When asked about LGBT 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,. Then we will trace some histories of US-based LGBT social and cultural movements, discovering the conflicts and debates that have characterized this activist history on the streets, in the media, and in academia. Finally, we will engage our current moment, bringing an informed perspective to bear on LGBTQ media, art, 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 texts
Michael Bronski, Ann Pellegrini, and Michael Amico. “You Can Tell Just By Looking” And 20 Other Myths about LGBT Life and People. Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 2013.
Adrian Brooks, The Right Side of History: 100 Years of LGBTQI Activism. New York, NY: Cleis Press, 2015.
Anne Fausto-Sterling, Sex/Gender: Biology in a Social World. New York, NYL Routledge, 2012.
Nia King, Queer and Trans Artists of Color: Stories of Some of Our Lives. Self published.  2014.
Susan Stryker, Transgender History. Berkeley, CA: Seal Press, 2008.

I’ve chosen these books in the hope that they will serve as an accessible library of LGBTQ basics you can take with you and share with friends, family members, and colleagues during college and afterward. Our class assignments will not cover 100% of every book, but I encourage you to finish them during the semester if you can.

Copies are available for you to read in the Women’s Studies department library (2101 Woods Hall) as well as on 2-hour reserve at McKeldin Library. Reading the texts in any digital format is fine, but you must be able to bring them to class either in hard copy or on a device.

Additional readings will be made available as PDFs or web links.

Required films (Either screened during class time or available to watch online)
Pride (2014)
Tangerine (2015)
The Normal Heart (2014)
Paper Dolls (2006)
Episodes of Orange is the New Black (2013); Transparent (2014)