Queerness, Vulnerability, and State Violence

AHA Session 35
Thursday, January 6, 2022: 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Rhythms Ballroom 2 (Sheraton New Orleans, 2nd Floor)
Regina G. Kunzel, Princeton University
Organizing for Self Defense: Gay Men and Activism against Prison Rape
Catherine Jacquet, Louisiana State University
Where Is Aubrey Dameron? Transgender Women, Violence, and Cherokee Nation
Liza Black, University of California, Los Angeles and Indiana University
Queering Morales v. Turman: Homosexuality, Juvenile Justice, and Prisoner Abuse
Lauren Jae Gutterman, University of Texas at Austin
Susan Lee Johnson, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Session Abstract

Over the past twenty years, activists and scholars across the disciplines have produced a rich body of literature examining the persistent and deliberate perpetuation of state violence against marginalized populations. Historiographies of the carceral state, settler colonialism, immigration, and sexuality have all exposed the expansive reach and magnitude of state-sponsored violence on populations deemed “expendable.”

In their 2006 anthology, The Color of Violence, the groundbreaking activist group Incite! Women of Color Against Violence posited “radical analyses of violence developed by women of color.” This analysis was rooted, in part, in a recognition of the intersections of state violence and homophobia, transphobia, settler colonialism, and racism in all its manifestations. Building off the work of these groundbreaking scholars and activists, this panel broadly explores violence in relation to vulnerability, specifically against trans, gender non-conforming, and gay-identified people. We focus on spaces of heightened state surveillance and abuse: prisons, juvenile reformatories, and tribal lands. While we trace the devastating consequences of violence on marginalized populations, we also highlight and engage in questions of resistance to transphobic and homophobic violences, considering how people survive and persist under the weight of state-sponsored violence.

In her paper, “Where Is Aubrey Dameron?: Transgender Women, Violence, and Cherokee Nation,” Liza Black will explore the 2019 disappearance of Aubrey Dameron, a citizen of Cherokee Nation and a transgender woman, in the larger context of the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women and the historic use of violence against Cherokees in the Southeast. Next, in “Queering Morales v. Turman: Homosexuality, Juvenile Justice, and Prisoner Abuse,” Lauren Gutterman examines Morales v. Turman, a class action lawsuit filed in 1971 on behalf of juveniles in Texas Youth Council institutions, which revealed widespread abuse of queer minors. While Turman helped to bring about policy changes in juvenile justice, the queer youth involved in this case also helped to shift understandings of adolescent sexuality. Vic Overdorf’s ““Queer Alcatraz: The Heteronormative Carceral State and Alcatraz’ Hidden Sodomy Prisoners,”discusses the incarceration of homosexual men at Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary in the early to mid-twentieth century. It proposes the existence of a “heteronormative carceral state” describing the network of institutions that constructed violent, gendered discourse about homosexual men that allowed for their incarceration and subsequent abuse. Finally, Catherine Jacquet explores the connections between gay identity and antirape activism in prisons during the 1970s in her paper, “Organizing for Self Defense: Gay Men and Activism Against Prison Rape.” Focusing on early prison rape activists including Ed Mead, Stephen Donaldson, and Dan Russel Smith, the paper considers the relationship between gay men, vulnerability to sexual violence, and antirape activism in prisons.

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