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Queer Words, Queer Images: Communication and the Construction of Homosexuality

EDITED BY R. Jeffrey Ringer
Copyright Date: 1994
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 360
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  • Book Info
    Queer Words, Queer Images
    Book Description:

    In many arenas the debate is raging over the nature of sexual orientation. Queer Words, Queer Images addresses this debate, but with a difference, arguing that homosexuality has become an issue precisely because of the way in which we discuss, debate, and communicate about the concept and experience of homosexuality. The debate over homosexuality is fundamentally an issue of communication - as we can see by the recent controversy over gays in the military. This controversy, termed by one gay man as the annoying habit of heterosexual men to overestimate their own attractiveness, has been debated in communication-sensitive terms, such as morale and discipline. The twenty chapters address such subjects as gay political language, homosexuality and AIDS on prime-time television, the politics of male homosexuality in young adult fiction, the identification of female athleticism with lesbianism, the politics of identity in the works of Edmund White, and coming out strategies. This is must reading for students of communication practices and theory, and for everyone interested in human sexuality. Contributing to the book are: James Chesebro (Indiana State), James Darsey (Ohio State), Joseph A. Devito (Hunter College, CUNY), Timothy Edgar (Purdue), Mary Anne Fitzpatrick (Wisconsin, Madison), Karen A. Foss (Humboldt State), Kirk Fuoss (St. Lawrence), Larry Gross (Pennsylvania), Darlene Hantzis (Indiana State), Fred E. Jandt (California State, San Bernardino), Mercilee Jenkins (San Francisco State), Valerie Lehr (St. Lawrence), Lynn C. Miller (Texas, Austin), Marguerite Moritz (Colorado, Boulder), Fred L. Myrick (Spring Hill), Emile Netzhammer (Buffalo State), Elenie Opffer, Dorothy S. Painter (Ohio State), Karen Peper (Michigan), Nicholas F. Radel (Furman), R. Jeffrey Ringer (St. Cloud State), Scott Shamp (Georgia), Paul Siegel (Gallaudet), Jacqueline Taylor (Depaul), Julia T. Wood (North Carolina, Chapel Hill).

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-6944-7
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)
    R. Jeffrey Ringer

    The origin of this book dates back to 1981. At that time, the Caucus on Gay and Lesbian Concerns of the Speech Communication Association published an anthology of essays on gay male and lesbian communication entitledGayspeak: Gay Male and Lesbian Communication. The central premise of that anthology was that the social reality human beings have created around the concept of homosexuality has made homosexuality an issue. In a departure from investigations that sought to explain aspects of sexual orientation, the responses to the behavior rather than the behavior itself became the legitimate subject of inquiry. Thus, the authors in...

  5. PART ONE: Gay and Lesbian Rhetoric

    • 1. The Logic of Folly in the Political Campaigns of Harvey Milk
      (pp. 7-29)
      Karen A. Foss

      Harvey Milk did not enter politics until he was forty-three; he lost three of the four political offices he sought; and when finally elected, he served only eleven months in office. The political record of San Francisco’s first openly gay supervisor, however, does not tell the whole story. In the course of four political campaigns, Milk moved from being an unknown outsider in virtually every way possible to a member of the Board of Supervisors, a position of considerable political power in San Francisco.

      Milk’s background offered little evidence that he would become successful in San Francisco politics or that...

    • 2. On the Owning of Words: Reflections on San Francisco Arts and Athletics vs. United States Olympic Committee
      (pp. 30-44)
      Paul Siegel

      On June 25, 1987, a 7–2 Supreme Court ruled that the United States Olympic Committee had not overstepped its authority in bringing suit against a nonprofit California corporation. The plaintiffs successfully invoked relevant provisions of the federal Amateur Sports Act of 1978, which gave USOC exclusive rights to use, among other things, the word “Olympics” for promotional purposes. At issue was the corporation’s desire to sponsor an international amateur athletic competition under the rubric, “Gay Olympics” (San Francisco Arts and Athletics vs. United States Olympic Committee1987).

      The case was of interest not only to the litigants and to...

    • 3. Die Non: Gay Liberation and the Rhetoric of Pure Tolerance
      (pp. 45-76)
      James Darsey

      Our word “radical” shares its origins with the word “radish”; both are concerned with roots and are often bitter. Radicalism is defined by its concern with the political roots of a society, its fundamental laws, its foundational principles, its most sacred covenants. It is common for radicals to claim to be the true keepers of the faith; they oppose their society using its own most noble expressions and aspirations.¹ Their rhetorical posture generally follows Aristotle’s dictum that wrongs committed in the name of the state are properly appealed to the court of higher law for redress; there is in radical...

    • 4. Reflections on Gay and Lesbian Rhetoric
      (pp. 77-88)
      James W. Chesebro

      Over a decade has passed sinceGayspeak: Gay Male and Lesbian Communicationwas published.¹ The decade has been decisive.Queer Words, Queer Images: Communication and the Construction of Homosexualitywas designed to respond to the changes that have occurred during the last decade.

      Gayspeakwas conceived in the late 1970s. Accordingly,Gayspeakresponded to a sociosexual culture and critical era dramatically unlike the norms and mores that govern the 1990s. In 1981, the rhetorical analyses included inGayspeakpresumed—quite unconsciously—that gay liberation was only one of several “typical” movements that could appropriately be assessed within the parameters of...

  6. PART TWO: Portrayals of Gay Men and Lesbians in the Media

    • 5. Guilt by Association: Homosexuality and AIDS on Prime-Time Television
      (pp. 91-106)
      Emile C. Netzhammer and Scott A. Shamp

      With great regularity, controversial social issues become conventionalized and are mainstreamed into television news, television movies, soap operas, and prime-time television series. In 1985, with the death of Rock Hudson, media coverage of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), a medical condition that had already claimed fifteen thousand lives (Centers for Disease Control 1985), increased significantly. Also in 1985, NBC accorded AIDS “the ultimate status of a social problem” by airingAn Early Frost,a made-for-TV movie about an AIDS patient (Colby and Cook 1989, 42). Eventually, in the 1987 and 1988 seasons, AIDS was assimilated into the plots of several...

    • 6. Whose Desire? Lesbian (Non)Sexuality and Television’s Perpetuation of Hetero/Sexism
      (pp. 107-121)
      Darlene M. Hantzis and Valerie Lehr

      Contemporary feminist theorists argue that the dual assumption of innate heterosexuality and innate desire to mother has restricted women’s lives and masked social constructs as biological imperatives. Adrienne Rich frames her discussion of “compulsory heterosexuality” with Alice Rossi’s prior observation of the ways in which heterosexuality and mothering are conventionally understood to be central to women’s identity: “Biologically, men have only one innate orientation—a sexual one that draws them to women—while women have two innate orientations, sexual toward men and reproductive toward their young” (Rich, 26). Rich asserts that unless the compulsory nature of heterosexuality is revealed, women’s...

    • 7. Old Strategies for New Texts: How American Television Is Creating and Treating Lesbian Characters
      (pp. 122-142)
      Marguerite J. Moritz

      In response to the Women’s Liberation Movement, Hollywood in the 1970s began producing what came to be called New Women’s films.Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore(1975),Julia(1977),An Unmarried Woman(1977), andStarting Over(1979) are among the most popular of that genre, which is generally characterized by its focus on women seeking new definitions of themselves and their personal relationships. Those movies and many more like them have been the center of several important discussions among feminist critics who have demonstrated the many ways in which the visual and narrative codes of cinema have often worked to...

    • 8. What Is Wrong with This Picture? Lesbian Women and Gay Men on Television
      (pp. 143-156)
      Larry Gross

      The mass media provide the chief common ground among the different groups that make up a heterogeneous national and international community. Never before have all classes and groups (as well as ages) shared so much of the same culture and the same perspectives while having so little to do with their creation. In a society that spans a continent, in a cosmopolitan culture which spans much of the globe, the mass media provide the broadest common background of assumptions about what things are, how they work (or should work), and why. Television in particular has achieved a scope unequaled by...

  7. PART THREE: Portrayals of Gay Men and Lesbians in Language and Text

    • 9. A Portrait of the Adolescent as a Young Gay: The Politics of Male Homosexuality in Young Adult Fiction
      (pp. 159-174)
      Kirk Fuoss

      Numerous scholars comment on the importance of books in the lives of gays and lesbians. Barbara Gittings, for example, contends that “most gays, it seems, at some point have gone to books in an effort to understand about being gay.”¹ Similarly, Mark Lilly writes, “I started to realize that it was genuinely the case that heterosexual readers did not know what it was like, for example, for a young student to stand in her/his university library surrounded by books in almost every one of which homosexuality was either represented as poisonous or ignored altogether.”² I share Gittings and Lilly’s sentiments...

    • 10. Self as Other: The Politics of Identity in the Works of Edmund White
      (pp. 175-192)
      Nicholas F. Radel

      Though Edmund White’s work does not always make explicit the political dimensions of gay identity, his novelsNocturnes for the King of Naples(1980a),A Boy’s Own Story(1982), andThe Beautiful Room Is Empty(1988) all contain gay characters who fail to achieve a coherent sense of self, and the failure can be attributed to the politics of sexual and gender difference. Gay identity is the explicit subject of many of White’s works, and White cannot escape the problematics of gay identity in a culture that openly and tacitly assents to the naturalness of heterosexuality. Nor can he avoid...

    • 11. Female Athlete = Lesbian: A Myth Constructed from Gendex Role Expectations and Lesbiphobia
      (pp. 193-208)
      Karen Peper

      Growing up I yearned to play Little League, but in the pre-Title IX world of the early 1960s there was no opportunity for girls like me. The closest I came to realizing my dream was as the bat girl for my older brother’s team. I never understood why girls weren’t allowed to play. Excuses that we girls were weak or easily hurt were no excuse when IknewI could outhit, outrun, and outthrow the majority of my male peers. Why was it okay for me to join a swimming team but not a baseball team? It didn’t make sense...

    • 12. The Politics of Self and Other
      (pp. 209-218)
      Lynn C. Miller

      InWriting a Woman’s Life,Carolyn G. Heilbrun describes the powerlessness that befalls women when they are deprived access to the narratives of other women’s lives by which they might model or imagine their own lives. If these narratives are not told or published, women are limited in the ways they can script or develop their own lives and are barred as contenders in the public sphere: “Power is the ability to take one’s place in whatever discourse is essential to action and the right to have one’s part matter.”¹ When women do not play out the script demanded by...

  8. PART FOUR: Interpersonal Communication in Gay and Lesbian Relationships

    • 13. Self-Disclosure Behaviors of the Stigmatized: Strategies and Outcomes for the Revelation of Sexual Orientation
      (pp. 221-237)
      Timothy Edgar

      Social scientists have become increasingly aware of the relational tensions and difficulties faced by individuals who possess traits or attributes that are potentially stigmatizing. In his insightful analysis, Erving Goffman argued that the particular interactional problems encountered by people vary according to the visibility of the attribute that makes them “different” or “less desirable”(3). For some individuals, like those who are physically handicapped, the trait is evident to the onlooker. Goffman referred to these persons asdiscredited(4). Because the discredited cannot hide their stigmatizing attributes, they must develop strategies for managing the tension that occurs in mixed contacts.¹


    • 14. Gender and Relationship Crises: Contrasting Reasons, Responses, and Relational Orientations
      (pp. 238-264)
      Julia T. Wood

      This study contributes to the understanding of how people conceive and manage problems in serious romantic relationships. Prior scholarship has identified two orientations toward relationships.¹ Characterized by theme and associated consistently with gender (not biological sex), these two orientations reflect different conceptions of morality and lead to distinct codes of interpersonal conduct. They represent, wrote Gilligan, “two modes of describing the relationship between other and self.”² Exploring how these themes illuminate gay men and lesbian’s management of relational stress is the focus of this chapter.

      Work by Duck³ and Baxter,⁴ among others, has crystallized major reasons for ending relationships. Hill...

    • 15. Gay and Lesbian Couple Relationships
      (pp. 265-277)
      Mary Anne Fitzpatrick, Fred E. Jandt, Fred L. Myrick and Timothy Edgar

      The study of personal and social relationships blossomed during the eighties. Scholars in a variety of disciplines studied the factors that lead to the initiation, maintenance, and deterioration of the relationships we have with others. Many investigators concluded that it is the communication between partners that accounts for the stability and satisfaction experienced in the relationship (Fitzpatrick 1988; Gottman 1979).

      Within the field of communication, the study of communication in relationships has had three main traditions: Relational topoi, relational communication, and relational typology. Relational topoi work has concentrated on examining how different types of relationships manifest different affect, power, and...

    • 16. Reflections on Interpersonal Communication in Gay and Lesbian Relationships
      (pp. 278-286)
      Dorothy S. Painter

      Providing commentary for a section as broad as this one on interpersonal communication is a task both maddeningly complex and also delightfully challenging. The methodologies significantly differ, the perspectives and assumptions concerning what one does and how one measures assumed-to-exist factors such as intention and impact differ, and the results bear little resemblance to one another in either form or structure. Clearly, these collective authors are different people, studying different things, using different methods, and professing different assumptions all leading to different interpretations of the things they call results. An interesting experiment might be to have each of the sets...

  9. PART FIVE: Coming Out in the Classroom

    • 17. Performing the (Lesbian) Self: Teacher as Text
      (pp. 289-295)
      Jacqueline Taylor

      College teaching is not new for me; I have been teaching full-time for more than twelve years. The stagefright I experienced in the first few terms now seems a distant memory. So why is it that when the work in question is authored by Adrienne Rich, May Sarton, Olga Broumas, Elizabeth Bishop, or Gertrude Stein, my palms grow sweaty and my heart starts to pound? What’s a seasoned teacher like me, one who has stood in front of hundreds of students to talk about literature and performance, doing with performance anxiety? The answer is that my anxiety is a particular...

    • 18. Coming Out to Students: Notes from the College Classroom
      (pp. 296-321)
      Elenie Opffer

      Since the Stonewall Rebellion of 1969, lesbian, gay, and bisexual people have been building a solid presence in both separate communities and within mainstream institutions. By coming out to families, friends, and colleagues as well as the media, we have brought lesbian, gay, and bisexual issues and lifestyles to the forefront of the American consciousness. Many Americans have changed their views toward homosexuality in a positive direction, with the majority supporting gay civil rights in the areas of employment. However, many of the same people who support nondiscrimination in employment oppose homosexual marriage and adoption. Even worse, the right wing...

    • 19. Coming Out in the Classroom: Faculty Disclosures of Sexuality
      (pp. 322-331)
      R. Jeffrey Ringer

      The Caucus for Gay and Lesbian Concerns of the Speech Communication Association (SCA) organizes conference sessions for the Association’s annual meeting. At its business meeting each year caucus members discuss potential topics for the coming year’s conference. One of the most frequently requested session topics has been “coming out in the classroom.” Members continuously want to discuss whether or not they should come out in their classes, if others are coming out, what the consequences and implications of coming out would be, how to do it, when to do it, and other related questions. Indeed, the sessions during which we...

    • 20. Ways of Coming Out in the Classroom
      (pp. 332-334)
      Mercilee M. Jenkins

      Coming out in the classroom is a striking example of the personal, political, and professional all coming together in one moment. As such it demonstrates the power and importance of studying lesbian, gay, and bisexual communication. Various features of communication are highlighted by different groups and contexts. Being gay, lesbian, or bisexual accentuates the processes of self-disclosure in a unique way. A stigmatized sexual identity creates the interpersonal dilemma of whether or not to come out. That is something heterosexuals don’t ever have to think about. And yet it is a dilemma that we all face to some degree and...

  10. Contributors
    (pp. 335-338)
  11. Name Index
    (pp. 339-344)
  12. Subject Index
    (pp. 345-348)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 349-349)