Highlighting a selection of works that illuminate issues of vital importance to the LGBTQ+ movement
Since the 1969 Stonewall Uprising, Pride has expanded from a single day of demonstration to a month-long celebration of LGBTQ+ history and culture. While many in-person Pride marches and events have been postponed or made virtual this year, the need to celebrate and raise awareness about and for these communities remains.
We’re pleased and proud to share the following selection of works that illuminate issues that are of vital importance to the LGBTQ+ movement—from a groundbreaking history that reasserts the cultural identity of heterosexuality, to a beautifully designed compendium of portraits and texts about little-known or forgotten gender-role pioneers, to a panoramic view of gay rights and the gay experience around the world.
Butch Heroes by Ria Brodell
Katherina Hetzeldorfer was tried “for a crime that didn’t have a name” (same sex sexual relations) and sentenced to death by drowning in 1477; Charles, aka Mary Hamilton, was publicly whipped for impersonating a man in eighteenth-century England; Clara, aka “Big Ben,” over whom two jealous women fought in 1926 New York: these are just three of the lives that the artist Ria Brodell has reclaimed for queer history in Butch Heroes. Brodell offers a series of twenty-eight portraits of forgotten but heroic figures. They are individuals who were assigned female at birth but whose gender presentation was more masculine than feminine, who did not want to enter into heterosexual marriage, and who often faced dire punishment for being themselves—or, as Brodell writes in the introduction for the book, “people who were strong or brave in the way they lived their lives and challenged their societies’ strict gender roles.”
The Autobiography of a Transgender Scientist by Ben Barres
Ben Barres was known for his groundbreaking scientific work and for his groundbreaking advocacy for gender equality in science. In this book, completed shortly before his death from pancreatic cancer in December 2017, Barres describes a life full of remarkable accomplishments—from his childhood as a precocious math and science whiz to his experiences as a female student at MIT in the 1970s to his female-to-male transition in his forties, to his scientific work and role as teacher and mentor at Stanford. “Growing up transgender in a time of universal ignorance and hate has been difficult and emotionally painful,” Barres wrote in his autobiography. “I believe that most or all of this pain is preventable in a future world where people are less ignorant, more supportive, and more understanding.”
Read an excerpt on the MIT Press Reader: The Coming Out of a Transgender Scientist
Global Gay: How Gay Culture Is Changing the World by Frédéric Martel
“A gay liberation is in action, be it accelerated or forced, in the age of globalization and digital transformation,” Martel writes. “And a major phenomenon that is still underreported is taking place before our very eyes: the globalization of LGBT rights.” In Global Gay, Frédéric Martel visits more than fifty countries and presents a panoramic view of gay rights, gay life, and the gay experience around the world. From Saudi Arabia to South Africa, from Amsterdam to Tel Aviv, from Singapore to the United States, activists, culture warriors, and ordinary people are part of a movement.
Read an excerpt on the MIT Press Reader: The Slow Evolution of Gay Culture in India
The Invention of Heterosexual Culture by Louis-Georges Tin
Heterosexuality is celebrated—in film and television, in pop songs and opera, in literature and on greeting cards—and at the same time taken for granted. It is the cultural and sexual norm by default. And yet, as Louis-Georges Tin shows in this book, in premodern Europe heterosexuality was perceived as an alternative culture. The practice of heterosexuality may have been standard, but the symbolic primacy of the heterosexual couple was not. In The Invention of Heterosexual Culture, Tin maps the emergence of heterosexual culture in Western Europe and the significant resistance to it from feudal lords, church fathers, and the medical profession.
Queer edited by David J. Getsy
Historically, “queer” was the slur used against those who were perceived to be or made to feel abnormal. Beginning in the 1980s, “queer” was reappropriated and embraced as a badge of honor. While queer draws its politics and affective force from the history of non-normative, gay, lesbian, and bisexual communities, it is not equivalent to these categories, nor is it an identity. Instead, it offers a strategic undercutting of the stability of identity and of the dispensation of power that shadows the assignment of categories and taxonomies. Rather than a book of queer theory for artists, this is a book of artists’ queer tactics and infectious concepts—describing and examining the ways in which artists have used the concept of queer as a site of political and institutional critique, as a framework to develop new families and histories, as a spur to action, and as a basis from which to declare inassimilable difference.
Gender(s) by Kathryn Bond Stockton
In this volume in the MIT Press Essential Knowledge series, Kathryn Bond Stockton explores the fascinating, fraught, intimate, morphing matter of gender. Stockton argues for gender’s strangeness, no matter how “normal” the concept seems; gender is queer for everyone, she claims, even when it’s played quite straight. And she explains how race and money dramatically shape everybody’s gender, even in sometimes surprising ways. She investigates gender as a concept—its concerning history, its bewitching pleasures and falsifications—by meeting the moment of where we are, with its many genders and counters-to-gender. This compelling background propels the question that drives this book and foregrounds race: what is “the opposite sex,” after all? If there is no opposite, doesn’t the male/female duo undergirding gender come undone?
The Cheerful Scapegoat: Fables by Wayne Koestenbaum
In his first book of short fiction—a collection of whimsical, surreal, baroque, ribald, and heartbreaking fables—Wayne Koestenbaum takes the gloom and melancholy of our own terrifying political moment and finds subversive solace by overturning the customary protocols of tale-telling. Koestenbaum’s fables are emergency bulletins uttered in a perverse vernacular of syntactic pirouettes that alert us to the necessity of pushing language into new contortions of exactitude and ecstatic excess.
The Works of Guillaume Dustan, Volume 1: In My Room; I’m Going Out Tonight; Stronger Than Me by Guillaume Dustan
This volume collects a suite of three wildly entertaining and trailblazing short novels by the legendary French anti-assimilationist LGBTQ+ writer Guillaume Dustan. Published sequentially in France between 1996 and 1998, the three novels are exuberant and deliberately affectless accounts of the narrator’s sexual odyssey through a Parisian club and bath scene still haunted by AIDS. In My Room (1996) takes place almost entirely in the narrator’s bedroom. The middle volume, I’m Going Out Tonight (1997), finds him venturing out onto the gay scene in one long night. Finally, in Stronger Than Me (1998), the narrator reflects on his early life, which coincided with the appearance and spread of the AIDS virus in France. A close contemporary of Dennis Cooper, Brett Easton Ellis, Kevin Killian, and Gary Indiana, Guillaume Dustan offers deadpan autofiction that is at once satirical and intimate, and completely contemporary.
Melancholia and Moralism: Essays on AIDS and Queer Politics by Douglas Crimp
In Melancholia and Moralism, Douglas Crimp confronts the conservative gay politics that replaced the radical AIDS activism of the late 1980s and early 1990s. He shows that the cumulative losses from AIDS, including the waning of militant response, have resulted in melancholia as Freud defined it: gay men’s dangerous identification with the moralistic repudiation of homosexuality by the wider society.
Cruising the Movies: A Sexual Guide to Oldies on TV by Boyd McDonald
Cruising the Movies was Boyd McDonald’s “sexual guide” to televised cinema, originally published by the Gay Presses of New York in 1985. The capstone of McDonald’s prolific turn as a freelance film columnist for the magazine Christopher Street, Cruising the Movies collects the author’s movie reviews of 1983–1985. With lancing wit, Cruising celebrates gay subculture’s profound embrace of mass culture, seeing film for what it is—a screen that reflects our fantasies, desires, and dreams.
Trap Door: Trans Cultural Production and the Politics of Visibility edited by Reina Gossett, Eric A. Stanley and Johanna Burton
The increasing representation of trans identity throughout art and popular culture in recent years has been nothing if not paradoxical. Trans visibility is touted as a sign of a liberal society, but it has coincided with a political moment marked both by heightened violence against trans people (especially trans women of color) and by the suppression of trans rights under civil law. Trap Door grapples with these contradictions. “In today’s complex cultural landscape, trans people are offered many “doors”—entrances to visibility, to resources, to recognition, and to understanding,” the editors write in an introduction to the volume. “Yet, these doors are almost always also “traps”—accommodating trans bodies, histories, and culture only insofar as they can be forced to hew to hegemonic modalities.”
“I did It for The Uplift of Humanity and The Navy”: Same-Sex Acts and The Origins of The National Security State, 1919–1921 by Sherry Zane, from The New England Quarterly
Sherry Zane’s essay from the June 2018 issue of The New England Quarterly explores U.S. national security interests on the World War I home-front from 1917-1921 in Newport, Rhode Island, when Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt’s covert operatives attempted to restrict same-sex acts through methods of entrapment. Zane convincingly argues that World War I provided government officials new opportunities to expand security concerns as it policed and punished gender and sexual non-conformity well before the Cold War.