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Big Lesbians

Worley is not alone in his views. In recent weeks, other preachers have put forward similarly violent arguments against homosexuality. And while tolerance has spread enough to permit President Obama to come out in favor of same-sex marriage, anti-gay bias among the general public has hardly disappeared. But even if Worley were the only soul on earth who believed that gays and lesbians should be ghettoized behind an electric fence, Mill would presumably support his right to speak. And Mill does not simply argue against silencing minority views: he claims we should pay attention to such ideas when they are aired. Mill would intellectually engage with Worley rather than dismiss him.

big lesbians


THIRTY, even twenty, years ago, a book titled Gay Life and Culture: A World History would have been unachievable because much of the research needed to produce such a work did not yet exist. Forty or fifty years ago, such a book would have been unthinkable because "gay" and "lesbian" as historical and cultural concepts were not around, at least as topics of academic pursuit. What a difference a few decades makes, and it's a difference that's largely due to the work of lesbians and gay men, along with our allies from the bisexual, transgender, and transsexual communities.

But several things happened on the way to the writing of this happy essay. In the spring semester of 1999, I taught my first graduate course in g/l/q theory and was surprised and disappointed that the "q" proved to be the elephant in the living room of the conversation the class was having, an obstacle and not an instrument, a block to understanding rather than a tool for achieving it. No matter how many times I insisted that queer named a politics of nonidentity and was most productive as a form of doing rather than a way of being (i.e., queerings rather [End Page 757] than queers), the class kept circling back to anxieties about who could call themselves queer and whether a coalition of amorphously defined queers could effect the kinds of political changes we supported. (The small class was mostly self-identified lesbians and gay men.) I could not get them to see that we was as vexed and unstable a term as queer, no matter how many times I went back to Judith Butler's brilliant deconstruction of identity terms in "Imitation and Gender Insubordination" (1993) (307-10). As spring gave way to summer, I continued to puzzle over how the "q" factor had taken over my classroom, making me more insistent and my students more resistant than is usually the case and making it harder for all of us to do anything more than dig in our heels on the positions we were comfortable with when the semester began. I also began immersing myself in the books that provide the occasion for this essay, Robert McRuer's The Queer Renaissance: Contemporary American Literature and the Reinvention of Lesbian and Gay Identities and Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick's anthology Novel Gazing: Queer Readings in Fiction. Finally, as the long hot summer of 1999 turned into an officially declared drought (at least in my home state of Maryland), I let my lawn dry up and went to the movies, to the breakout independent hit of the season, The Blair Witch Project (1999). 041b061a72


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