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Women's Studies, Gender, and Sexuality > LGBT Studies

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The Explanation For Everything

Essays on Sexual Subjectivity

Paul Morrison

"The claim 'I'm straight' is the psychosexual analogue of 'The check is in the mail': if you need to say it, your credit or creditability is already in doubt." So begins Paul Morrison's dazzling polemic, which takes as its point of departure Foucault's famous remark that sex is "the explanation for everything."

Combining psychoanalytic, literary, and queer theory, The Explanation for Everything seeks to account for the explanatory power attributed to homosexuality, and its relationship to compulsory heterosexuality. In the process, Morrison presents a scathing indictment of psychoanalysis and its impact on the study of sexuality. In bold but graceful leaps, Morrison applies his critique to a diversity of examples: subjectivity in Oscar Wilde, the cultural construction and reception of AIDS, the work of Robert Mapplethorpe, the practice of bodybuilding, and the contemporary reception of the sexual politics of fascism.

Analytical, witty and astute, The Explanation for Everything will challenge and amuse, establishing Paul Morrison as one of our most exciting cultural critics.

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Falling into the Lesbi World

Desire and Difference in Indonesia

Evelyn Blackwood

Falling into the Lesbi World offers a compelling view of sexual and gender difference through the everyday lives of tombois and their girlfriends ("femmes") in the city of Padang, West Sumatra. While likening themselves to heterosexual couples, tombois and femmes contest and blur dominant constructions of gender and heterosexuality. Tombois are masculine females who identify as men and desire women; their girlfriends view themselves as normal women who desire men. Through rich, in-depth, and provocative stories, author Evelyn Blackwood shows how these same-sex Indonesian couples negotiate transgressive identities and desires and how their experiences speak to the struggles and desires of sexual and gender minorities everywhere. Blackwood analyzes the complex and seemingly contradictory practices of tombois and their partners, demonstrating how they make sense of Islamic, transnational, and modern state discourses in ways that seem to align with normative gender and sexual categories while at the same time subverting them. The childhood and adolescent narratives of tombois and femmes offer bold new insights into a social process that is rarely addressed in anthropological, lesbian, gay, or transgender studies. We see how tombois and femmes come to view themselves as boys and girls, respectively, through their interactions with family and community, and how as teenagers tombois learn that masculinity needs its opposite: feminine women. By contrast femmes notice shifts in their desires as they develop long-term relationships with tombois. The book reveals the complexity of tomboi masculinity, showing how tombois enact both masculine and feminine behaviors as they move between the anonymity and vulnerability of public spaces and the familiarity of family spaces. Falling into the Lesbi World demonstrates how nationally and globally circulating queer discourses are received and reinterpreted by tombois and femmes in a city in Indonesia. Though less educated than many internet-savvy activists in major urban centers, their identities are clearly both part of yet different than global gay models of sexuality. In contrast to the international LGBT model of "modern" sexualities, this work reveals a multiplicity of sexual and gender subjectivities in Indonesia, arguing for the importance of recognizing and validating this diversity in the global gay ecumene.

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Farm Boys

Lives of Gay Men from the Rural Midwest

Collected and Edited by William D. Fellows

Homosexuality is often seen as a purely urban experience, far removed from rural and small-town life. Farm Boys undermines that cliche by telling the stories of more than three dozen gay men, ranging in age from 24 to 84, who grew up in farm families in the midwestern United States. Whether painful, funny, or matter-of-fact, these plain-spoken accounts will move and educate any reader, gay or not, from farm or city.

     “When I was fifteen, the milkman who came to get our milk was beautiful. This is when I was really getting horny to do something with another guy. I waited every day for him to come. I couldn’t even talk to him, couldn’t think of anything to say. I just stood there, watching him, wondering if he knew why.”—Henry Bauer, Minnesota

     “When I go back home, I feel a real connection with the land—a tremendous feeling, spiritual in a way. It makes me want to go out into a field and take my shoes off and put my feet right on the dirt, establish a real physical connection with that place. I get homesick a lot, but I don’t know if I could ever go back there and live. It’s not the kind of place that would welcome me if I lived openly, the way that I would like to live. I would be shunned.”—Martin Scherz, Nebraska

     “If there is a checklist to see if your kid is queer, I must have hit every one of them—all sorts of big warning signs. I was always interested in a lot of the traditional queen things—clothes, cooking, academics, music, theater. A farm boy listening to show tunes? My parents must have seen it coming.”—Joe Shulka, Wisconsin

     “My favorite show when I was growing up was ‘The Waltons’. The show’s values comforted me, and I identified with John-Boy, the sensitive son who wanted to be a writer. He belonged there on the mountain with his family, yet he sensed that he was different and that he was often misunderstood. Sometimes I still feel like a misfit, even with gay people.”—Connie Sanders, Illinois

     “Agriculture is my life. I like working with farm people, although they don’t really understand me. When I retire I want the word to get out [that I’m gay] to the people I’ve worked with—the dairy producers, the veterinarians, the feed salesmen, the guys at the co-ops. They’re going to be shocked, but their eyes are going to be opened.”—James Heckman, Indiana

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The Fierce Tribe

Masculine Identity and Performance in the Circuit

Mickey Weems

Mickey Weems applies overtly interdisciplinary interpretation  to a subject that demands such a breakdown of intellectual boundaries. This is an ethnography  that  documents the folk nature of popular culture. The Circuit, an expression of Gay culture, comprises large dance events (gatherings, celebrations, communions, festivals). Music and dance drive a complex, shared performance at these events—electronic house music played by professional DJs and mass ecstatic dancing that engenders communitas. Other types of performance, from drag queens and concerts to contests, theatrics, and the individual display of muscular bodies also occur. Body sculpting through muscle building is strongly associated with the Circuit, and masculine aggression is both displayed and parodied. Weems, a participant-observer with a multidisciplinary background in anthropology, folklore, religious studies, cultural studies, and somatic studies, considers the cultural and spiritual dimensions of what to outsiders might seem to be just wild, flamboyant parties. He compares the Circuit to other traditions of ecstatic and communal dance, and uses his grounding in Afro-Brazilian Candomblé and in religious studies to illuminate the spiritual dimensions of the Circuit. And, a former U.S Marine, he offers the nonviolent masculine arrogance of circuiteers as an alternative philosophy to the violent forms of masculine aggression embedded in the military and much of western culture.

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First Queer Voices from Thailand

Uncle Go’s Advice Columns for Gays, Lesbians and Kathoeys

Peter A. Jackson

First Queer Voices from Thailand: Uncle Go’s Advice Columns for Gays, Lesbians and Kathoeys is a fully revised and substantially expanded edition of Peter Jackson’s highly regarded pioneering study of an Asian gay culture, Male Homosexuality in Thailand (1989). The hero of Jackson’s fascinating narrative is “Uncle Go”, pen name of the sexually libertarian but avowedly heterosexual editor of a popular magazine, whose “agony uncle” columns in the 1970s provided unique spaces in the national press for Thailand’s gays, lesbians and transgenders (kathoeys) to speak for themselves in the public domain. By allowing the voices of alternative sexualities to be heard, Uncle Go emerged as Thailand’s first champion of gender equality and sexual rights. Peter Jackson translates and analyses selected correspondence published in Uncle Go’s advice columns, preserving and presenting important primary sources. In this new edition, Jackson has expanded his coverage to include not only letters from Thai gay men, but also those from lesbians and transgenders, thus capturing the full diversity of Thailand’s modern queer cultures at a key moment in their historical development when new understandings of sexual identities were first communicated to the wider community.

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Freedom to Differ

The Shaping of the Gay and Lesbian Struggle for Civil Rights

Diane Miller

Many of us have grown up with the language of civil rights, yet rarely consider how the construction of civil rights claims affects those who are trying to attain them. Diane Miller examines arguments lesbians and gay men make for civil rights, revealing the ways these arguments are both progressive--in terms of helping to win court cases seeking basic human rights--and limiting--in terms of framing representations of gay men and lesbians.

Miller incorporates case studies of lesbians in the military and in politics into her argument. She discusses in detail the experiences of Colonel Margarethe Cammermeyer, who was dishonorably discharged from the National Guard after 27 years of service when she revealed that she was a lesbian, and Roberta Achtenberg, who was nominated by Clinton for the job of Assistant Director of Housing and Urban Development and became the first gay or lesbian to face the confirmation process. Drawing on these cases and their outcomes, Miller evaluates the advantages and disadvantages of privileging civil rights strategies in the struggle for gay and lesbian rights.

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Gaming at the Edge

Sexuality and Gender at the Margins of Gamer Culture

Adrienne Shaw

Video games have long been seen as the exclusive territory of young, heterosexual white males. In a media landscape dominated by such gamers, players who do not fit this mold, including women, people of color, and LGBT people, are often brutalized in forums and in public channels in online play. Discussion of representation of such groups in games has frequently been limited and cursory. In contrast, Gaming at the Edge builds on feminist, queer, and postcolonial theories of identity and draws on qualitative audience research methods to make sense of how representation comes to matter.

In Gaming at the Edge, Adrienne Shaw argues that video game players experience race, gender, and sexuality concurrently. She asks: How do players identify with characters? How do they separate identification and interactivity? What is the role of fantasy in representation? What is the importance of understanding market logic? In addressing these questions Shaw reveals how representation comes to matter to participants and offers a perceptive consideration of the high stakes in politics of representation debates.

Putting forth a framework for talking about representation, difference, and diversity in an era in which user-generated content, individualized media consumption, and the blurring of producer/consumer roles has lessened the utility of traditional models of media representation analysis, Shaw finds new insight on the edge of media consumption with the invisible, marginalized gamers who are surprising in both their numbers and their influence in mainstream gamer culture.

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The Gay Archipelago

Sexuality and Nation in Indonesia

Tom Boellstorff

The Gay Archipelago is the first book-length exploration of the lives of gay men in Indonesia, the world's fourth most populous nation and home to more Muslims than any other country. Based on a range of field methods, it explores how Indonesian gay and lesbian identities are shaped by nationalism and globalization. Yet the case of gay and lesbian Indonesians also compels us to ask more fundamental questions about how we decide when two things are "the same" or "different." The book thus examines the possibilities of an "archipelagic" perspective on sameness and difference.

Tom Boellstorff examines the history of homosexuality in Indonesia, and then turns to how gay and lesbian identities are lived in everyday Indonesian life, from questions of love, desire, and romance to the places where gay men and lesbian women meet. He also explores the roles of mass media, the state, and marriage in gay and lesbian identities.

The Gay Archipelago is unusual in taking the whole nation-state of Indonesia as its subject, rather than the ethnic groups usually studied by anthropologists. It is by looking at the nation in cultural terms, not just political terms, that identities like those of gay and lesbian Indonesians become visible and understandable. In doing so, this book addresses questions of sexuality, mass media, nationalism, and modernity with implications throughout Southeast Asia and beyond.

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Gay Bar

The Fabulous, True Story of a Daring Woman and Her Boys in the 1950s

Will Fellows

Vivacious, unconventional, candid, and straight, Helen Branson operated a gay bar in Los Angeles in the 1950s—America’s most anti-gay decade. After years of fending off drunken passes as an entertainer in cocktail bars, this divorced grandmother preferred the wit, variety, and fun she found among homosexual men. Enjoying their companionship and deploring their plight, she gave her gay friends a place to socialize. Though at the time California statutes prohibited homosexuals from gathering in bars, Helen’s place was relaxed, suave, and remarkably safe from police raids and other anti-homosexual hazards. In 1957 she published her extraordinary memoir Gay Bar, the first book by a heterosexual to depict the lives of homosexuals with admiration, respect, and love.
    In this new edition of Gay Bar, Will Fellows interweaves Branson’s chapters with historical perspective provided through his own insightful commentary and excerpts gleaned from letters and essays appearing in gay publications of the period. Also included is the original introduction to the book by maverick 1950s psychiatrist Blanche Baker. The eclectic selection of voices gives the flavor of American life in that extraordinary age of anxiety, revealing how gay men saw themselves and their circumstances, and how others perceived them.

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Gay Fathers, Their Children, and the Making of Kinship

Aaron Goodfellow

While the topic of gay marriage and families continues to be popular in the media, few scholarly works focus on gay men with children. Based on ten years of fieldwork among gay families living in the rural, suburban, and urban area of the eastern United States, Gay Fathers, Their Children, and the Making of Kinship presents a beautifully written and meticulously argued ethnography of gay men and the families they have formed. In a culture that places a premium on biology as the founding event of paternity, Aaron Goodfellow poses the question: Can the signing of legal contracts and the public performances of care replace biological birth as the singular event marking the creation of fathers? Beginning with a comprehensive review of the relevant literature in this field, four chapters—each presenting a particular picture of paternity—explore a range of issues, such as interracial adoption, surrogacy, the importance of physical resemblance in familial relationships, single parenthood, delinquency, and the ways in which the state may come to define the norms of health. The author deftly illustrates how fatherhood for gay men draws on established biological, theological, and legal images of the family often thought oppressive to the emergence of queer forms of social life. Chosen with care and described with great sensitivity, each carefully researched case examines gay fatherhood through life narratives. Painstakingly theorized, Gay Fathers, Their Children, and the Making of Kinship contends that gay families are one of the most important areas to which social scientists might turn in order to understand how law, popular culture, and biology are simultaneously made manifest and interrogated in everyday life. By focusing specifically on gay fathers, Goodfellow produces an anthropological account of how paternity, sexuality, and masculinity are leveraged in relations of care between gay fathers and their children.

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