- The History of GLQ, Volume 1:LGBTQ Studies, Censorship, and Other Transnational Problems
On this happy and long-anticipated occasion of handing over the editorship of GLQ—who knew that David Halperin and I would be working on the journal for nearly fifteen years, making our editorial partnership the longest relationship either of us has ever had?—I want to reflect on the experience by looking back at the journal's origins and peering forward into possibilities for its future. Thinking about the journal's relationship to LGBTQ studies more generally, I would like to take this opportunity to speculate on both the past and the future of the field from my vantage point as founding coeditor. This history of GLQ begins in the queer urban United States in the early 1990s, shifts to Southeast Asia in the mid-1990s, and then comes back to the United States at the end of the millennium and continues to this day. It is a tale of intellectual exuberance in an explosively creative, new endeavor: a fresh generation of scholars was extending the freedoms and liberation won in the United States after Stonewall. The story then makes a geopolitical swerve: a crisis in our publisher's production office in Malaysia forced us to recognize our own parochialism at GLQ; our carefully reasoned choices for the journal (which we made in queer enclaves in the United States) meant little in the face of the complex global conditions of material production. The crisis required us, furthermore, to acknowledge that our ingrained American principles of "freedom," "liberation," and opposition to "homophobia" were irrelevant, or counterproductive, or even dangerous in this transnational setting of publication. This history yields a hard-won sense of the issues involved in publishing a journal with sexual content in such a setting, and I want to use this sense as a prompt to think further about the implications of pursuing LGBTQ studies now.1
So let me turn to the beginnings of GLQ. David, a classicist who had just published a polemical book, One Hundred Years of Homosexuality and Other [End Page 5] Essays on Greek Love, in 1990, had been contacted by an editor at a trade publishing house. The editor asked him to think about developing a journal, and he in turn got in touch with me. I won't mention all the loser names we came up with in those early days (the Library of Congress call number for books about homosexuality inspired one strong contender, HQ 76), but the time was certainly ripe for something with queer in the title. It was 1991, at the height of the explosion of U.S. "queerness." The editor who contacted David was not an academic, but the excitement of queer inquiry crossed the boundaries of the academy into an engaged, intellectual queer community at large. As a working title we chose Queer Quarterly.
This queer moment—the early 1990s—was unique in the United States. You may well remember it, but I want to pause to recall its particular flavor, because we may now have lost the sense of its singularity. Queer Nation, the direct action group whose very name expresses the fierce ambitions of the times, was formed in the spring of 1990 with an energy that surprised even the group's original conveners.2 Though representing only a part of this queer moment, the group's history is indicative of how "queer" was developed at that time as a concept for living. Among the potential goals, as listed in notes from the first brainstorming meeting in New York, were "building community through direct action" and developing "symbols of gay visibility, public displays of affection, sex-positive symbols"—in addition to a bolder intention to "mystify, terrify, and enchant." Queer Nation's style was indeed shocking, aggressive, and captivatingly parodic, picking up in some respects where ACT UP, with its focus on HIV/AIDS, had left off; in fact, the brainstorming included a suggestion to address "issues that ACT UP can't/won't do." The group came together in outraged response to "the escalation of anti-gay and lesbian violence on the streets and prejudice in...