Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History 1
Drawing on the annual meeting’s theme of “Race, Ethnicity, and Nationalism in Global Perspective,” this panel explores the intersections of same-sex sexuality with the categories of race, ethnicity, and the nation state. In early America, or the period approximately before 1900, men and women of different backgrounds crossed boundaries to create a new definition of same-sex sexuality, one which increasingly insisted on the overt sexualization of same-sex intimacy while still maintaining the pretense of the platonic definition of an earlier age. The papers of this panel will also trace the origins of these new definitions and practices, paying close attention to the borders at which they met.
The three papers present case studies from within the academy and from public exhibitions that address the methodological challenges of identifying, describing, and presenting same-sex intimacies, attractions, and identities among men and women from the early American past. Thomas Balcerski considers the intimate male friendship of James Buchanan of Pennsylvania and William Rufus King of Alabama. Kate Culkin explores the same-sex relationships of her two primary research subjects, Harriet Hosmer and Ellen Tucker Emerson, respectively. Connie King discusses the conceptual and practical difficulties in mounting the Library Company of Philadelphia’s exhibit, “That’s So Gay: Outing Early America.” The chair, Richard Godbeer, an established scholar who has contributed greatly to this field, will provide essential criticism and insights for the presenters, as will the commentator Jim Downs, who has published widely on same-sexuality across the sweep of American history. In sum, these papers expand the possibilities of the methodological category of historical outing in the formative period before the discursive medicalization of homosexuality.