Course description

When asked about gay and lesbian political issues, most people’s first thought will be of marriage equality, with perhaps some additional thoughts about workplace inclusion and hate crimes laws. Yet these are only a small part of the history and reach of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer movements and communities in the USA and beyond. In this class, we will take a broad perspective on the history and present of gender and sexuality. We’ll begin by exploring the social meanings of sex and gender, with the goal of understanding how institutional and interpersonal power relations affect all our experiences of identity and desire, regardless of our identifications. Then we will trace some histories of US-based LGBT social movements, discovering the conflicts and debates that have characterised this activist history on the streets, in the media, and in academia. Finally, we will engage with current debates, bringing an informed perspective to bear on pressing contemporary issues in LGBTQ studies and politics.

Course objectives
By the end of the semester, students should:

  • understand the social construction of gender and sexuality as it intersects with race, class, nationality, and disability
  • gain a sense of historical context for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer identities and social movements in the US
  • become familiar with the power structures at play in contemporary cultural and political representations of LGBTQ people
  • gain a preliminary grounding in the methodologies of LGBT Studies and Queer Studies scholarship in the social sciences and humanities

Required readings

Anne Fausto-Sterling, Sex/Gender: Biology in a Social World Routledge, 2012.
Susan Stryker, Transgender History
Vicki L. Eaklor, Queer America: A People’s GLBT History of the United States. New Press, 2011. *make sure to get 2011 edition*
Ryan Conrad, ed. Against Equality: Queer Revolution Not Mere Inclusion AK Press, 2014.

Our class assignments will not cover 100% of these texts, but I encourage you to finish them if you can; all are quite short and accessible. Copies are available for you to read in the Women’s Studies department library (2101 Woods Hall) as well as at McKeldin Library. Reading the texts in any digital format is fine.

Required films (Will be available to stream online through the library)
The Laramie Project (2002)
If These Walls Could Talk 2 (2000)
Tongues Untied (1989)
Silverlake Life: The View From Here (1993)
Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Orange is the New Black (2013)

Recommended film (It didn’t fit on the syllabus, but I really want you all to see it…): Pariah (2011)