As June 2020 draws to a close, it may in retrospect become one of the most notorious LGBTQ+ Pride Months yet. Already jolted by a pandemic’s effects on community gatherings, the sobering groundswell of activism in response to race-based oppression and violence has layered additional complexity atop this purported celebration. The added contradiction of legal victories – LGBT employment protection at the federal level, and hate crime legislation in the state of Georgia – will leave much to grapple with in the wake of June. Emory Libraries offers this collection of resources loosely themed around our surging insurgencies and questioning of the status quo.
Spotlight on Queercore
Queercore (or homocore) is a cultural and social movement that began in the mid-1980s as an offshoot of the punk subculture. It is distinguished by its discontent with society in general, and specifically society’s disapproval of the LGBT community. Queercore expresses itself in a D.I.Y. style through magazines, music, writing and film. (Wikipedia)
J.D.s (Full text via Queer Zine Archive Project)
J.D.s is a queer punk zine founded and co-published in Toronto, Ontario, Canada by G.B. Jones and Bruce LaBruce, that ran for eight issues from 1985 to 1991. (Wikipedia)
Publisher’s Description: Queercore is a queer and punk transmedia movement that was instigated in 1980s Toronto via the pages of the underground fanzine (“zine”) J.D.s. Authored by G.B. Jones and Bruce LaBruce, J.D.s. declared “civil war” on the punk and gay and lesbian mainstreams, consolidating a subculture of likeminded filmmakers, zinesters, musicans and performers situated in pointed opposition to the homophobia of mainline punk and the lifeless sexual politics and exclusionary tendencies of dominant gay and lesbian society. More than thirty years later, queercore and its troublemaking productions remain under the radar, but still culturally and politically resonant.
This book brings renewed attention to queercore, exploring the homology between queer theory/practice and punk theory/practice at the heart of queercore mediamaking. Through analysis of key queercore texts, this book also elucidates the tropes central to queercore’s subcultural distinction: unashamed sexual representation, confrontational politics and “shocking” embodiments, including those related to size, ability and gender variance. An exploration of a specific transmedia subculture grounded in archival research, ethnographic interviews, theoretical argumentation and close analysis, ultimately, Queercore proffers a provocative, and tangible, new answer to the long-debated question, “What does it mean to be queer?”
Spotlight on Brontez Purnell
Brontez Purnell is an Oakland-based writer, musician, dancer, and director. He is the author of the books The Cruising Diaries (2014), Johnny Would You Love Me If My Dick Were Bigger (2015), and Since I Laid My Burden Down (2017) and the zine Fag School; frontman for the punk band The Younger Lovers; and founder of the Brontez Purnell Dance Company. (Wikipedia)
Publisher’s Description: DeShawn lives a high, creative, and promiscuous life in San Francisco. But when he’s called back to his cramped Alabama hometown for his uncle’s funeral, he’s hit by flashbacks of handsome, doomed neighbors and sweltering Sunday services. Amidst prickly reminders of his childhood, DeShawn ponders family, church, and the men in his life, prompting the question: Who deserves love?
A raw, funny, and uninhibited stumble down memory lane, Brontez Purnell’s debut novel explores how one man’s early sexual and artistic escapades grow into a life.
Publisher’s Description: A dirty cult-classic put out in a small batch by an underground publisher (Rudos and Rubes) in 2015, Johnny Would You Love Me If My Dick Were Bigger recounts the life of an artist and “old school homosexual” who bears a big resemblance to author Brontez Purnell. Our hero doesn’t trust the new breed of fags taking over San Francisco, though. They wear bicycle helmets, seat belts, and condoms. Meanwhile, he sabotages his relationships, hallucinating affection while cruising in late night parks, bath-houses, and other nooks and crannies of a newly-conservative, ruined city.
Furiously original, vital, and messy, this funny “non-memoir” uncovers a revelatory truth for the age: there are things far scarier than HIV.
Spotlight on Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore
Publisher’s Description: Gay Shame is a movement from within the queer communities described as a radical alternative to gay mainstreaming and directly posits an alternative view of gay pride events and activities which have become increasingly commercialized with corporate sponsors and “safer” agendas to avoid offending supporters and sponsors. The Gay Shame movement has grown to embrace radical expression, counter-cultural ideologies, and avant-garde arts and artists. (Wikipedia)
Publisher’s Description: As the gay mainstream prioritizes the attainment of straight privilege over all else, it drains queer identity of any meaning, relevance, or cultural value, writes Matt Bernstein Sycamore, aka Mattilda, editor of That’s Revolting!. This timely collection of essays by writers such as Patrick Califia, Kate Bornstein, Carol Queen, Charlie Anders, Benjamin Shepard, and others shows what the new queer resistance looks like. Intended as a fistful of rocks to throw at the glass house of Gaylandia, the book challenges the commercialized, commoditized, and hyper objectified view of gay/queer identity projected by the mainstream (straight and gay) media by exploring queer struggles to transform gender, revolutionize sexuality, and build community/family outside of traditional models
Publisher’s Description: Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore’s exhilarating novel is about struggling to find hope in the ruins of everyday San Francisco—battling roaches, Bikram Yoga, chronically bad sex, NPR, internet cruising, tweakers, the cops, $100 bills, chronic pain, the gay vote, vegan restaurants and incest, with the help of air-raid sirens, herbal medicine, late-night epiphanies, sea lions and sleeping pills. So Many Ways to Sleep Badly unveils a gender-bending queer world where nothing flows smoothly, except for those sudden moments when everything becomes lighter or brighter or easier to imagine.
Publisher’s Description: Dangerous Families: Queer Writing on Surviving goes beyond the recovery narrative to create a new queer literature of investigation, exploration, and transformation. Twenty-six stories illuminate the reality of growing up in fear, struggling to rebuild lives damaged by sexual, physical, and/or emotional abuse. The book explores how abuse turns queer survivors—male, female, and transgendered—into healers, heartbreakers, and homicidal maniacs, presenting brilliant stories that sear and soar.
Dangerous Families: Queer Writing on Surviving addresses all forms of abuse head-on, representing a cross-section of queer survivors in terms of race, class, ethnicity, education, origin, sexuality, and gender. Contributors use their own life experiences to create a book that takes back control from well-meaning “outsiders,” as they recount the daily struggle to overcome the damage done to their minds, bodies, and spirits in a world that denies their gender, sexual, and social identities.
Publisher’s Description: Has the third wave of feminism in the United States spawned a literary movement? Is there a third wave equivalent of the consciousness-raising novel? A lot has been written about the relationship of the third wave of feminism in the United States to the second wave, yet no one has examined works by young female writers as belonging to the third wave of feminism. This book fills the gap. Using tools of literary criticism to analyze the literary output of third wave feminism in the United States, Ungrateful Daughters looks at the main anthologies of third wave writings, paying attention to their structure, production process and narrative forms used in the individual pieces. It also attempts to define third wave fiction and analyze the memoirs and novels coming from writers who could be classified as third wave (specifically, Rebecca Walker, Danzy Senna and Michelle Tea), tracing how these books exhibit ‘third wave sensibility’ and reflect generational experiences of third wave writers. A lot of attention is devoted to comparisons of second and third wave feminism and the ambivalent relationship of third wave feminism to postfeminism. Wendy Kaminer wrote in True Love Waits: ‘If it ultimately fails as a liberation movement, feminism will at least have achieved considerable literary success.’ Ungrateful Daughters examines whether the literary success helps or hinders the cause of women s liberation.
Publisher’s Description: This dissertation project, Strange Matter: Lesbian Death in Feminist and Queer Politics, presents an archival analysis of major health and social movements that have informed both feminist and queer thinking. This project reexamines the archives of three specific moments in the histories of feminist and queer politics: the rise of a lesbian breast cancer activism in conjunction with the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the early 1990s; the specter of radical feminism as a separatist movement in the 1970s; and the social and sexological interest in lesbian bed death in the wake of the feminist sex wars of the early 1980s. In doing so, I examine how the figure of the lesbian puts pressure on the imagined dissonances between the political commitments of feminist and queer theory. By challenging the conventional border between feminist and queer theory, this project offers three innovations for feminist and queer studies. First, this project reintroduces the figure lesbian as an important tool for both feminist and queer thought as well as a contested border figure therein. Second, by examining the historical framing of lesbian figures–through lesbian breast cancer activism, radical feminism, and lesbian bed death–this project articulates the historical relationships between feminist and queer activism in new ways. Finally, this project provides an intervention into queer theory’s anti-social thesis by mobilizing Melanie Klein’s articulation of the death drive.
Publisher’s Description: What would it mean to turn to ugliness rather than turn away from it? Indeed, the idea of ugly often becomes synonymous with non-white, non-male, and non-heterosexual physicality and experience. That same pejorative migrates to become a label for practices within underground culture. In Ugly Differences, Yetta Howard uses underground contexts to theorize queer difference by locating ugliness at the intersection of the physical, experiential, and textual. From that nexus, Howard contends that ugliness—as a mode of pejorative identification—is fundamental to the cultural formations of queer female sexuality. Slava Tsukerman’s postpunk film Liquid Sky, Sapphire’s poetry, Roberta Gregory’s Bitchy Butch comix, New Queer Cinema such as High Art—these and other non-canonical works contribute to an audacious critique. Howard reveals how the things we see, read as, or experience as ugly productively account for non-dominant sexual identities and creative practices. Ugly Differences offers eye-opening ways to approach queerness and its myriad underground representations.
Publisher’s Description: In this brilliantly original book, Camille Paglia identifies some of the major patterns that have endured in western culture from ancient Egypt and Greece to the present. According to Paglia, one source of continuity is paganism, which, undefeated by Judeo-Christianity, continues to flourish in art, eroticism, astrology, and pop culture. Others, she says, are androgyny, sadism, and the aggressive western eye, which has created our art and cinema. Paglia follows these and other themes from Nefertiti and the Venus of Willendorf to Apollo and Dionysus, from Botticelli and Michaelangelo to Shakespeare and Blake and finally to Emily Dickinson, who, along with other major nineteenth-century authors, becomes a remarkable example of Romanticism turned into Decadence.
Everything Else – Politics, Theory, Organizing, Art
Publisher’s Description: This book reflects on ‘the political’ in queer theory and politics by revisiting two of its key categories: hegemony and heteronormativity. It explores the specific insights offered by these categories and the ways in which they augment the analysis of power and domination from a queer perspective, whilst also examining the possibilities for political analysis and strategy-building provided by theories of hegemony and heteronormativity. Moreover, in addressing these issues the book strives to rethink the understanding of the term “queer”, so as to avoid narrowing queer politics to a critique of normative heterosexuality and the rigid gender binary. By looking at the interplay between hegemony and heteronormativity, this ground-breaking volume presents new possibilities of reconceptualizing ‘the political’ from a queer perspective. Investigating the effects of queer politics not only on subjectivities and intimate personal relations, but also on institutions, socio-cultural processes and global politics, this book will be of interest to those working in the fields of critical theory, gender and sexuality, queer theory, postcolonial studies, and feminist political theory.
Publisher’s Description: Queer Retrosexualities: The Politics of Reparative Return examines the retrospective logic that informs contemporary queer thinking; specifically the narrative return to the 1950s in post-1990s queer and LGBT culture in the United States. The term “Queer Retrosexuality” marks the intersection between retrospective thinking and queerness—to illustrate not only how to “queer” retrospection, but also how retrospection, in some senses can be thought of as always already queer. This book examines the historical possibilities that inform the narrative return to the 1950s in queer cultural and literary productions such as Samuel Delany’s The Motion of Light in Water, Todd Haynes’s Far from Heaven, Sarah Schulman’s Shimmer, and Mark Merlis’s American Studies—all texts that return to a traumatic past marked by shame, exile, and persecution. Queer Retrosexualities inquires into what motivates the return in these texts to a historical moment informed by the bruises and wounds of history; but more importantly, it poses the question of how such a turn backwards could be theorized as reparative or even hopeful. This book shows how the framework of queer retrospection offers new ways of understanding history and culture, of reformulating disciplines and institutions, and of rethinking traditional modes of political activism and knowledge production. Even while it seems counterproductive to return to a historical moment that is marked by the persecution of sexual and racial minorities, the book examines how a shared feeling of relationality and community produced by the exile of shame shapes the political value of queer retrosexualities. The retrospective return to the 1950s allows queer thinking to move away from the commodification of queer culture in the present that masquerades as progress. Thus, the book theorizes how traumatic history becomes a valuable resource for the political project of assembling collective memory as the base materials for imagining a different—and more queer—future.
Publisher’s Description: What if the very structure on which social movements rely, the nonprofit system, is reinforcing the inequalities activists seek to eliminate? That is the question at the heart of this bold reassessment of the system’s massive expansion since the mid-1960s. Focusing on the LGBT movement, Myrl Beam argues that the conservative turn in queer movement politics, as exemplified by the shift toward marriage and legal equality, is due mostly to the movement’s embrace of the nonprofit structure.
Based on oral histories as well as archival research, and drawing on the author’s own extensive activist work, Gay, Inc. presents four compelling case studies. Beam looks at how people at LGBT nonprofits in Minneapolis and Chicago grapple with the contradictions between radical queer social movements and their institutionalized iterations. Through interview subjects’ incisive, funny, and heartbreaking commentaries, Beam exposes a complex world of committed people doing the best they can to effect change, and the flawed structures in which they participate, rail against, ignore, and make do.
Providing a critical look at a social formation whose sanctified place in the national imagination has for too long gone unquestioned, Gay, Inc. marks a significant contribution to scholarship on sexuality, neoliberalism, and social movements.
Publisher’s Description: Treating such issues as animal sex, species politics, environmental justice, lesbian space and “gay” ghettos, AIDS literatures, and queer nationalities, this lively collection asks important questions at the intersections of sexuality and environmental studies. Contributors from a wide range of disciplines present a focused engagement with the critical, philosophical, and political dimensions of sex and nature. These discussions are particularly relevant to current debates in many disciplines, including environmental studies, queer theory, critical race theory, philosophy, literary criticism, and politics. As a whole, Queer Ecologies stands as a powerful corrective to views that equate “natural” with “straight” while “queer” is held to be against nature.
Publisher’s Description: From the birth of the Gay Liberation through the rise of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) in 1987, the global justice movement in 1994, the largest day of antiwar protest in world history in February 2003, the Republican National Convention protests in August 2004, and the massive immigrant rights rallies in the spring of 2006, the streets of cities around the world have been filled with a new theatrical model of protest. Elements of fun, creativity, pleasure, and play are cornerstones of this new approach toward protest and community building. No movement has had a larger influence on the emergence of play in social movement activity than the gay liberation and queer activism of the past thirty years. This book examines the role of play in gay liberation and queer activism, and the ways in which queer notions of play have influenced a broad range of social movements.
Publisher’s Description: Rethinking the Gay and Lesbian Movement provides a new narrative history of U.S. gay and lesbian activism, drawing on primary research in the field and the best scholarship on the history of the gay and lesbian movement.
Focusing on four decades of social, cultural, and political change in the second half of the twentieth century, Stein examines the changing agendas, beliefs, strategies, and vocabularies of a movement that encompassed diverse actions, campaigns, ideologies, and organizations. From the homophile activism of the 1950s and 1960s, through the rise of gay liberation and lesbian feminism in the 1970s, to the multicultural and AIDS activist movements of the 1980s, Rethinking the Gay and Lesbian Movement provides a strong foundation for understanding gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer politics today.
Rethinking the Gay and Lesbian Movement provides a short, accessible overview of an important and transformational struggle for social change, highlighting key individuals and events, influential groups and networks, strong alliances and coalitions, difficult challenges and obstacles, major successes and failures, and the movement’s lasting effects on the country. This volume will be valued by everyone interested in gay and lesbian history, the history of social movements, and the history of the United States.
Publisher’s Description: Anarchism & Sexuality aims to bring the rich and diverse traditions of anarchist thought and practice into contact with contemporary questions about the politics and lived experience of sexuality. Both in style and in content, it is conceived as a book that aims to question, subvert and overflow authoritarian divisions between the personal and political; between sexual desires categorised as heterosexual or homosexual; between seemingly mutually exclusive activism and scholarship; between forms of expression such as poetry and prose; and between disciplinary categories of knowledge. Anarchism & Sexuality seeks to achieve this by suggesting connections between ethics, relationships and power, three themes that run throughout. The key objectives of the book are: to bring fresh anarchist perspectives to debates around sexuality; to make a queer and feminist intervention within the most recent wave of anarchist scholarship; and to make a queerly anarchist contribution to social justice literature, policy and practice. By mingling prose and poetry, theory and autobiography, it constitutes a gathering place to explore the interplay between sexual and social transformation.This book will be of use to those interested in anarchist movements, cultural studies, critical legal theory, gender studies, and queer and sexuality studies.
Publisher’s Description: Sexuality and Socialism is a remarkably accessible analysis of many of the most challenging questions for those concerned with full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people.
Inside are essays on the roots of LGBT oppression, the construction of sexual and gender identities, the history of the gay movement, and how to unite the oppressed and exploited to win sexual liberation for all. Sherry Wolf analyzes different theories about oppression—including those of Marxism, postmodernism, identity politics, and queer theory—and challenges myths about genes, gender, and sexuality.
Publisher’s Description: While several books have discussed the need for anti-oppressive school environments, few have addressed actual research for teachers to turn to as resources for classroom practice. Kumashiro draws on interviews with queer activists as a starting point for discussion of different models of reading and challenging oppression. It is through these personal stories that the complex theory and methodology Kumashiro presents gains particular relevance for creating actual pedagogical practice.
Publisher’s Description: The late 1980s and early 1990s were a defining historical moment for both queer activism and queer theory in the United States. LGBT communities, confronted with the alarming violence and homophobia of the AIDS crisis, often responded with angry, militant forms of activism designed not merely to promote acceptance or tolerance, but to forge identity and strength from victimization and assert loudly and forcefully their rights to safety and humanity. The activist reclamation of the word “queer” is one marker of this shift in ideology and practice, and it was mirrored in academic circles by the concurrent emergence of the new field of “queer theory.” That is, as queer activists were mobilizing in the streets, queer theorists were producing a similar foment in the halls and publications of academia, questioning regulatory categories of gender and sexuality, and attempting to illuminate the heteronormative foundations of Western thought. Notably, the narrative of queer theory’s development often describes it as arising from or being inspired by queer activism.
In Reclaiming Queer, Erin J. Rand examines both queer activist and academic practices during this period, taking as her primary object the rhetorical linkage of queer theory in the academy with street-level queer activism. Through this strategic conjuncture of activism and academia, Rand grapples with the specific conditions for and constraints on rhetorical agency in each context. She examines the early texts that inaugurated the field of queer theory, Queer Nation’s infamous “Queers Read This” manifesto, Larry Kramer’s polemic speeches and editorials, the Lesbian Avengers’ humorous and outrageous antics, the history of ACT UP, and the more recent appearance of Gay Shame activism. From these activist and academic discourses, Rand builds a theory of rhetorical agency that posits queerness as the very condition from which agency emerges.
Reclaiming Queer thus offers a critical look at the rhetoric of queer activism, engages the history of queer theory’s institutionalization and the politics of its proliferation, suggests a radically contextual understanding of rhetorical agency and form, and argues for the centrality of queerness to all rhetorical action.
Publisher’s Description: This study brings the radicalism of Acker’s politics back to life. Moving beyond conventional accounts of her postmodernism, it explores her work as a continuation of the historical avant-garde and examines how she took moments and movements from modern history, including Russian nihilism, Spanish anarchism and the global revolts of the 1960s, to create her own political agenda. In doing so, it presents Acker in a new light: a revolutionary voice in an age when such voices are sorely needed.
Publisher’s Description: Queer Theory and Communication: From Disciplining Queers to Queering the Discipline(s) is a conversation starter, sparking smart talk about sexuality in the communication discipline and beyond. Edited by members of “The San Francisco Radical Trio,” the book integrates current queer theory, research, and interventions to create a critical lens with which to view the damaging effects of heteronormativity on personal, social, and cultural levels, and to see the possibilities for change through social and cultural transformation. Queer Theory and Communication represents a commitment to positive social change by imagining different social realities and sharing ideas, passions, and lived experiences.
As the communication discipline begins to recognize queer theory as a vital and viable intellectual movement equal to that of Gay and Lesbian studies, the opportunity is here to take current queer scholarship beyond conference papers and presentations. Queer Theory and Communication has five objectives: 1) to integrate and disseminate current queer scholarship to a larger audience-academic and nonacademic; 2) to examine the potential implications of queer theory in human communication theory and research in a variety of contexts; 3) to stimulate dialogue among queer scholars; 4) to set a preliminary research agenda; and 5) to explore the implications of the scholarship in cultural politics and personal empowerment and transformation.
Publisher’s Description: Ron Athey is an iconic figure in contemporary art and performance. In his frequently bloody portrayals of life, death, crisis and fortitude in the time of AIDS, Athey calls into question the limits of artistic practice. These limits enable Athey to explore key themes including gender, sexuality, radical sex, queer activism, post-punk and industrial culture, tattooing and body modification, ritual and religion. This landmark publication includes Athey’s own writings, commissioned essays by maverick artists and leading academics and full-colour images of Athey’s art and performances since the early 1980s. The diverse range of artistic and critical contributors to the book reflects Athey’s creative and cultural impact, among them musician Antony Hegarty of Antony and the Johnsons who contributed a foreword.
Publisher’s Description: Over the course of a distinguished career, critic Leo Bersani has tackled a range of issues in his writing, and this collection gathers together some of his finest work. Beginning with one of the foundations of queer theory—his famous meditation on how sex leads to a shattering of the self, “Is the Rectum a Grave?”—this volume charts the inspired connections Bersani has made between sexuality, psychoanalysis, and aesthetics.
Over the course of these essays, Bersani grapples with thinkers ranging from Plato to Descartes to Georg Simmel. Foucault and Freud recur as key figures, and although Foucault rejected psychoanalysis, Bersani contends that by considering his ideas alongside Freud’s, one gains a clearer understanding of human identity and how we relate to one another. For Bersani, art represents a crucial guide for conceiving new ways of connecting to the world, and so, in many of these essays, he stresses the importance of aesthetics, analyzing works by Genet, Caravaggio, Proust, Almodóvar, and Godard.
Publisher’s Description: Slouching towards Gaytheism brings together two intellectual traditions the New Atheism and queer theory and moves beyond them to offer a new voice for gay Americans and atheists alike. Examining the continued vehemence of homophobia in cultural and political debate regarding queer equality, this unabashed polemic insists that the needs met by religion might be met more safely and less toxically by forms of community that do not harass and malign gay and lesbian Americans or impede collective social progress. W. C. Harris argues that compromises with traditional religion, no matter how enlightened or well intentioned, will ultimately leave heteronormativity alive and well. He explores a range of recent movements, such as Dan Savage s It Gets Better project, reparative ex-gay therapy, Christian purity culture, and attempts by liberal Christians to reconcile religion with homosexuality, and shows how these proposed solutions are either inadequate or positively dangerous. According to the author, the time has come for gaytheism : leaving religion behind in order to preserve queer dignity, rights, and lives.
Further Reading, Listening, and Viewing
Queer Punk History: 1575-Present (Afropunk)
LGBTQ Pride Month (Library of Congress)
Lockdown Loft (Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art)