Historicizing the Queerly Feminine in Canadian and US LGBTQ Communities

AHA Session 196
Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History 9
Saturday, January 6, 2018: 10:30 AM-12:00 PM
Thurgood Marshall West (Marriott Wardman Park, Mezzanine Level)
Amanda H. Littauer, Northern Illinois University
The Audience

Session Abstract

This panel responds to the exclusion of queer femininities from queer historical scholarship. Queer historical scholarship to-date has sought to recuperate LGBTQ identities from various overlooked historical periods and contexts. It has particularly focused on locating individual lesbian and gay identities, with an emphasis on the lived experiences of particular lesbian and gay identities and bodies, while excluding and marginalizing the knowledges of queer fem/mes and queer feminine aesthetics and affects. This panel performs a similar project of excavating marginalized identities, however it focuses on identities, aesthetics, and knowledges that have been ignored by lesbian, gay and queer movements and scholarship.

Thus, this panel asks: how can scholars start to redress this imbalance in representation and academic knowledge of queer fem/me aesthetics, identities, and experiences? Given the lack of formal scholarship on fem/mes, what historical and contemporary sites can we look to in order locate a queer fem/me theory, and how do these spaces inform one another? How can such a theory be crafted through critical transnational and racial intersections? While much of the material we analyze is located in the U.S. and Canada, this panel also looks towards transnational effeminacies and the effects of globalization on queer identities. We posit that in the face of this absence of formal scholarship, fem/mes’ self-narration becomes a crucial site for theorizing and further understanding fem/me identity. This panel looks at various forms of media and historical sources including fem/me life writing (recorded interviews, autobiographies, oral history, archival material, blogs and social media) and artistic representations of queer fem/mes and femininities. It resists a homogenizing notion of fem/me identity and hopes to further the theorization and understanding of fem/me identities.

This panel asks what a critical investigation of femininity would bring to scholarship on LGBTQ history, and what this investigation reveals about the formative values of queer scholarship and communities. How have investigations of femininities contributed to more inclusive feminist and queer theories? Following scholars and activists such as Robert M. Beachy, Susan Bordo, George Chauncey, Amber Hollibaugh and Joan Nestle, this panel will center femininity to unsettle its association with stasis and normativity within LGBTQ historiography.

Crucial questions that inform this panel are: What is the capacity of fem/me narrative to resist and recuperate the erasure of fem/mes and femininities from queer historiography? How do fem/mes articulate resistance to their cultural and critical marginalization? How has material and critical engagement with femininity been a world-making activity that has contributed to queer scholarship and counterpublics at large?

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