Zines from the Borderlands: Storytelling about Mixed-Heritage

Posted in Forthcoming Media, Gay & Lesbian, Live Events, United States on 2014-03-26 17:20Z by Steven

Zines from the Borderlands: Storytelling about Mixed-Heritage

Brooklyn Historical Society
Great Hall
128 Pierrepont Street
Brooklyn, New York
2014-04-24, 19:00-21:00 EST (Local Time)

How can zines create new narratives and representations for mixed-heritage people, LGBTQ communities, and people of color who are stereotyped or ignored in mainstream media?

What is the role of zines, DIY and self-publishing within marginalized communities?

How can zine culture open up space for intersectional conversations about identity and cultural hybridity?

Come participate in a vibrant conversation about race, gender, sexuality and media with four zinesters, activists and media-makers. Multimedia panel presentations will touch on themes such as: telling inclusive and intersectional stories; DIY and self-publishing; zine creation, production, and distribution; leveraging zine culture for racial and LGBTQ justice and movement building, and more.

Panelists include:

For more information, click here.

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Diversity reaches new levels in Honey Maid ads

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Gay & Lesbian, Media Archive, United States on 2014-03-11 22:48Z by Steven

Diversity reaches new levels in Honey Maid ads

USA Today
2014-03-10

Bruce Horovitz, Marketing Reporter

Honey Maid is the latest brand to launch an ad campaign featuring interracial, gay families.  USA TODAY

America’s biggest brands are at an advertising crossroads, and the new diversity that their ads project has suddenly emerged as one of society’s most visual — if not incendiary — flash points.

And it’s about to explode.

It began with several recent, high-profile diverse TV spots from two multibillion-dollar brands: a Cheerios spot staring a biracial girl with white mom and black dad; and a Coca-Cola spot featuring minorities singing America the Beautiful in their native languages. Both went viral and left trails of social media venom in their wake.

On Monday, Honey Maid will jump on the diversity bandwagon with a far-reaching campaign by the 90-year-old graham cracker brand that raises the use of diversity in mainstream ads to a whole new level.

In one 30-second Honey Maid ad, viewers will see everything from a same-sex couple bottle-feeding their son to an interracial couple and their three kids holding hands. The ad also features a Hispanic mother and an African-American father with their three mixed-race children. And there’s even a father covered in body tattoos. This is not some shockvertisement for Benetton. It’s an ad for one of America’s oldest and most familiar brands. The people in it are not actors, but real families. The message of the ad: These are wholesome families enjoying wholesome snacks…

Read the entire article here.

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‘Chinese, on the Inside’

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Family/Parenting, Gay & Lesbian, Media Archive, United States, Videos on 2014-03-05 01:44Z by Steven

‘Chinese, on the Inside’

The New York Times
2014-03-03

Liz Mak, writer and multimedia producer
Oakland, California

Catie and Kimberly were adopted from China by a couple from Maine, who attempt to pass on a culture they’ve never known firsthand.

About a decade ago, Barbara Cough adopted two girls from China, Kimberly and Catie. Barbara and her partner, Marilyn Thomas, are raising the children in Portland, Me. I filmed the family last year when the girls (who are not biological sisters) were ages 9 and 11.

More than 80,000 girls have been adopted from China by Americans since 1991. In recent years, China has made adoptions by same-sex couples, already difficult, nearly impossible.

But at the time the girls were adopted, in 2003 and 2004, Barbara and Marilyn felt that adopting girls from China afforded them more protections as parents than domestic adoptions would have, given the complex rules around birth parents’ rights in America.

For Barbara, it was also a way to reconnect with her own history: her great-grandfather Daniel Cough was the first Chinese man in Maine to become a naturalized citizen of the United States. Though Barbara’s generation is only one-eighth Chinese, the family members proudly identify with their cultural heritage…

Read the opinion piece and watch the video here.

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The Trouble with Transcendence: Is Defying the Gender Binary the New Racial Passing?

Posted in Articles, Gay & Lesbian, Law, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2014-01-25 09:54Z by Steven

The Trouble with Transcendence: Is Defying the Gender Binary the New Racial Passing?

Nursing Clio: Because the Personal is Historical
2014-01-21

Mallory Nicole Davis
University of Oregon

In 2010, Thomas Araguz III, a Texas firefighter died on the job, leaving behind his two children and transgender wife, Nikki.[1] The couple was legally married because although the state of Texas only recognizes heterosexual marriages, the state will validate a transgender union if the trans partner’s identification documents dictate that s/he is the opposite legal sex of the spouse.[2] However, when Nikki sought survivor benefits after her husband’s unexpected death, Thomas’ family launched a case against Nikki, stating that Thomas did not know his wife was transgender. The suit argued that Nikki wrongfully deceived her husband, while lobbying for the nullification of their marriage and subsequently, Nikki’s request for spousal benefits. The case was complicated further by the prosecuting attorney’s interrogation of a deposition taken from Thomas in a separate court case—a battle over custody of his two sons with his ex-wife—in which he stated that he did not know that Nikki was transgender.[3] In response to the scrutinizing of her late husband’s statement, Nikki insisted that Thomas lied during his deposition and pretended to be unaware of her transgender status in order maintain custody of his two small children. Nikki stated, “At the time, Thomas and I thought it was in the best interest of our children to lie. They were the center of (our) lives”.[4] Whether Nikki neglected to disclose her trans identity to her husband or that the couple collectively decided to lie to the court during their custody case for the sake of their children, deception surrounding Nikki’s trans status is at the center of this legal case; and undoubtedly, her credibility will be diminished regardless of how the court decides…

Passing is a term typically used to denote a person’s ability to move imperceptibly across racial lines, though the word is equally fitting to describe a trans* person’s ability to transgress the gender binary. Nikki’s perceived deceptions echoes the case of Alice and Leonard Rhinelander, an interracial couple who were married in 1924 who made national headlines because Alice, a light-skinned African-American woman, passed for white and married into the affluent Rhinelander family.[5] When negative press threatened to tarnish the Rhinelander family name, Leonard disappeared without warning and filed for an annulment, claiming that Alice misled him by presenting herself as a white woman. Ultimately, it was proved that Leonard had, in fact, known that Alice was African-American, and Alice counter-sued Leonard for abandonment. Although the Rhinelander family ended up offering Alice a monetary settlement upon her agreement to a divorce, the character attacks launched on Alice and her family, based upon her alleged racial deception were devastating. And like Nikki, Alice’s identity came under fire in a torrential court case only after the transcendent nature of her identity proved threatening to the family of her husband…

Read the entire article here.

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The trouble with ‘passing’ for another race/sexuality/religion…

Posted in Articles, Gay & Lesbian, Media Archive, Passing, Religion on 2014-01-02 21:50Z by Steven

The trouble with ‘passing’ for another race/sexuality/religion…

The Guardian
2014-01-02

Koa Beck
Brooklyn, New York

The broadening of the definition historically used for those of mixed-race who ‘passed’ as white exposes the power of privilege

Racial passing“, or “passing”, was originally coined to define the experience of mixed raced individuals, particularly in America, who were accepted as a member of a different racial group, namely white. Although passing dates all the way back to the 18th century, the term didn’t prominently surface in the American lexicon until around the 19th century, specifically with a slew of literature. Mark Twain and Charles Chesnutt were among the early American novelists to explore this phenomenon, but Nella Larson’s 1929 novel Passing was the first English language book to explicitly brand itself with the term.

Many years and an entire civil rights movement later, passing still carries a largely racially charged definition – especially for me. As an American biracial woman who passes as white, I live daily with a pronounced array of privileges that are coupled with the assumption that I am white. But my passing isn’t just limited to my racial identity. I’ve also spent several chapters of my young adulthood unwillingly passing as something else: straight. A fairly conventional femininity has imbued me – at least at first glance – with heterosexual privilege, even though I’m partnered to a woman.

And I’m not alone. As LGBTQ rights continue to become more visible, complications within identity continue to overlap with the collective and individual experience of passing. The result is that passing has greatly expanded over the last century from its original racial roots to include many marginalised identities, underscoring intersectionality within American identity…

Read the entire article here.

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Melissa Harris-Perry: LGBT Advocates Need Public Progressive Faith

Posted in Articles, Gay & Lesbian, Media Archive, Religion, United States on 2014-01-02 20:21Z by Steven

Melissa Harris-Perry: LGBT Advocates Need Public Progressive Faith

Religion Dispatches
Sexuality/Gender
University of Southern California

2011-05-31

Peter Montgomery, Associate Editor

Political scientist Melissa Harris-Perry has developed a devoted following with her appearances on Bill Moyers Journal and Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC show, and her insightful commentaries on race, history, politics and culture in The Nation and elsewhere. Less well known among progressive activists may be that the self-described social-scientific data geek also makes a compelling case for a more powerful progressive religious voice in the public arena.

On May 23 (in the midst of a very public debate with her former Princeton colleague Cornel West) Harris-Perry gave the keynote address at the Human Rights Campaign’s Clergy Call, which drew hundreds of LGBT-equality-supporting clergy to Washington, D.C. for inspiration, mutual support, training, and lobbying visits on Capitol Hill.

The Civil Rights Agenda of Our Time

“My work is based in the empirical, not in the spiritual… I like data points. I like survey analysis. So what in the world am I doing here, an empirical social scientist straight girl at a clergy call around LGBT issues?” she asked. Her answer: “I believe that the struggle for equal human and civil rights for lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual, same-sex-loving, gender-nonconforming and queer persons is the civil rights agenda of our time.” And, she said, “faith must be part of the work we’re doing.”   

The religious history of Harris-Perry’s own family has the sweep of an American saga. Her mother, whose Mormon ancestors pushed handcarts across the country to their promised land in Utah, graduated from Brigham Young University in 1964, having spent most of her time there, Harris-Perry says, writing articles about Mormon womanhood. Meanwhile, her father, whose great-great-grandmother was sold as a slave on a street corner in Richmond, Virginia, attended Howard University where he was “converted to Black nationalism” and shared a room with Stokely Carmichael. By the time her mother and father met in Seattle in the early 1970s, each had become a parent and had been divorced. After they had Melissa, they moved their blended family and children—white, black, and mixed-race—to Virginia in the immediate aftermath of the civil rights movement. “In that context you had to be Unitarian Universalist,” she said to knowing laughter…

Read the entire article here.

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Telling Multiracial Tales: An Autoethnography of Coming Out Home

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Autobiography, Gay & Lesbian, New Media, United States on 2013-12-16 20:29Z by Steven

Telling Multiracial Tales: An Autoethnography of Coming Out Home

Qualitative Inquiry
Volume 20, Number 1 (January 2014)
pages 51-60
DOI: 10.1177/1077800413508532

Benny LeMaster
Southern Illinois University, Carbondale

What follows are experimental autoethnographic tales of ambiguous embodiment. The tales weave in and out of the text and work to articulate gender in unsuspecting spaces. Together, we reconsider gender through multiple locations at once. I offer an autoethnography of multiracial tales: a simultaneous telling of embodiment as it manifests in my multiracial body. Rather than privileging one “side” of the family over another, I experiment with a concurrent telling. That is, multivocality in one body. To help anchor the telling, I use the academy as an assemblage of meaning. In the end, I find that my White family resists and rejects my queer masculinity because of my pursuit of higher education while my Asian family embraces my queer masculinity because of the same pursuit. These stories can only be known when told and processed concurrently; never alone, and never separate.

Read or purchase the article here.

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Passing for white and straight: How my looks hide my identity

Posted in Articles, Gay & Lesbian, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Passing, Social Science, United States on 2013-12-09 18:27Z by Steven

Passing for white and straight: How my looks hide my identity

Salon
2013-12-08

Koa Beck
Brooklyn, New York

I’m neither straight nor white, but I’m frequently mistaken for both — and it’s taught me a lot about privilege

I first became aware of my passing as a young child confronted with standardized testing. My second grade teacher had walked us through where to write our names in capital letters and what bubbles to fill in for our sex, our birth date and ethnicity. But in the days before “biracial” or “multiracial” or “choose two or more of the following,” I was confronted with rigid boxes of “white” or “black” – a space that my white father and black-Italian mother had navigated for some time.

But even at 8 years old, I knew I could mark “white” on the form without a teacher’s assistant telling me to do the form over with my No. 2 pencil. I could sometimes be “exotic” on the playground to the grown-ups who watched us for skinned knees and bad words. But with hair that had yet to curl and a white-sounding last name, I was at first glance – and many after – a dark-haired white girl with a white father who collected her after school…

…Because with my invisibility has come her privilege, an experience that has undeniably marked most of my life.  Due to my passing, I have the W.E.B. Du Bois-patented “double consciousness” for the opportunities that have been placed before me, scholastic and professional, from generally white and hetero establishments that look at me and always see their own. Is it the presumed commonality that garnered me those interviews? Those smiles? Those callbacks? Those firm handshakes?

When I read statistics about how employers are more likely to hire white people than people of color, I know that I can count myself in the former, despite the fact that I identify as the latter. I’m hyper-aware that when a bank, a company or any public office hears the sound of my voice and reads my legal first name (under which this article does not appear), they assume that they’re talking to a white woman, and therefore give me better service…

…My privilege in passing reflects a racism and heterosexism that continues to flourish, despite romantic notions that racial mixing and gay marriage will create a utopian future free of prejudices…

Read the entire article here.

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Families

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Family/Parenting, Gay & Lesbian, Media Archive, Social Science, Social Work, United States on 2013-11-26 15:36Z by Steven

Families

The New York Times
2013-11-25

Natalie Angier

American households have never been more diverse, more surprising, more baffling. In this special issue of Science Times, NATALIE ANGIER takes stock of our changing definition of family.

Read the entire article here.

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Scientific Racism and the Emergence of the Homosexual Body

Posted in Articles, Gay & Lesbian, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive on 2013-10-20 21:44Z by Steven

Scientific Racism and the Emergence of the Homosexual Body

Journal of the History of Sexuality
Volume 5, Number 2 (October, 1994)
pages 243-266

Siobhan Somerville, Associate Professor
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

One of the most important insights developed in the fields of lesbian and gay history and the history of sexuality has been the notion that homosexuality and, by extension, heterosexuality are relatively recent inventions in Western culture, rather than transhistorical or “natural” categories of human beings. As Michel Foucault and other historians of sexuality have argued, although sexual acts between two people of the same sex had been punishable through legal and religious sanctions well before the late nineteenth century, they did not necessarily define individuals as homosexual per se. Only recently, in the late nineteenth century, did a new understanding of sexuality emerge, in which sexual acts and desires became constitutive of identity. Homosexuality as the condition, and therefore identity, of particular bodies is thus a production of that historical moment.

Medical literature, broadly defined to include the writings of physicians, sexologists, and psychiatrists, has been integral to this historical argument. Although medical discourse was by no means the only—nor necessarily the most powerful—site of the emergence of new sexual identities, it does nevertheless offer rich sources for at least partially understanding the complex development of these categories in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Medical and sexological literature not only became one of the few sites of explicit engagement with questions of sexuality during this period but also held substantial definitional power within a culture that sanctioned science to discover and tell the truth about bodies.

As historians and theorists of sexuality have refined a notion of the late nineteenth-century “invention” of the homosexual, their discussions have drawn primarily upon theories and histories of gender. George Chauncey, in particular, has provided an invaluable discussion of the ways in which paradigms of sexuality shifted according to changing ideologies of gender during this period. He notes a gradual change in medical models of sexual deviance, from a notion of sexual inversion, understood as a reversal of one’s sex role, to a model of homosexuality, defined as deviant sexual object choice. These categories and their transformations, argues Chauncey, reflected concurrent shifts in the cultural organization of sex/gender roles and participated in prescribing acceptable behavior, especially within a context of white middle-class gender ideologies.

While gender insubordination offers a powerful explanatory model for the “invention” of homosexuality, ideologies of gender also, of course, shaped and were shaped by dominant constructions of race. Indeed, although it has received little acknowledgment, it is striking that the “invention” of the homosexual occurred at roughly the same time that racial questions were being reformulated, particularly in the United States. This was the moment, for instance, of Plessy v. Ferguson the 1896 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that insisted that “black” and “white” races were “separate but equal.” Both a product of and a stimulus to a nationwide and brutal era of racial segregation, this ruling had profound and lasting effects in legitimating an apartheid structure that remained legally sanctioned for over half of the twentieth century. The Plessy case distilled in legal form many widespread contemporary fears about race and racial difference at the time. A deluge of “Jim Crow” and antimiscegenation laws, combined with unprecedented levels of racial violence, most visibly manifested in widespread lynching, reflected an aggressive attempt to classify and separate bodies as either “black” or “white.”

Is it merely a historical coincidence that the classification of bodies as either “homosexual” or “heterosexual” emerged at the same time that the United States was aggressively policing the imaginary boundary between “black” and “white” bodies? Although some historians of sexuality have included brief acknowledgment of nineteenth-century discourses of racial difference, the particular relationship and potentially mutual effects of discourses of homosexuality and race remain unexplored. This silence around race may be due in part to the relative lack of explicit attention to race in medical and sexological literature of the period. These writers did not self-consciously interrogate race, nor were those whose gender insubordination and sexual transgression brought them under the medical gaze generally identified by race in these accounts. Yet the lack of explicit attention to race in these texts does not mean that it was irrelevant to sexologists’ endeavors. Given the upheavals surrounding racial definition during this period, it is reasonable to imagine that these texts were as embedded within contemporary racial ideologies as they were within ideologies of gender.

Take, for instance, the words of Havelock Ellis, whose massive Studies in the Psychology of Sex was one of the most important texts of the late nineteenth-century medical and scientific discourse on sexuality. “I regard sex as the central problem of life,” began the general preface to the first volume. Justifying such unprecedented boldness toward the study of sex, Ellis explained, “And now that the problem of religion has practically been settled, and that the problem of labour has at least been placed on a practical foundation, the question of sex—with the racial questions that rest on it—stands before the coming generations as the chief problem for solution.” Despite Ellis’s oddly breezy dismissal of the problems of labor and religion, which were far from settled at the time, this passage points suggestively to a link between sexual and racial anxieties. Yet what exactly did Ellis mean by “racial questions”? More significantly, what was his sense of the relationship between racial questions and the question of “sex”? Although Ellis himself left these issues unresolved, his elliptical declaration nevertheless suggested that a discourse of race—however elusively—somehow hovered around or within the study of sexuality.

In this article, I offer speculations on how late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century discourses of race and sexuality might be not merely juxtaposed, but brought together in ways that illuminate both. I suggest that the concurrent bifurcations of categories of race and sexuality were not only historically coincident but in fact structurally interdependent and perhaps mutually productive. My goal, however, is not to garner and display unequivocal evidence of the direct influence of racial categories on those who were developing scientific models of homosexuality. Nor am I interested in identifying individual writers and thinkers as racist or not. Rather, my focus here is on racial ideologies, the cultural assumptions and systems of representation about race through which individuals understood their relationships within the world. My emphasis lies in understanding the relationships between the medical/scientific discourse around sexuality and the dominant scientific discourse around race during this period, that is, scientific racism.

My approach combines literary and historical methods of reading, particularly those that have been so crucial to lesbian and gay studies—the technique of reading to hear “the inexplicable presence of the thing not named,” of being attuned to the queer presences and implications in texts that do not otherwise name them. Without this collective project to see, hear, and confirm queer inflections where others would deny their existence, it is arguable that gay and lesbian studies itself, and particularly our knowledge and understanding of the histories, writing, and cultures of lesbians and gay men, would be impoverished, if not impossible. In a similar way, I propose to use the techniques of queer reading, but to modulate my analysis from a focus on sexuality and gender to one alert to racial resonances as well.

My attention, then, is focused on the racial pressure points in exemplary texts from the late nineteenth-century discourse on sexuality, including those written by Ellis and other writers of the period who made explicit references to homosexuality. I suggest that the structures and methodologies that drove dominant ideologies of race also fueled the pursuit of scientific knowledge about the homosexual body: both sympathetic and hostile accounts of homosexuality were steeped in assumptions that had driven previous scientific studies of race. My aim is not to replace a focus on gender and sexuality with that of race but, rather, to understand how discourses of race and gender buttressed one another, often competing, often overlapping, in shaping emerging models of homosexuality.

I suggest three broadly defined ways in which discourses of sexuality seem to have been particularly engaged, sometimes overtly, but largely implicitly, with the discourse of scientific racism. All of these models pathologized both the nonwhite body and the nonheterosexual body to greater or lesser extents. Although I discuss these models in separate sections here, they often coexisted, despite their contradictions. These models are speculative and are intended as a first step toward understanding the myriad and historically specific ways that racial and sexual discourses shaped each other at the moment that homosexuality entered scientific discourse…

…The Mixed Body

The emergence of evolutionary theory in the late nineteenth century foregrounded a view of continuity between the “savage” and “civilized” races, in contrast to earlier scientific thinking about race, which had focused on debates about the origins of different racial groups. Proponents of monogeny, on the one hand, argued that all races derived from a single origin. Those who argued for polygeny, on the other hand, argued that different races descended from separate biological and geographical sources, a view, not coincidentally, that supported segregationist impulses. With Darwin’s publication of Origin of the Species in 1859, the debate between polygeny and monogeny was replaced by evolutionary theory, which was appropriated as a powerful scientific model for understanding race. Its controversial innovation was its emphasis on the continuity between animals and human beings. Evolutionary theory held out the possibility that the physical, mental, and moral characteristics of human beings had evolved gradually over time from apelike ancestors. Although the idea of continuity depended logically on the blurring of boundaries within hierarchies, it did not necessarily invalidate the methods or assumptions of comparative anatomy. On the contrary, the notion of visible differences and racial hierarchies were deployed to corroborate Darwinian theory.

The concept of continuity was harnessed to growing attention to miscegenation, or “amalgamation,” in social science writing in the first decades of the twentieth century. Edward Byron Reuter’s The Mulatto in the United States, for instance, pursued an exhaustive quantitative and comparative study of the mulatto population and its achievements in relation to those of “pure” white or African ancestry. Reuter traced the presence of a distinct group of mixed-race people back to early American history: “Their physical appearance, though markedly different from that of the pure blooded race, was sufficiently marked to set them off as a peculiar people.” Reuter, of course, was willing to admit the viability of “mulattoes” only within a framework that emphasized the separation of races. Far from using the notion of the biracial body to refute the belief in discrete markers of racial difference, Reuter perpetuated the notion by focusing on the distinctiveness of this “peculiar people.”

Miscegenation was, of course, not only a question of race but also one of sex and sexuality. Ellis recognized this intersection implicitly, if not explicitly. His sense of the “racial questions” implicit in sex was surely informed by his involvement with eugenics, the movement in Britain, Europe, and the United States that, to greater or lesser degrees, advocated selective reproduction and “race hygiene.” In the United States, eugenics was both a political and scientific response to the growth of a population beginning to challenge the dominance of white political interests. The widespread scientific and social interest in eugenics was fueled by anxieties expressed through the popularized notion of (white) “race suicide.” This phrase, invoked most famously by Theodore Roosevelt, summed up nativist fears about a perceived decline in reproduction among white Americans. The new field of eugenics worked hand in hand with growing antimiscegenation sentiment and policy, provoked not only by attempts for political representation among African-Americans but also by the influx of large populations of immigrants. As Mark Haller has pointed out, “Racists and [immigration] restrictionists . . . found in eugenics the scientific reassurances they needed that heredity shaped man’s personality and that their assumptions rested on biological facts.” Ellis saw himself as an advocate for eugenics policies. As an active member of the British National Council for Public Morals, Ellis wrote several publications concerning eugenics, including The Problem of Race Regeneration, a pamphlet advocating “voluntary” sterilization of the unfit as a policy in the best interest of “the race.” In a letter to Francis Galton in 1907, Ellis wrote, “In the concluding volume of my Sex ‘Studies’ I shall do what I can to insinuate the eugenic attitude.”

The beginnings of sexology, then, were related to and perhaps even dependent on a pervasive climate of eugenicist and antimiscegenation sentiment and legislation. Even at the level of nomenclature, anxieties about miscegenation shaped sexologists’ attempts to find an appropriate and scientific name for the newly visible object of their study Introduced in 1892 through the English translation of Krafft-Ebing’s Psychopathia Sexualis, the term “homosexuality” itself stimulated a great deal of uneasiness. In 1915, Ellis reported that “most investigators have been much puzzled in coming to a conclusion as to the best, most exact, and at the same time most colorless names [for same-sex desire].” Giving an account of the various names proposed, such as Ulrichs’s “Uranian” and Westphal’s “contrary sexual feeling,” Ellis admitted that “homosexuality” was the most widespread term used. Far from the ideal “colorless” term, however, “homosexuality” evoked Ellis’s distaste for its mixed origins: in a regretful aside, he noted that “it has, philologically, the awkward disadvantage of being a bastard term compounded of Greek and Latin elements” (p. 2). In the first edition of Sexual Inversion, Ellis had stated his alarm more directly: “‘Homosexual’ is a barbarously hybrid word.” A similar view was expressed by Edward Carpenter, an important socialist organizer in England and an outspoken advocate of homosexual and women’s emancipation at this time. Like Ellis, Carpenter winced at the connotations of illegitimacy in the word: “‘homosexual,’ generally used in scientific works, is of course a bastard word. ‘Homogenic’ has been suggested, as being from two roots, both Greek, i.e., ‘homos,’ same, and ‘genos,’ sex.” Carpenter’s suggestion, “homogenic,” of course, resonated both against and within the vocabularies of eugenics and miscegenation. Performing these etymological gyrations with almost comic literalism, Ellis and Carpenter expressed pervasive cultural sensitivities around questions of racial origins and purity. Concerned above with legitimacy, they attempted to remove and rewrite the mixed origins of “homosexuality.” Ironically, despite their suggestions for alternatives, the “bastard” term took hold among sexologists, thus yoking together, at least rhetorically, two kinds of mixed bodies—the racial “hybrid” and the invert.

Although Ellis exhibited anxieties about biracial bodies, for others who sought to naturalize and recuperate homosexuality, the evolutionary emphasis on continuity offered potentially useful analogies. Xavier Mayne, for example, one of the earliest American advocates of homosexual rights, wrote, “Between whitest of men and the blackest negro stretches out a vast line of intermediary races as to their colours: brown, olive, red tawny, yellow.” He then invoked this model of race to envision a continuous spectrum of gender and sexuality: “Nature abhors the absolute, delights in the fractional. . . . Intersexes express the half-steps, the between-beings ” In this analogy, Mayne reversed dominant cultural hierarchies that privileged purity over mixture. Drawing upon irrefutable evidence of the “natural” existence of biracial people, Mayne posited a direct analogy to a similarly mixed body, the intersex, which he positioned as a necessary presence within the natural order.

Despite Carpenter’s complaint about “bastard” terminology, he, like Mayne, also occasionally appropriated the scientific language of racial mixing in order to resist the association between homosexuality and degeneration. In The Intermediate Sex, he attempted to theorize homosexuality outside of the discourse of pathology or abnormality; he too suggested a continuum of genders, with “intermediate types” occupying a place between the poles of exclusively heterosexual male and female. In an appendix to The Intermediate Sex, Carpenter offered a series of quotations supporting his ideas, some of which drew upon racial analogies: “Anatomically and mentally we find all shades existing from the pure genus man to the pure genus woman. Thus there has been constituted what is well named by an illustrious exponent of the science ‘The Third Sex.’ … As we are continually meeting in cities women who are one-quarter, or one-eighth, or so on, male … so there are in the Inner Self similar half-breeds, all adapting themselves to circumstances with perfect ease.” Through notions of “shades” of gender and sexual “half-breeds,” Carpenter appropriated dominant scientific models of race to construct and embody what he called the intermediate sex. These racial paradigms, in addition to models of gender, offered a Carpenter a coherent vocabulary for understanding and expressing a new vision of sexual bodies…

Read the entire article here.

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