Hal Culbertson, “Reflective Peacebuilding: A Planning, Monitoring, and Learning Toolkit” (Mindanao: The Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, 2007).