publisher colophon

Archives are central to GLBTQ worldmaking. Recognizing the importance of archives, and building on increased interest in "archive stories," this essay shares archive stories of what I theorize as "straightening up." My conception of straightening up emerges from stories of reading and being read as a self-identified queer femme in the archives of romantic friendship. Ultimately, the essay underscores the inventive possibilities of archive stories, showing how stories of straightening up may prompt queer scholars to reflect critically on questions of archival embodiment and reading.

Queer scholars recognize the centrality of archives to GLBTQ worldmaking in our intellectual and activist communities. In two of the best-known examples from the humanities, Ann Cvetkovich and Jack Halberstam stretch conventional understandings of archival evidence through their focus on archives of trauma, affect, and ephemera in lesbian and transgender subcultures.1 This move to methodologically queer archives also animates scholarship in archival studies. In Ephemeral Material: Queering the Archive, archivist Alana Kumbier engages the work of Cvetkovich and Halberstam while turning to the specific strategies employed by grassroots and institutional archivists.2 Similarly interested in "the formulation 'queering archives,'" the journal Radical History Review has published two special issues thematically oriented to queer archives.3 In my own academic home, transdisciplinary rhetorical studies, scholars examine how GLBTQ archives are constructed, navigated, and deployed to purposeful ends within [End Page 1] particular contexts. Common across this breadth of scholarship is a veneration for the activist leanings of GLBTQ archives, most of which are communitycentered. This "retroactivism," as theorized by Jean Bessette, involves "shaping and drawing from the past for present identity formation and future politics."4

Also threaded throughout scholarship on queer archives is an appetite for story—for narratives of our embodied, affective experiences with, within, and alongside archives. As Kumbier explains, this focus on story emerged partly in response to the need for scholars to collect oral histories in order to create archives that redress the ways GLBTQ lives have been systematically excluded from and silenced within institutional archives.5 As E. Patrick Johnson explains in an interview about oral histories collected for his book, he "was interested in creating a written archive because there was nothing available about African American, queer people in the South."6 In addition to constructing archives through the collection of stories, queer scholars write stories of our own experiences with archives. Lydia Nelson calls "for the incorporation of archival corporealities into queer historiographies," an incorporation that includes stories of researchers' "present-day bodies engaging with tangible archival material."7 E. Cram does just that, theorizing "archival ambience" as "the relation between archival environments, feeling, and memory."8 Cram enacts such a relation by "re-present[ing] the affective routes that move with the sensory interfaces of objects, papers, and photographs" during their research on queer intimacies in the settler colonial space of the American Heritage Center.

Antoinette Burton calls these re-presentations "archive stories" in her edited collection by the same name. As Burton argues, it is "imperative that we talk frankly and openly about the archives and the encounters that we as scholars … have with them."9 Archive stories may take multiple forms, including "narratives about how archives are created, drawn upon, and experienced by those who use them to write history." Although this article narrates archive stories focused on the latter—on how I draw upon and experience archives as a humanities scholar who writes histories of rhetoric—practicing archivists and archival studies scholars also narrate the former—their personal encounters with not only conducting archival research but creating archives. Archivist Jamie A. Lee narrates processes of developing the Arizona Queer Archives alongside GLBTQ community members.10 Archival studies scholar Marika Cifor offers a story of her encounter in the GLBT Historical Society's reading room with a hair that likely belonged to a records creator; this encounter prompts Cifor's critical reflections on questions of embodiment within processes of archival acquisition, appraisal, and research.11

Sharing Burton's conviction about the "imperative" of archive stories, and continuing the storying traditions of both queer and archival studies, this article [End Page 2] narrates my encounters with archives while conducting research for my next book project. These archive stories, much like Nelson's critical reflections, were prompted by a collective queer archival experience. Nelson describes research conducted at the San Francisco Public Library's James C. Hormel Gay and Lesbian Center during the "Cruising the Queer Archives" preconference at the 2010 National Communication Association conference: "If someone noticed a connection to your work or found a fascinating object, they would call you over. We laughed, shared, and discussed … this day at the archive was raucous compared to run-of-the-mill reading room experiences."12 Nelson's description of "communal, joyful, and queer" engagement with archives resonates with my own experiences as a participant in the 2017 Rhetoric Society of America Summer Institute seminar, "Queer Archival Immersion: Rhetoric, Performance, Pedagogy, and Politics." As part of this seminar, participants visited the Kinsey Institute's Library and Archives in small groups. I too found that this queer archival immersion ran raucously astray from my usual experiences in archives, in particular because I conduct virtually all of my research in manuscript collections containing nineteenth-century materials not classified as GLBTQ. Visiting an archives focused on sexuality and gender, especially with a group of fellow queer studies scholars, revealed to me how "straight" most of my other archival encounters have been, in spite of the queer methodologies that direct my research.13

Inspired by this realization, my article theorizes what I call "straightening up" through stories of reading as a self-identified queer femme in the archives of socalled romantic friendship. These stories emerge in relation to my experiences in a local museum library that holds archival materials created by Irene Leache (1839–1900) and Anna Wood (1850–1940). Both white women from Virginia, Leache and Wood shared their lives and careers together within what Wood referred to as an "opulent friendship."14 As I argue elsewhere, this relationship enabled their rhetorical practices as published authors and teachers of belletristic rhetoric at a girls boarding school.15 Here my story of straightening up in the archives proceeds in three sections. The first frames the remainder of the article by offering an initial definition of straightening up. I characterize how the process of straightening up may be experienced across queer studies, while narrating my own experience with straightening up in the local archives. In the second section, I flesh out the complexities of this experience where it is one of femme embodiment. I bring my archive stories in conversation with femme scholars who detail the various forms of privilege and risk that may accompany our being misread as straight. Third and finally, I reflect on how the queer femme experience with being misread sheds light on the ways romantic friendships get misread in the archives. Ultimately, this article underscores the [End Page 3] inventive possibilities of archive stories, showing how stories of straightening up may prompt queer scholars to reflect critically on questions of archival embodiment and reading.

Straightening Up Queer Research

I define "straightening up" in relation to the pressure one may experience to play it straight, to emphasize the not-so-obviously queer aspects of an archival research project, and even one's own embodied comportment. On the one hand, this experience of "straightening up" could be understood as an effect of archival order, such that archives themselves function as what queer theorist Sara Ahmed calls "straightening devices." Straightening devices "keep things in line," so that "any queer effects," any "queer or wonky moments," get "corrected."16 In this sense, Ahmed continues, "We could describe heteronormativity as a straightening device, which rereads the 'slant' of queer desire." Along these lines, archivists and archival studies scholars have shown how conventional archival structures and processes may "keep things in line" in ways that lead to straightening effects. As Cifor observes, "LGBTQ persons and communities, like many marginalized groups, have been ignored, deliberately silenced, and otherwise neglected in traditional archives and archiving process."17

Archivists involved in the development of GLBTQ collections intervene in this marginalization through what Lee describes as the "world-making endeavor of archives being built specifically to represent voices and peoples that are often excluded from what is considered 'proper,' professional, and traditional archives."18 Such interventions counter the ways that "traditional practices can run the risk of reproducing sexual normativities and social divisions." These interventions counter heteronormativity by not only including GLBTQ records, but also carefully framing them and their creators. For example, K. J. Rawson, founding director of the Digital Transgender Archive, explains how its archivists address "the normative logics of archival description" through finding aids and other forms of metadata.19 They take particular care with the interpretive nature of archival description with respect to identity categories, historical and present-day, for gender, sexuality, and race. These interventions are important because, even as GLBTQ archives may seem to proliferate in the early twenty-first century thanks to the labor of archivists, "entire factions of LGBT communities" continue to be "systematically excluded" from archives, and these exclusions are unevenly distributed—often with respect to the ways that homophobia intersects with racism, classism, and settler colonialism.20 [End Page 4]

Indeed, when it comes to periods prior to twentieth-century understandings of GLBTQ identities, those primary materials that do exist in archives are unlikely to be described in ways that facilitate findability for queer research. In the archive stories I share here, for instance, even the records of relatively privileged, educated white women, although preserved and available for research, are not classified in ways that associate them directly with GLBTQ history or make them easily findable for those purposes. Although the archival practice of describing same-sex relationships using only the language of the period helps with avoiding anachronism, an effect of this practice is that archives may function as straightening devices that "keep things in line," orienting users to reread "the 'slant' of queer desire" in keeping with the heteronormativity of the period.21

While straightening up may occur as a function of archival order, such straightening up is not distinct from, but wholly a part of, the broader heteronormative cultures of both historical periods and the present day. Even as archives may operate as straightening devices, in other words, most of the pressure to straighten up that I have experienced is a function not of archives themselves, but of larger cultural forces that I have internalized and carried into the archives. To be clear, I am not confessing to an internalized homophobia that takes the form of routinely closeting myself when I conduct archival research. Anyone who possesses my name may easily Google it, which will lead to not only an explicitly queer body of scholarship, but also coverage from the day my same-sex marriage was, through a series of serendipities and surprises, legalized in front of news cameras. So this is not a story of deliberate, ongoing closeting. Rather, this is a story of recognizing through contrasting encounters—between that in the Kinsey and that in the local archive—how both my research and my femme embodiment may be straightened up by others and, in concert, how I unwittingly straighten them up myself.

Scholars of queer studies frequently experience pressures to straighten up our academic work, and this pressure is by no means limited to archive stories. In particular, at gatekeeping moments (e.g., applying for grant funding, proposing book projects, interviewing for academic positions, and moving through tenure and promotion processes) scholars are advised to play down methodological queerness in order to compete for scarce resources. This advice is often well-intentioned, shared by progressive and even queer scholars. As José Esteban Muñoz notes, "I can not begin to count the times I have been advised—or have advised—friends, colleagues, and students to make their projects look 'straighter'. … Rarely do I suggest that someone 'queer up' their application for a fellowship or play up the heuristic or performative dimensions of a book proposal. Academically and institutionally the communities of scholars that I live in are often in the position of ideologically and theoretically dressing down."22 [End Page 5]

Whether and how much to "dress down" the queerness of my archival research is a question I am faced with routinely, because most of this research focuses on the nineteenth century, prior to the rise of sexological discourse. Again, I study the practices of people who are not described as GLBTQ in finding aids; their records are not classified according to postsexological, much less post-Stonewell, categories of identity. Thus, it is understandable that archivists and library staff do not recognize automatically that my work focuses on same-sex romantic friendships or that I utilize queer methodologies. So I am left to decide how much to come out about these aspects of my research each time I contact an archive to seek access.

In the case of the archive story I share here, I was more hesitant than usual about this decision. A lot of what I had learned about Leache and Wood up to that point was from reading an invaluable book researched and written by Jo Ann Mervis Hofheimer. Her work refers to Leache and Wood as "celibate lovers." After recounting an understanding of romantic friendship drawn from two books on women's history, Hofheimer writes, "They had neither the concept of, nor the terms for, a lesbian relationship. Therefore, when put into historical context, it is misleading and unsupportable to conclude any but the purist alliance."23 Conceptions of romantic friendship as necessarily celibate are by no means unusual. Although the early scholarship on romantic friendship has since been complicated, as I discuss further in the final section of this article, that scholarship continues to be widely cited by historians working outside of GLBTQ studies. Still, the reference to "purity" left me uneasy about gaining access to the local archives, because the author was also involved with the memorial group responsible for preserving much of Leache and Wood's materials, for the materials being archived in the library, and for the ongoing memory work of advancing a particular conception of the women. Would she or the memorial group disapprove of the queer methodologies framing my research? If so, could they limit my access to the archives that most certainly would not exist without their important labor? Not surprisingly, when I emailed the library to inquire about scheduling my first research visit, I noticed myself being more vague than usual about how my project was rooted in queer studies.

My fear that the author or memorial group might be authorized to play some gatekeeping role was reactivated during that first visit, even though at that point I clearly had been granted initial access to the archives. After a warm welcome from the library staff, I was led to a table where the requested materials had been pulled from the archives and set out for me. I went through the usual motions: located a plug for my laptop, opened my notetaking file, placed my camera nearby, and slid my hands into gloves. I picked up and glanced over each book and album, assessing where to begin my work for that day. Then, on the table [End Page 6] underneath the small stack of archival materials, I found a printed email. This email was sent by the author to library staff, with the memorial group's president included in the carbon copy line. Following a first-person address to the library staff, the author begins, "I welcome this research. Perhaps Pamela could call me?" My emotions were mixed as I continued to read the rest of the email. Of course I was relieved, because the person most familiar with the primary materials welcomed me as the next researcher to examine them at length, and I appreciated that she provided helpful information in the email about the records. Yet I was simultaneously grateful for her generous offer to talk with me and nervous already about how to navigate potential questions about my research. I found myself reading between the lines. Did this email trace—an answer to a prompt not printed for me to read—suggest that the author's "welcome" was a step in my gaining access to the archives?

I need to acknowledge a risk involved in voicing this question: the risk that my archive stories will perpetuate stereotypes about archivists. My question was an expression of fear; I feared that I could be denied archival access because of my project's queer approach. Yet this fear, although a perfectly fitting response within the context of heteronormative culture, was also an effect of stereotypes that circulate about archivists as gatekeepers. Even within the archival profession, as Lee notes, legitimizing norms handed down since the earliest publication of the Manual for the Arrangement and Description of Archives (1898) are such that "many … have been taught to see … the professional archivist as 'the keeper' of society's record."24 The harms and inaccuracies that mark stereotypes of archivists as gatekeepers were dramatized by historian Alice Dreger's 2018 Chronicle piece, responses to it, and Dreger's subsequent apology. Introducing what she intended as a humorous account of six archivist "types," Dreger voices the gate-keeping stereotype, which I have encountered in many conversations among humanities scholars and risk perpetuating with my archive stories. "If you want access to what lies beyond that archivist," Dreger writes, "you must get along with him or her."25 Although responses to Dreger illustrate the multiple ways her "types" are demeaning and insulting, the responses consistently counter this particular misperception that archivists use their training, expertise, and positions for the purpose of granting or withholding access to records. As President of the Society of American Archivists (SAA) Tanya Zanish-Belcher writes, the stereotype is evident in each of the reductive "caricatures who variously impede researchers' use of historical records."26 Michael Brenes, "both an archivist and a trained historian," recounts how he "used to think that way." "But once I became part of the archival community," Brenes continues, "I realized that few archivists want to be gatekeepers." Quite the contrary. Promoting "'the widest possible accessibility of materials'" is among the core values of the SAA.27 [End Page 7]

Misinformation about archivists persists in part because, as Brenes acknowledges, few historians (or other humanists) participate actively in the scholarly conversations of archivists and archival studies—even when we write and theorize extensively about archives. Michelle Caswell describes the problem as follows: "'The archive' has been deconstructed, decolonized, and queered by scholars in fields as wide-ranging as English, anthropology, cultural studies, and gender and ethnic studies. Yet almost none of the humanistic inquiry at 'the archival turn' (even that which addresses 'actually existing archives') has acknowledged the intellectual contributions of archival studies as a field of theory and praxis."28 This lack of acknowledgement is not merely the common result of disciplinary silos; rather, it "is a result of the construction of archival labor as a feminine service industry and archival studies (if it is ever even acknowledged as existing) as imparting merely practical how-to skills." Reading Caswell, and realizing my own complicity in the gendered disregard for archival studies, I am weary that voicing my fears about being denied access to Leache and Wood's records will reinforce the uninformed, stereotyped view of archivists as gatekeepers.

Sensitive to such stereotypes, one might question whether my archive stories merely project the fears and vulnerabilities of being a queer scholar in a heteronormative culture onto archives. And to some extent, the answer is "yes." Yes, they do. In a sense, what I have shared thus far is a story of straightening up descriptions of research in order to gain archival access, of operating according to assumptions about access that allow for projecting fears born of living amid homophobia onto archives themselves. It is a story of assessing—quickly, often unconsciously, and with both internalized fear and a sort of queer deftness learned over the course of decades—the layers of potential disapproval, and then discerning to what degree to allow others to assume I am straight. To assume my research is "straight."

Misreading Femme Embodiment

Both sets of assumptions are, it hopefully goes without saying, products of heterosexism. But although heterosexist assumptions about my work are enabled by the location of my research in archives not already characterized as GLBTQ, assumptions about my sexuality are also tied to my gender. In my case, archive stories of straightening up are also stories of femme embodiment. For the purposes of this article, I understand femme, following Lisa Ortiz, as the "reclaiming of attributes associated with femininity that have so often been used against us individually and collectively and using them for our own benefit and pleasure."29 While working from this initial definition, it is beyond the scope of this [End Page 8] archive story to delve into the full complexity of femme theory—much less the shades of hard femme and sporty femme that might help explain my own gender. Across the diversity of femme genders, however, much femme scholarship addresses the problematic of being straightened up.

Writing about representations of the lesbian body during the 1990s, Ann M. Ciasullo uses a similar phrasing—"straightened out"—to characterize the terms by which lesbian women became increasingly visible (and in other ways invisible) on television and in mainstream magazines.30 Of course, the invisibility of the femme body—the ways femme-presenting lesbian, bisexual, and queer women are so often presumed to be straight—is not merely a feature of mainstream cultural representations from the 1990s. Discussed at length across femme writing, such presumptions continue to play out, including within GLBTQ contexts. It is partly because of these heterosexist presumptions about femme embodiment that I am faced repeatedly with the decision of whether or not to come out when conducting archival research. As Ortiz writes, "every time I am mistaken as straight, I make the decision whether to come out or not—to the butcher, the university secretary, my colleagues at a new school—sometimes I feel like it's just not their damn business, but not telling is passing and I don't do that. Being femme often requires an active commitment to be out and proud."31 Ortiz points to the pressures that femmes experience to engage in the speech act of coming out, even in situations where our sexuality may be irrelevant to the "business" at hand. It is important to note that these pressures exist not only because of a desire among femmes to be recognized for who we know ourselves to be, but because others do not simply assume but actively assert our supposed straightness. I lose count, for instance, of the number of times I have been asked about my "husband" amid small talk within academic settings and archives.

Ortiz's account of being femme is more complex than my short quotation captures, considering as it does the multiple, intersecting forms of passing that she navigates as a Latina femme. Yet her declaration about being "out and proud" as a femme also reflects a perspective widely held and in keeping with GLBTQ visibility politics. Visibility politics add to the pressures that femmes experience, suggesting that when we are straightened up by others but do not elect to come out, we are "selling out," assimilating, acting as victims. Yet as Ellen Jean Samuels points out in her work on "two 'invisible' identities"—both "lesbian-femme and nonvisible disability"—the "condemnations of passing" that characterize visibility politics "often conflate two dynamics: passing deliberately … and passing by default."32 Thus far I have shared a moment when, at least in terms of the topic of my research, I passed deliberately by being vague about my research questions, motivated at that point by fears about gaining access to the archives. But the assumption that I am straight—which is relevant because of another [End Page 9] set of assumptions about who necessarily does queer research—is a function of "passing by default." Rarely do I deliberately present myself to others in the academy or the archives with a desire to be perceived as straight. Rather, to borrow Ciasullo's phrasing, they "straighten out" my femme embodiment in tandem with the straightening devices of the broader culture.

As I point to the problematic of femme invisibility within a discussion of gaining access to archives, I trust at least some readers are rightly thinking, "well, this is an experience of white cisgender femme privilege." It is, in particular with respect to the easy access that whiteness provides to normative versions of professionalism and unearned perceptions of academic expertise. In contrast, the stories of women of color in the academy are marked by repeated refusals to recognize their status as faculty members and their expertise as scholars.33 Black femme professor Kaila Adia Story recalls, for instance, the presumptive comments of a colleague during a faculty meeting when Signs came up in conversation. The colleague "tapped me on the shoulder and whispered to me: 'Signs is an academic journal,' to which I retorted: 'I know dear. My B.A. is in Women's and Gender Studies, and I have a Ph.D. just like you.' I don't know if it was my blackness, my feminine presentation and aesthetic, and/or my embodied youth that prevented this faculty member from seeing me as a colleague. What was clear to me was that … she didn't actually see me at all."34 For Story, being straightened up is not simply a matter of invisibility. Rather, she experiences what she theorizes as the "existential paradox of being hypervisible, and yet invisible." Story explains, "While my blackness in many queer and non-queer spaces has made me extremely hypervisible, it has been the combination of my racialized difference and my performance of intentional femininity through my chosen Black femme identity that seems to deem who I truly am, invisible." Story's work suggests that the invisibility I experience as a femme presumed to be straight is in some ways a white experience.

This invisibility also plays out in particular ways where it is a cisgender experience. As a cisgender femme, I experience privilege in being able to presume that I will be read as a woman, my femininity recognized even if misinterpreted. The ability to make this presumption is available to some transgender femmes—in what Janet Mock describes as "the privilege of blending in … my womanhood unchecked and unchallenged in most spaces"—but certainly not to all.35 One only needs to reflect on transgender women's common experience of being misgendered, for instance, to envision how it might also produce paradoxical forms of hypervisibility and invisibility. In addition, as described by Julia Serano, transgender women are confronted with trans-misogynistic stereotypes that their "feminine gender experience" is "'over the top' or 'exaggerated.'"36 This form of trans-misogyny renders many transgender femmes hypervisible, [End Page 10] subject to dismissal, discrimination, ridicule, and violence. Thus, for transgender femmes being invisible as a cisgender femme may seem like a relatively privileged, and safe, position.

Although cisgender and white privilege are alive and well in the academy and the archives, the question of femme privilege is trickier to pin down. Even as heterosexist assumptions that femmes are straight may facilitate access and mitigate the risk of homophobic treatment, these assumptions are accompanied by still other risks, vulnerabilities, and harms. As the thinking behind notions of femme privilege goes, insofar as femmes are presumed to be straight, they are less targeted by homophobic behavior than community members perceived as GLBTQ based on readings of their gender presentation. Femme privilege operates especially when moving through public spaces in which others form quick perceptions based on very little information beyond physical appearance and visual cues. I have certainly experienced the discrepancies in treatment that accompany (white, cisgender) femme privilege. When I am alone in public, I do not fear that I will be subject to homophobic violence based solely on my gender or appearance. In contrast, I was targeted by blatantly homophobic street harassment more than once during a brief period of time after first coming out, when I shaved my head and experimented with dressing more "butch."

However, as Elizabeth Galewski asserts, "the idea that a conventionally feminine gender performance translates directly into social rewards exhibits a remarkable amount of faith in patriarchy's willingness and ability to make good on its promise to women."37 Such a faith belies an extensive body of feminist activism and research that has made clear "the drawbacks to being a feminine female and the object of heterosexual men's desire, citing our nation's rape, murder, domestic violence, and sexual harassment statistics." Along these lines, the regular sexual harassment I have experienced as a femme simply walking and bicycling and taking the bus or train from one place to another, especially when I was younger and bravely wore skirts more often, is not a privilege. This harassment is frightening, faced as it is amid the known realities of sexual assault.

The femme experience of being straightened up also poses risks to the very forms of GLBTQ belonging that may help one to weather a continuum of sexual violence (not to mention the homophobia that out queer femme scholars face). Ciasullo reflects on her own experiences with feeling pressure "to eschew all things feminine" in order to attain a sense of belonging within lesbian communities. She recalls, "I spent months, if not years, feeling out of place. I remember going to gay bars with my girlfriend and fearing that I would be exposed at any minute. I honestly believed someone would come up to me and say, 'Wait a minute … you're not really a lesbian. …'"38 Although my own fears of being perceived as "not really queer" have certainly dwindled over time, I [End Page 11] actually experienced exactly what Ciasullo feared. It was more than fifteen years ago, but I can still conjure the sticky bar I stood next to, the thrifted red dress I wore. I was at Wall Street, a gay dance club in Columbus, Ohio, where I had nearly melted into the ground during my first visit, scanning the room, taking in the gender fabulousness, and suddenly understanding so much about my seemingly confused sexuality. On the night in question, I was no longer confused. Someone I did not know approached me and, as their opening line, proceeded to tell me I was "not really gay." I wish I could narrate a witty comeback. But in truth, my femme body washed over with shame, and I quickly exited the club. In retrospect, it is possible this person was attempting to flirt in a way incomprehensible to me. Like Ciasullo imagines, though, the moment left me feeling out of place and far from belonging.

As I narrate what is more of a "bar story" than an archive story, readers might wonder what my story has to do with archives. Most people who presume I am straight, particularly in academic and archival contexts, are not so crude. I mention my "spouse," they ask about my "husband," I refer to her/them by name, and then they apologize or simply self-correct. Although my fears surrounding archival access may be projections, as previously discussed, I am not alone in carrying the baggage of both heteronormative culture and GLBTQ subcultures into the archives. How, after all, could anyone live out femme embodiment and not carry such fears into the archives? And why would we place the onus of relinquishing these fears on individual femme researchers, as opposed to considering how larger institutions could more actively communicate their openness to queer research while cultivating settings in which no one is assumed to be, or misread as, straight?

Returning to my archive story, it is this question of being misread that I want to emphasize. My thinking here is indebted to Durba Ghosh's archive stories of conducting research in Britain and India on "local [Indian] women who cohabitated with or married European men in the long eighteenth century."39 Ghosh shares that, in the case of her research in Calcutta and New Delhi, "many archivists and librarians denied that native women became sexually involved with European men. … Distaste for the notion of interracial sex involving Indian (read: Hindu) women was expressed to me many times over by historians, archivists, librarians, and various library hangers-on." Ghosh reflects on how these archival encounters may have hinged on the ways her own embodiment was being read by others. "Perhaps because I am female," she writes, "and was then young and unmarried, and so perceived as naïve about the workings of interracial sex, my presence invited advice of many sorts. My own status as a high-caste Hindu woman was often referred to." Detailing such encounters, Ghosh emphasizes how others' readings of her embodiment shaped the information she was [End Page 12] directed toward and away from. As Burton observes, Ghosh's archive story "dramatizes the ways in which gender and race as forms of embodiment can mark the experience of the historian, subjecting her to certain kinds of surveillance and even limiting her access to documents."40 These questions of embodiment are, again, matters of reading. In Ghosh's words, "While I was busy reading the archives, I found the archives were reading me."41 Reading Ghosh's archive stories helps me to realize that, although our locations differ in terms of race, geography, class, and sexuality, I too am not only reading but being read in the archives—that misreadings of my femme embodiment are central to encounters of being straightened up.

Rereading Romantic Friendship

Encounters of being straightened up also prompt me to rethink how I, as a femme who is often misread, might understand the ways romantic friends are read in the archives. Here too, Ghosh's archive story and Burton's framing are instructive in their emphasis on the inventive potential of archive stories. Ghosh ventures that she "seeks to expand our definitions of the kinds of knowledge that archives produce by destabilizing the notion that archives are only places of impersonal encounters with printed documents."42 According to Bur-ton, contributors to Archive Stories share a "conviction that history is not merely a project of fact-retrieval … but also a set of complex processes of selection, interpretation, and even creative invention—processes set in motion by, among other things, one's personal encounter with the archive."43 For me, narrating my personal encounters with the archives in relation to femme embodiment has set in motion new ways of thinking about how romantic friendships are read.

The nature of these relationships is debated by historians of sexuality and nineteenth-century romantic life. In brief, earlier histories argued that, although some nineteenth-century women's writing describes friendships using emotionally charged, sentimentalized language, this language was common to the period and not indicative of sexual practices.44 These early studies of romantic friendship also insisted it was socially acceptable prior to sexological discourse and its invention of sexual identity categories. Certainly nineteenth-century women's relationships should be situated within their historical context. The recognition that identity categories are historically specific, for instance, rightly continues to frame most scholarship on romantic friendship. But recent scholarship has complicated the earlier studies. With increased access to a wider range of archival materials, historians now point to a more nuanced understanding of a range of romantic friendships that were (and were not) socially accepted and/or sexual to [End Page 13] varying degrees.45 In my own work, focused less on identity categories and more on rhetorical practices, I have been and remain persuaded by the latter perspective. What shifts in this archive story is a sense that what I consider misreadings of romantic friends—readings that confidently assert their relations were necessarily, always, and entirely celibate—are akin to misreadings of femmes in at least three ways.

First and foremost, misreadings of both femme embodiment and the erotics of romantic friendship are marked by an inability to recognize queer possibilities and, for scholars, what Kenneth Burke understands as "trained incapacity." In the words of Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, who recasts the problem of femme invisibility, "We're only 'invisible' if you don't know how to look / for us."46 Femme embodiment is invisible, in other words, insofar as those who presume we are straight do not know what to look for (or even to look at all) when reading us. I understand this "tendency to see straight" as in inability rather than an inevitably, because thankfully there are plenty of queer suitors, friends, and allies who are motivated to educate themselves in the ways of reading and seeing femmes.47

The inability to discern the sexual and/or erotic dimensions of a relationship when reading the archives of romantic friendship takes shape along parallel lines. Yet with respect to disciplinary education, one's training can be precisely what produces certain forms inability. Burke describes trained incapacity as "the state of affairs whereby one's very abilities can function as blindnesses."48 Historians and rhetorical critics alike may become so well-trained in interpretive methods for historically situating primary texts and avoiding anachronism that they are unable to recognize evidentiary traces suggesting queer possibilities not in keeping with widely cited secondary accounts of romantic friendship. Of course, the sexual and/or erotic dimensions of romantic friendship may be invisible because they simply did not exist or did not leave archival traces. In at least some cases, however, they did exist and did leave traces, but we operate according to our trained incapacity—one produced by a heterosexist culture, reinforced by the earliest scholarship on romantic friendship, and perpetuated by a persistent refusal to incorporate the findings of more recent archival research. In these interpretive moments, the potentially queer traces in the records—the evidence that the women, in enacting intimacy, passion, and domesticity with and toward one another, strayed from the heteronormative path of marriage, home, and children—are reread via the "straightening device" of heteronormativity, such that the queer effects of their same-sex relationships are "corrected."49 The very form of the romantic friendship is reread, to paraphrase Ahmed, "in [a] way that straightens that form."

Consider the "opulent friends" around whom this archive story centers. Accounts of Leache and Wood's relationship reflect the above complexities of [End Page 14] broader scholarly debates about romantic friendship. Leache and Wood's "intimate association" is included in Gay American History, and they are mentioned in a list of "Lesbian foremothers" from the South.50 Jane Turner Censer concludes, although "we can not determine the sexual orientation of these women," Wood's "narrative makes it clear that theirs was indeed a loving partnership."51 Finally, as previously discussed, Hofheimer's characterization of the women as "celibate lovers" claims they "had neither the concept of, nor the terms for, a lesbian relationship. Therefore, when put into historical context, it is misleading and insupportable to conclude any but the purest alliance."52 I share an unwillingness to project postsexological notions of lesbian identity onto Leache and Wood's relationship. Yet if "purity" precludes any erotic relation other than complete celibacy, I am less confident about how misleading and insupportable it would be to at least consider what concepts and terms for same-sex relationships were available to Leache and Wood within their historical context. I want to venture instead that, if we "know how to look" when reading this archive of romantic friendship, we find Wood was well aware of figures associated with eroticized same-sex love from across historical periods in the West.

Writing in her unpublished albums about the Roman fresco of the Greek lyric poet from Lesbos, Wood asks of "this so-called Sappho," "Is there in her expression a blending of the intellectual and the passionate?"53 Wood also offers a sketch dramatizing how Electra fell in "love" with Helen because of Aphrodite's curse.54 Wood mentions "the classic Antonius," an "ideal of manly beauty," noting his "certain feminine beauty of contour" within a discussion of "sodomy."55 She writes as well about Gilgamesh and Enkidu,56 Pylades and Orestes, and David and Jonathan57—all friends whose relationships she variously treats as romantic or homoerotic in keeping with Western cultural history.

Closer to her own historical period, Wood's published book about her friendship with Leache compares it to that between Sarah Ponsonby and Eleanor Butler, the "Ladies of Llangollen" who became "the model of Romantic Friendship" in late eighteenth-century Europe.58 Remarking on same-sex friendship, Wood writes, "Here is another strange fact, that, in calling the roll of world-famous friendships … we discover that these existed nearly altogether between men, if we except the attachment of the far-famed but little known Ladies of Llangollen."59 Wood clearly knew about Ponsonby and Butler, whose romantic friendship was rumored to be more than platonic.60 A comparison with the Ladies of Llangollen is also articulated in Edward Stevenson's early twentieth-century sexological study, published after Leache's death. Leache and Wood, along with the Ladies of Llangollen, are the two examples provided to support the claim that, "Suggestive friendships of uraniad force and constancy are many among women of the intersexual type."61 Again, I do not ascribe any "intersexual type" [End Page 15] or present-day sexual identity to Leache and Wood. Rather, I want to emphasize that, if we train ourselves to look, rather than presuming what nineteenth-century women could have known, we may find in some instances that they were well aware of both contemporaneous models of women's romantic friendship and examples of eroticized same-sex relationships from earlier periods.

Second, misreadings of romantic friends as inherently celibate are akin to misreadings of femmes as straight in that both romantic friendship and femme embodiment provide what Marylynne Diggs calls a "cover," whether intentional or not, that enables such straightening up within heterosexist cultures.62 For queer femmes living in the twenty-first century, this "cover" function is often (though certainly not always) unwelcome, a matter of what Samuels terms "passing by default."63 For women in the nineteenth century, however, romantic friendship may have functioned as a welcome and even strategic cover where contemporary assumptions that romantic friendships were celibate made them socially acceptable. Consider Diggs's counter to the continued misreadings of women's same-sex erotic relationships. Discussing Anne Lister's diaries, "which describe her sexual relationships with other women and her doubts that the famed 'Ladies of Llangollen' had a purely 'platonic' relationship," Diggs writes, these "diaries provide evidence that, at the turn of the nineteenth century, women were aware of the popular notion of nonsexual romantic friendships and engaged in sexual relationships under that cover."64 Diggs explains further, in reference to another same-sex relationship, that "such relations were tolerated only to the extent they were misunderstood as 'romantic friendship.'" Here Diggs quotes sexologist Richard von Krafft-Ebing, whose work circles us back to questions of invisibility in instances where one does not know what to look for. According to Diggs, "he explained the relatively scant medical attention to lesbianism by arguing that 'inverted sexual intercourse among women is less noticeable, and by outsiders is considered mere friendship.'"

To be clear, I am not arguing that Leache and Wood did engage in a sexual relationship that was made possible by the cover of presumptions that romantic friendships were celibate. But they could have. They were certainly living, and seemingly aware that they were living, in a world where women did so. It is only in misreadings of romantic friends—both in their own time and now in the archives—that the appearance of a romantic friendship necessarily guarantees celibacy. It is only in misreadings of femmes that the appearance of femininity indicates heterosexuality. It is only in a heterosexist culture and reading practice that the lack of an overt statement—whether about sexual practices or sexual identity—is taken as evidence of celibacy or heterosexuality. It is heterosexism that demands the speech act, the coming out, that is convinced we are straight until proven otherwise. Yet we live and read and relate—romantic friends and [End Page 16] femmes—amid the straightening devices of heterosexist cultures, and it is here that we decide, not once and for all, but in each encounter, whether to offer or withhold certain speech acts and/or records of them.

Third and finally, then, I want to urge that, even where romantic friends and femmes do take cover—or engage in "passing deliberately"65—we should not misread this practice as necessarily or always a strategic move for practical purposes. It is clear that misreadings of romantic friends that straightened up their relations may have had a practical function, allowing the women to continue to live, relate, and work in the world. In my larger project, for example, I investigate how such misreadings actually helped to enable the civic contributions of the women I study, making possible their political and professional activities as rhetors and teachers of rhetoric. But that is only part of the story. Passing can also be a matter of pleasure; there is an erotics of passing.

The potential for passing to function not simply as assimilation within heteronormativity and homonormativity, but as the queer pursuit of pleasure, is taken up by Linda Schlossberg. Passing is akin, she writes, to "queer identity itself" in that "passing can be experienced as a source of radical pleasure or intense danger; it can function as a badge of shame or a source of pride."66 Pointing out how passing may confront the visibility politics already discussed, she continues, "Passing as practice questions the commonly held assumption that visibility is necessarily positive, pleasurable, even desirable. Indeed, rather than simply functioning as a cop-out or a ruse, an ingenious method of protection or self-defense, passing can also, it seems, be experienced as a uniquely pleasurable experience, one that trades on the erotics of secrecy and revelation." Of course, passing can be "fundamentally conservative," as Schlossberg and most queer scholars and activists recognize without hesitation. What I want to emphasize, though, is the possibility for passing—whether present-day queer femmes passing as straight, or nineteenth-century women's romantic friendships passing as celibate—to pursue pleasure through the very "secrecy and revelation" that is produced by normative misreadings of femme embodiment and romantic friendship. Part of the pleasure in such a pursuit is constituted through a queer enjoyment of "trickery" even amid the misreadings of femme gender. As Sydney Fonteyn Lewis writes, "Femme's intervention into heteropatriarchy has a history of being misread as yielding to heteropatriarchy's fantasy of femininity, but that is part of Femme's mystical glamour, its trickery."67 Both queer femmes and romantic friends may have played with the erotics of this secrecy, revelation, and trickery.

I know that I am femme not as a playing down of queer sexuality, but because this playing with gender is precisely what does it for me. Along similar lines, it could be that the relational performances of nineteenth-century romantic [End Page 17] friends—of intimacies about which people may speculate, but never have their curiosities satisfied—were what did it for them. Although the erotics of secrecy, revelation, and trickery are, by definition, difficult to locate and interpret in the archives, we should remember that evidence of romantic friendships comes to our attention precisely because these women elected to leave records—however unrevealing—of the ways their lives diverted from the heteronormative paths for opposite-sex romance, state-sanctioned marriage, and biological childbearing. I want to urge that, for at least some romantic friends, the very aspects of their relations that seem to allow for misreading may be suggestive of sexuality. Perhaps romantic friends played down the erotic dimensions of their lives together not only to make them more livable. Perhaps some of this playing was what did it for them, whether as asexuality itself or the drag that plays with the very distinction between the "origin" and "copies," between the "real" and "imitations."68 As scholars in the archives, we read with too limited a vision of pleasure when we ignore this potential eroticism of passing.

Conclusion: Archival Relations

This article has considered the inventive potential of archive stories through a focus on "straightening up." I understand straightening up in terms of the pressure we may experience to play it straight, to deemphasize the queer dimensions of our research projects, and even our embodied comportment. While theorizing this process with relevance across queer studies, I have focused in particular on stories of queer femme embodiment. My story of being misread is revealing of the ways that romantic friendship also gets misread. Misreadings of both femme embodiment and romantic friendship are marked by a trained incapacity, a presumption of straightness or celibacy that does not "know how to look" for the erotics of femme gender or romantic friendship. Misreadings of romantic friends as inherently celibate are also akin to misreadings of femmes in that both romantic friendship and femme embodiment provide a "cover," intentional or not, that enables presumptions of straightness within heterosexist cultures and reading practices. Finally, straightening up is itself misread when passing is presumed to be only a practical, strategic move, thus ignoring the potentially queer pleasures of secrecy, revelation, and trickery. Archive stories of straightening up prompt queer scholars, already deeply invested in archives as sites of GLBTQ worldmaking, to reflect critically on such questions of embodiment and reading with respect to gender and sexuality.

As I conclude, I want to acknowledge that the archive story I have shared is inevitably abridged, centered as it is on reflections that emerged in relation to [End Page 18] my initial encounters in the archives. Certainly this story has prompted me to rethink the ways I am read as a femme as well as the ways I myself read romantic friendships in the archives. But as I did gain and then sustain archival access, what began as an archival encounter developed into more. As in other realms of GLBTQ worldmaking, archival encounters may become ongoing archival relations. In this case, what I had feared would be an experience of gatekeeping actually evolved into my most intimate, ongoing experience in archives. This experience was marked by the development of relationships with people and place, as I returned to the same archives, usually on a weekly basis, over the course of over two years. These archival relations enabled more kinds of access. In another story not to be shared here, such access included gossip overhead while working closely alongside library staff who expressed interest in and curiosity about Leache and Wood's relationship. If my afternoon in the Kinsey was a quickie, the local archival relations that emerged over time were a friendship—a friendship professional rather than romantic, yet marked still by important intimacies.

Within the context of archival relations developed over time, the common femme experience of being misread as straight may open up subversive possibilities. More long-term archival relations leave time for one to be misread and straightened up, to gain access and establish ethos as an archival researcher, and then later come out. Galewski considers, for instance, the "stealthy subversion" of femmes who pass as straight and then, after they are known within a group of people, disrupt hetero-sexism by sharing their sexuality.69

Regular spatial proximity over time also opens up other, less expected possibilities for archival intimacies. I was in the local archives on an August day when I received a text—"Can I call you? It's an emergency"—followed by a heart-wrenching phone call: my mother-in-law had suddenly and unexpectedly passed. The archivist who was most often present during my visits responded with care and compassion as she became the first person with whom I shared news of the loss. This was a speech act far more intimate, to my mind, than any coming out. And yet, as a queer femme living in my own historical time, it is hard to imagine how I would have made it from there—from the table where I received the call while examining archival records to my home and grieving spouse—if this archivist had not already known about my spouse, if she could not understand the emotional weight of my sudden departure, could not welcome my return to the archives many weeks later with that same kindness of understanding. Whatever "straightening up" I may have experienced in the past or feared when first reaching out to the archives, it was the development of archival relations over time that sustained my work. [End Page 19]

Pamela VanHaitsma

Pamela VanHaitsma is an assistant professor in Communication Arts and Sciences and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Penn State University, where she also serves as an associate director of the Center for Humanities and Information. She is the author of Queering Romantic Engagement in the Postal Age: A Rhetorical Education (University of South Carolina Press, 2019). Early research for the book was recognized with the Rhetoric Society of America's 2015 Charles Kneupper Award. Her scholarship has appeared in journals including Advances in the History of Rhetoric, College Composition and Communication, Peitho, Rhetoric & Public Affairs, Rhetoric Review, and Rhetoric Society Quarterly.


. Thank you to Tom Nakayama, Chuck Morris, and two anonymous reviewers. For their facilitation of the RSA Summer Institute seminar that prompted my critical reflections, I thank E. Cram, Chuck Morris, Eric Darnell Pritchard, and K. J. Rawson. I am grateful to Jean Bessette, Garrett Nichols, and Courtney Rivard who, as copanelists at the next RSA, helped me to understand these reflections as archive stories. I also thank Haley Schneider for her research assistance.

1. Ann Cvetkovich, An Archive of Feelings: Trauma, Sexuality, and Lesbian Public Cultures (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003); Jack [Judith] Halberstam, In a Queer Time and Place: Transgender Bodies, Subcultural Lives (New York: New York University Press, 2005).

2. Alana Kumbier, Ephemeral Material: Queering the Archive (Sacramento, CA: Litwin Books, 2014), 31–32.

3. Daniel Marshall, Kevin P. Murphy, and Zeb Tortorici, "Queering Archives, Historical Unravelings," Radical History Review 120 (2014): 1.

4. Jean Bessette, Retroactivism in the Lesbian Archives: Composing Pasts and Futures (Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 2017), 11.

5. Kumbier, Ephemeral Material, 14.

6. Jason Ruiz, "Pleasure and Pain in Black Queer Oral History and Performance," QED: A Journal in GLBTQ Worldmaking 1, no. 2 (2014): 163.

7. Lydia Nelson, "Reanimating Archiving/Archival Corporealities: Deploying 'Big Ears' in De Rigueur Moritis Intervention," QED: A Journal in GLBTQ Worldmaking 1, no. 2 (2014): 133.

8. E. Cram, "Archival Ambience and Sensory Memory: Generating Queer Intimacies in the Settler Colonial Archive," Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies 13, no. 2 (2016): 111–12.

9. Antoinette Burton, "Introduction: Archive Fever, Archive Stories," in Archive Stories: Facts, Fictions, and the Writing of History, ed. Antoinette Burton (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005), 6.

10. Jamie A. Lee, "Be/longing in the Archival Body: Eros and the 'Endearing' Value of Material Lives," Archival Science 16 (2016): 33–51.

11. Marika Cifor, "Presence, Absence, and Victoria's Hair: Examining Affect and Embodiment in Trans Archives," TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly 2, no. 4 (2015): 645–49.

12. Nelson, "Reanimating," 133.

13. I do not mean to suggest, of course, that the Kinsey is a model for queer archiving.

14. Anna Cogswell Wood, The Story of a Friendship: A Memoir (New York: Knickerbocker Press, 1901), 12; Sargeant Memorial Collection, Norfolk Public Library, Norfolk, VA.

15. Pamela VanHaitsma, "'Opulent Friendships,' Rhetorical Emulation, and Belletristic Instruction at Leache-Wood Seminary," in Women at Work: Rhetorics of Gender and Labor in the U.S., ed. David Gold and Jessica Enoch (Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2019), 56–68.

16. Sara Ahmed, "Orientations: Toward a Queer Phenomenology," GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 12, no. 4 (2006): 561–62. I thank Lindsay Rose Russell for sharing this connection to Ahmed's work.

17. Marika Cifor, "Affecting Relations: Introducing Affect Theory to Archival Discourse," Archival Science 16 (2016): 14.

18. Jamie A. Lee, "Beyond Pillars of Evidence: Exploring the Shaky Ground of Queer/ed Archives and Their Methodologies," in Research in the Archival Multiverse, ed. Anne J. Gilliland, Sue McKemmish, and Andrew J. Lau (Clayton, Australia: Monash University Publishing, 2017), 328.

19. K. J. Rawson, "The Rhetorical Power of Archival Description: Classifying Images of Gender Transgression," Rhetoric Society Quarterly 48, no. 4 (2018): 331, 333, 344.

20. K. J. Rawson, "Archive This! Queering the Archive," in Practicing Research in Writing Studies: Reflexive and Ethically Responsible Research, ed. Katrina M. Powell and Pamela Takayoshi (New York: Hampton Press, 2012), 239.

21. Ahmed, "Orientations," 561–62.

22. José Esteban Muñoz, "Ephemera as Evidence: Introductory Notes to Queer Acts," Women and Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory 8, no. 2 (1996): 7–8.

23. Jo Ann Mervis Hofheimer, Annie Wood, a Portrait: The Life and Times of the Founder of the Irene Leache Memorial (Norfolk, VA: Irene Leache Memorial, 1996), 45; emphasis added.

24. Lee, "Beyond," 326–27.

25. Alice Dreger, "The Delicate Art of Dealing with Your Archivist," Chronicle of Higher Education, July 29, 2018,

26. Tanya Zanish-Belcher, "Zanish-Belcher Responds to Chronicle of Higher Education Article," Society of American Archivists, August 1, 2018,

27. Michael Brenes, "Historians Just Don't Get Archivists. Here's Why," The Chronicle of Higher Education, August 2, 2018,

28. Michelle Caswell, "'The Archive' Is Not an Archives: Acknowledging the Intellectual Contributions of Archival Studies," Reconstruction: Studies in Contemporary Culture 16, no. 1 (2016),

29. Lisa Ortiz, "Dresses for My Round Brown Body," in Femme: Feminists, Lesbians, and Bad Girls, ed. Laura Harris and Elizabeth Crocker (New York: Routledge, 2014), 92.

30. Ann M. Ciasullo, "Making Her (In)Visible: Cultural Representations of Lesbianism and the Lesbian Body in the 1990s," Feminist Studies 27, no. 3 (2001): 578.

31. Ortiz, "Dresses," 91.

32. Ellen Samuels, "My Body, My Closet: Invisible Disability and the Limits of Coming-Out Discourse," GLQ: A Journal of Gay and Lesbian Studies 9, nos. 1–2 (2003): 244, 240.

33. Gabriella Gutiérrez y Muhs, Yolanda Flores Niemann, Carmen G. González, and Angela P. Harris, ed., Presumed Incompetent: The Intersections of Race and Class for Women in Academia (Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 2012).

34. Kaila Adia Story, "Fear of a Black Femme: The Existential Conundrum of Embodying a Black Femme Identity while Being a Professor of Black, Queer and Feminist Studies," Journal of Lesbian Studies 21, no. 4 (2017): 408, 414, 408.

35. Janet Mock, Surpassing Certainty: What My Twenties Taught Me (New York: Atria, 2017), xix.

36. Julia Serano, "Reclaiming Femininity," in Transfeminist Perspectives in and beyond Transgender and Gender Studies, ed. Anne Enke (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2012), 173.

37. Elizabeth Galewski, "'Playing Up Being a Woman': Femme Performance and the Potential for Ironic Representation," Rhetoric and Public Affairs 11, no. 2 (2008): 280–81.

38. Ciasullo, "Making Her," 580; emphasis in original.

39. Durba Ghosh, "National Narratives and the Politics of Miscegenation," in Archive Stories, 28–29.

40. Burton, "Introduction," 10.

41. Ghosh, "National Narratives," 30.

42. Ibid., 28.

43. Burton, "Introduction," 7–8.

44. Lillian Faderman, Surpassing the Love of Men: Romantic Friendship and Love between Women from the Renaissance to the Present (New York: William Morrow, 1981); Car-roll Smith-Rosenberg, "The Female World of Love and Ritual: Relations between Women in Nineteenth-Century America," Signs 1, no. 1 (1975): 1–29.

45. Rachel Hope Cleves, Charity and Sylvia: A Same-Sex Marriage in Early America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014); Marylynne Diggs, "Romantic Friends or a 'Different Race of Creatures?' The Representation of Lesbian Pathology in Nineteenth-Century America," Feminist Studies 21, no. 2 (1995): 317–40; Karen Hansen, "'No Kisses Is Like Youres': An Erotic Friendship between Two African-American Women during the Mid-Nineteenth Century," Gender & History 7, no. 2 (1995): 153–82; Martha Vicinus, Intimate Friends: Women Who Loved Women, 1778–1928 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004).

46. Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, "Femme Shark Manifesto!" in Persistence: All Ways Butch and Femme, ed. Ivan E. Coyote and Zena Sharman (Vancouver, Canada: Arsenal Pulp Press, 2011), 289.

47. Ahmed, "Orientations," 561.

48. Quoted in Eric Wais, "Trained Incapacity: Thorstein Veblen and Kenneth Burke," K. B. Journal 2, no. 1 (2005),

49. Ahmed, "Orientations," 561–62.

50. Jonathan Katz, Gay American History: Lesbians and Gay Men in the USA (New York: Meridian, 1992), 656 n. 141; James Thomas Sears, Rebels, Rubyfruit, and Rhinestones: Queering Space in the Stonewall South (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2001), 356 n. 12.

51. Jane Turner Censer, The Reconstruction of White Southern Womanhood, 1865–1895 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2003), 176.

52. Hofheimer, Annie Wood, 45

53. Anna Cogswell Wood, [untitled album, n.d.], Archives, Jean Outland Chrysler Library, Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, VA (JOCL). Wood's unpublished albums are undated; pages are unnumbered.

54. Anna Cogswell Wood, The Psychology of Crime, Illustrated by Several Modern Poets (Florence, Italy: n.p., n.d.), 8, JOCL.

55. Anna Cogswell Wood, [untitled album, n.d.], JOCL.

56. Anna Cogswell Wood, Drama Sketches for Parlor Acting or Recitation (Florence, Italy: Succ. B. Seeber, 1925), 4, JOCL.

57. Wood, The Story, iii. References to Pylades and Orestes, as well as David and Jonathan, also appear in Wood's unpublished albums.

58. Vicinus, Intimate Friends, 6.

59. Wood, The Story, 5.

60. Diggs, "Romantic Friends," 319; Lisa Moore, "'Something More Tender Still than Friendship': Romantic Friendship in Early-Nineteenth-Century England," Feminist Studies 18, no. 3 (1992): 499–520; Helena Whitbread, ed., I Know My Own Heart: The Diaries of Anne Lister, 1791–1840 (New York: New York University Press, 1992), 210.

61. Edward Irenaeus Prime Stevenson [as Xavier Mayne], The Intersexes: A History of Similisexualism as a Problem in Social Life (1908; reprint, New York: Arno, 1975), 404. This early use of the terms "intersexual" and "uraniad," which designated "sexes" associated with homosexuality, should not be confused with the term "inter-sex" as used in the present. Stevenson described two "intersexes": "These Intersexes partake of the natures and temperaments and physiques of both the male and the female. … Departing from the first sex a man, we establish a second and 'inter-sexual' sex, known to European medico-psychologic literature as the Urning, or Uranian sex. … We next establish … a third sex, or intersex, called the Uraniad, which refers to the feminine, but the feminine sexually masculinized; of which sex many 'women-seeming' women are members" (19).

62. Diggs, "Romantic Friends," 319.

63. Samuels, "My Body," 240.

64. Diggs, "Romantic Friends," 319, 328.

65. Samuels, "My Body," 240.

66. Linda Schlossberg, "Introduction: Rites of Passing," in Passing: Identity and Interpretation in Sexuality, Race, and Religion, ed. María Carla Sánchez and Linda Schlossberg (New York: New York University Press, 2001), 3.

67. Sydney Fonteyn Lewis, "'Everything I Know about Being Femme I Learned from Sula,' or Toward a Black Femme-inist Criticism," Trans-Scripts 2 (2012): 105.

68. Judith Butler, "Imitation and Gender Insubordination," in Inside/Out: Lesbian Theories, Gay Theories, ed. Diana Fuss (New York: Routledge, 1991), 21–22.

69. Galewski, "'Playing Up,'" 291.

Additional Information

Print ISSN
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.