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Queering Gay and Lesbian Studies

Queering Gay and Lesbian Studies

Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 144
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  • Book Info
    Queering Gay and Lesbian Studies
    Book Description:

    Queering Gay and Lesbian Studies is a broadly interdisciplinary study that considers a key dilemma in gay and lesbian studies through the prism of identity and its discontents: the field studies has modeled itself on ethnic studies programs, perhaps to be intelligible to the university community, but certainly because the ethnic studies route to programs is well established. Since this model requires a stable and identifiable community, gay and lesbian studies have emphasized stable and knowable identities. The problem, of course is that sexuality is neither stable, tidy, nor developmental. With the advent of queer theory, there are now other perspectives available that frequently find themselves at odds with traditional gay and lesbian studies. _x000B_In this pioneering new study, Thomas Piontek provides a critical analysis of the development of gay and lesbian studies alongside the development of queer theory, the disputes between them, and criticism of their activities from both in and outside of the gay academic community. Examining disputes about transgendering, gay male promiscuity, popular culture, gay history, political activism, and non-normative sexual practices, Piontek argues that it is vital to queer gay and lesbian studies--opening this emerging discipline to queer critical interventions without, however, further institutionalizing queer theory.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09216-9
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    In the following pages I attempt to intervene in the conflict between those who see queer theory as the bête noire of gay and lesbian studies and those who embrace it without reservation, believing that “queer studies” should supplant gay and lesbian studies.¹ An explanation of the book’s title may help describe the stakes here. On the one hand, queer theory in many ways interrogates gay and lesbian studies, and I thus attempt to elucidate the questions and challenges it has posed to this disciplinary formation. On the other hand, queer theory hasalready“queered” gay and lesbian studies and...

  5. 1 Forget Stonewall: Making Gay History Perfectly Queer
    (pp. 7-29)

    The 1970s and subsequent decades have spawned a proliferation of writing frequently described as “minority history,” a term that encompasses various subordinate groups’ struggles to recover histories previously overlooked or excluded. Minority history has met with considerable resistance from consensus historians, who claim that the political use of history jeopardizes the historian’s scholarly integrity.¹ John Boswell, a Yale professor who wrote perhaps the most popular work of gay history,Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality, addresses these anxieties about a politicization of the historical profession in a 1989 essay:

    Since the exclusion of minorities from much historiography prior to the twentieth...

  6. 2 Queering the Rhetoric of the Gay Male Sex Wars
    (pp. 30-51)

    Today any discussion of sex and sexuality will necessarily include an analysis of the public response to AIDS, for since the 1980s the HIV epidemic has become a “primary site for Americans to struggle over sexual ethics—to clarify the meaning and morality of sex.”¹ The epidemic heightened Americans’ feelings about sexuality in general. Not surprisingly, the meaning and public role of homosexuality were particularly contested, and gay men in the United States were faced with the threat that movements to restrict sexual expression in the wake of AIDS would be especially repressive of nonnormative sexualities. Thus, the advent of...

  7. 3 How Gay Theory and the Gay Movement Betrayed the Sissy Boy
    (pp. 52-66)

    Looking at some photographs of me as a young child, a friend exclaimed: “Boy, you were such a little faggot, how could your parents not know you were gay?” Instead of being offended by my friend’s bluntness, I appreciated his unequivocal statement of something I had always felt but had never been able to put into words—I have always been that way, even before I knew what “that way” meant. The surprising thing, of course, is that the pictures we pored over were taken when I was five or six, long before I knew what homosexuality was, long before...

  8. 4 Queer Alternatives to Men and Women
    (pp. 67-80)

    In her groundbreaking bookGender Outlaw: On Men, Women, and the Rest of Us, the transgender activist Kate Bornstein asks, “Isn’t it amazing the lengths we’ll go to in order to maintain the illusion that there are only two genders, and that these genders must remain separate?” To maintain the chimera of binary gender, she argues, self-appointed “gender defenders” often terrorize those whom they perceive to be gender outlaws: “This culture attacks people on the basis of being or not being correctly gendered.”¹ Bornstein’s book analyzes the various acts of violence gender terrorists have committed in defense of the dimorphic...

  9. 5 Redrawing the Map of the Gender-and-Sex Landscape: Gender, Identity, and the Performativity of Queer Sex
    (pp. 81-94)

    Gay and lesbian studies and queer theory have disagreed significantly over the status of nonnormative sexual practices such as leather sex and S/M.¹ For the most part, both mainstream gay politics and gay and lesbian studies treat these “fringe sexualities” as bearing no significance to the majority of gays, evincing the attitude that the less said about them, the better. Conversely, queer theory has emphasized sexual practice as an area where social and cultural meanings are contested and negotiated.² Queer theorists, it seems, can’t stop talking about sex. In fact, in a spectacular move that accords central significance to marginal...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 95-98)

    Throughout this book I have clearly revealed my sympathies for queer theory’s deconstructive bent. Nonetheless, it may be expedient to employ the sign “gay and lesbian” in certain situations, even if doing so seems to contradict some of the basic tenets of queer theory.¹ Awareness of this dialectic should also guide discussions about gay and lesbian studies in the twenty-first century and its difficult and contentious relationship with queer theory. Given queer theory’s definition of identity as a collection of multiple and unstable positions, for instance, one may question the disciplinary formation of gay and lesbian studies and the traditional...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 99-118)
  12. Works Cited
    (pp. 119-128)
  13. Index
    (pp. 129-132)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 133-134)