LGBT Rights and Identity

In honor of LGBT Pride Month, which commemorates the Stonewall riots of June 1969, this month's hot topic highlights LGBT rights and identities.

Love the Hot Topic titles? Try our other newsletters.

Bost, Darius. Evidence of being: the black gay cultural renaissance and the politics of violence. Chicago, 2018 (c2019). 181p index ISBN 9780226589794, $82.50; ISBN 9780226589824 pbk, $27.50; ISBN 9780226589961 ebook, contact publisher for price.
Reviewed in CHOICE June 2019

Bost (Univ. of Utah) finds evidence of being (“the lived experience of being black and gay”) in writings and other artistic productions of black gay men in Washington, DC, and New York City between 1978 and 1995. In this short yet wordy book, Bost analyzes a renaissance of writing that sparked in these years a second Harlem Renaissance, although one whose contributors were more openly gay. Bost focuses on writing that appeared in Sidney Brinkley’s Blacklight magazine, Essex Hemphill’s poetry, work produced by New York City’s Other Countries Collective, and Melvin Dixon’s unpublished diaries. In these years, many black gay men dealt with doubled rejection from white gay men and from their own families and home communities. Their lives, moreover, were profoundly imperiled by HIV/AIDS. They wrote to find a way to be, to survive, in the present and the future, if only as literary archive. Bost argues the power of cultural production that sustained “black gay men amid the ubiquitous forms of violence that targeted them.” The book includes an appendix list of contemporary black gay writers and activists, organizations, and publications. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. —L. Lindstrom, University of Tulsa

Carter, David. Stonewall: the riots that sparked the gay revolution. St. Martin’s, 2004. 336p ISBN 0312200250, $24.95.
Reviewed in CHOICE March 2005

This excellent study of the Stonewall riots explores the gay liberation movement from its origins to the explosions that unfolded in Greenwich Village in June 1969. Carter provides apt commentary on that pocket of Manhattan, which long possessed a reputation for offering a haven for bohemians and homosexuals; nevertheless, the Village’s gay sectors confronted a hostile police department and long-standing repressive social and legal constraints. Those constraints, Carter indicates, dated back to the repressive nature of the Puritans, but also strengthened throughout the early postwar era, as when President Eisenhower allowed homosexual government employees to be dismissed on grounds of “sexual perversion.” Gays and lesbians began battling back, establishing organizations such as the Mattachine Society and the Daughters of Bilitis, and challenging homophobic pronouncements by state legislatures, the mass media, psychologists, and psychiatrists. Carter’s greatest contribution involves his careful depiction of the respective gay scenes in New York City and San Francisco, the mounting frustrations induced by police harassment and societal pressures, and the eventual eruptions on both coasts. The Stonewall riots attracted the most attention because of their duration, intensity, and location in the nation’s cultural center. Summing Up: Recommended. Undergraduate and graduate students, researchers, and faculty. —R. C. Cottrell, California State University, Chico

Davis, Heath Fogg. Beyond trans: does gender matter?. New York University, 2017. 184p bibl index ISBN 9781479855407, $25.00; ISBN 9781479875993 ebook, contact publisher for price.
Reviewed in CHOICE November 2017

Davis (political science, Temple) makes a substantial contribution to discussions about gender identity. He explores how mainstream transgender activism focuses more on making it easier to change administrative sex markers and less how the current, arbitrary paradigm harms everyone. Davis makes a compelling case that “all of us would be better off in a society with dramatically fewer sex-classification policies.” From examining sex markers on government documentation, to sex-segregated restrooms, to single-sex college admissions in the US, to sex-segregated athletics, Davis invites readers to see how removing sex identity markers can benefit “everyone, no matter their sex identity.” The book draws strength from the powerful anecdotes Davis selects to elucidate the arguments he substantiates in each chapter, allowing for readers with gender studies backgrounds to reflect on a new approach to these conversations and also for new readers to gain additional context. The author brilliantly grounds abstract concepts in real human experiences in each chapter. This book is a rare example of a text that speaks fluently to experts and novices alike. Indispensable for all libraries and readership levels. Summing Up: Essential. All public and academic collections. —C. Pinto, Mount Holyoke College

Garretson, Jeremiah J. The path to gay rights: how activism and coming out changed public opinion. New York University, 2018. 297p index ISBN 9781479822133, $99.00; ISBN 9781479850075 pbk, $35.00; ISBN 9781479824236 ebook, contact publisher for price.
Reviewed in CHOICE November 2018

It has become a commonplace that one of the biggest social changes in the past 50 years has been the shift in attitude toward LGBT people and their rights. The questions that interest social scientists are how and why? Garretson (California State East Bay) has questions and explanations. Using social surveys to document the shift, he argues that the most important factor is the “tireless work of LGBT activists especially during the AIDS crisis.” As much as anything else, the crisis led to large exposure further leading to mass coming out. Garretson makes a significant contribution in his theory of affective liberalization, which is, in effect, a theory of how exposure in coming out changes support for LGBT rights. The theory, he argues in his conclusion, can be applied to other aspects of social change, perhaps with limited results. That remains to be seen. Quantitative data backs up the arguments of this serious social science book. It makes a significant contribution to the political science literature on LGBT studies by synthesizing and advancing the empirical arguments on the shift in opinion on gay rights in just a few generations. Summing Up: Essential. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. —D. S. Azzolina, University of Pennsylvania

The Literature of lesbianism: a historical anthology from Ariosto to Stonewall, ed. by Terry Castle. Columbia, 2003. 1,110p ISBN 0231125100, $45.00.
Reviewed in CHOICE March 2004

This innovative anthology will serve as a superb resource—both as text and as secondary reading—for courses in women’s studies, queer studies, gender studies, and introduction to literature courses. Castle (humanities, Stanford Univ.) hopes her readers will approach this text “with sapphic eyes … no matter what one’s official sex or public relation to the enigma of sexual orientation.” The choices she makes for this collection go far beyond conventional anthologies of lesbian writing and include writers who write about what Castle calls the lesbian “idea.” The excellent introduction explores why the volume includes works from men and women, gay and straight—contributors who explain what it is to be a person who loves, watches, and interrogates women and the idea of a women. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All collections; all levels. —L. Winters, College of Saint Elizabeth

Long before Stonewall: histories of same-sex sexuality in early America, ed. by Thomas A. Foster. New York University, 2007. 404p ISBN 0814727492, $75.00; ISBN 0814727506 pbk, $25.00; ISBN 9780814727492, $75.00; ISBN 9780814727508 pbk, $25.00.
Reviewed in CHOICE December 2007

This is an incredibly valuable anthology for students of same-sex sexuality. While works abound on homoerotic activity in North America over the past 200 years, the dearth of evidence on the subject from the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries has made scholars wary of undertaking Colonial era projects. Editor Foster has done a tremendous service by bringing together 14 essays dealing with this earlier period—some previously published, others entirely new. By and large, they are the work of younger investigators. Nine of the fourteen authors received their PhDs in 1990 or later; eight are assistant or associate professors. The book is bracketed with an introduction by the editor and an afterword by a senior eminence in the field of same-sex sexuality, John D’Emilio. As is usual in collections featuring work by beginning and midcareer scholars, revisionism is the dominant theme. How many of these new and sometimes startling interpretations will prevail is a question that cannot be answered in the short term, but most of them appear to be thoughtful, persuasive, solidly constructed, and likely to endure the test of time. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above. —B. R. Burg, Arizona State University

Meyer, Doug. Violence against queer people: race, class, gender, and the persistence of anti-LGBT discrimination. Rutgers, 2015. 194p bibl index afp ISBN 9780813573168, $80.00; ISBN 9780813573151 pbk, $25.95; ISBN 9780813573175 ebook, $25.95.
Reviewed in CHOICE March 2016

Going beyond the typical book focused on discrimination toward the LGBT community, Meyer (Virginia) utilizes intersectional theory to examine three areas of violence that are often neglected: violence in the home, violence by the police, and homelessness, which Meyer argues is a form of violence. By using a framework informed by both feminist and queer theories, the author documents the often difficult to tease out instances of violence against lesbians, bisexual women, and transwomen that is often misidentified as LGBT violence when, in fact, it is really gender-based violence. Additionally, his approach, while acknowledging police violence against black bodies, interrogates the violence that LGBT people of color experience at the hands of police. Finally, Meyer makes a compelling argument for violence in the home—domestic/partner violence, parental violence, and the pushing out of LGBT youth into homelessness—as important sites for interrogation. A must read for scholars, instructors, and students interested in the discrimination members of the LGBT community experience. Summing Up: Essential. All levels/libraries. —A. J. Hattery, George Mason University

Powell, Ryan. Coming together: the cinematic elaboration of gay male life, 1945–1979. Chicago, 2019. 275p filmography bibl index ISBN 9780226634234, $105.00; ISBN 9780226634371 pbk, $35.00; ISBN 9780226634401 ebook, contact publisher for price.
Reviewed in CHOICE January 2020

Few books are as important to a field of study as Ryan Powell’s Coming Together is to queer film history. Powell (Indiana Univ., Bloomington) does a magnificent job of using solid archival and historical research and applying it to primary sources queer theory. Powell begins with underground gay films from the late 1940s into the late 1960s, films that were often deemed illegal by their very production. He then moves to films marketed to a gay audience in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and demonstrates how the very existence of these films created a gay audience and a public space for queer male viewers to congregate. The author describes these films as “overtly political articulations of gay personhood as the male author/onlooker moves on screen” (p. 17). The author also addresses seminal films of the mid-1970s that indicated a more psychologically driven form of gay life. Powell concludes with an examination of hard-core pornographic films of the 1970s, films he describes as “liberation porn.” Not only were these films virtually the only depiction of queer male love/sex on screen (a genre mainstream Hollywood avoided), they also depicted a series of relations that were able to remake the world at large due to their use of space, desire, and community. Summing Up: Essential. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. —G. R. Butters Jr., Aurora University

Rimmerman, Craig A. The lesbian and gay movements: assimilation or liberation?. Westview, 2008. 201p ISBN 0813340543 pbk, $28.00; ISBN 9780813340548 pbk, $28.00.
Reviewed in CHOICE September 2008

Rimmerman (political science, Hobart and William Smith Colleges) does an excellent job of examining LGBT issues by focusing on three major concerns: HIV/AIDS, military policy, and same-sex marriage. He discusses each issue in light of the two prevailing strategies in the movement—assimilation and liberation—and lays a historical foundation focusing on the political pressures resulting in the current policies. The book breaks down important legal battles to make them easily accessible. Rimmerman provides discussion questions for each chapter, making it easy to engage students with an in-class exchange or writing assignment. This book may be a useful resource for professors interested in introducing social movement issues into their politics course. It can be read in its entirety, or chapters can be used individually when highlighting a particular issue. Students may find this a useful resource to obtain a concise, thorough background on major LGBT issues and modern US political history in general. A great addition to the reading list of most US politics collections. Summing Up: Highly recommended. General and undergraduate libraries. —T. S. Ching, Seattle University

Snorton, C. Riley. Black on both sides: a racial history of trans identity. Minnesota, 2017. 259p index ISBN 9781517901721, $100.00; ISBN 9781517901738 pbk, $24.95; ISBN 9781452955865 ebook, contact publisher for price.
Reviewed in CHOICE June 2018

Snorton (Africana studies and feminist, gender, and sexuality studies, Cornell) makes an essential contribution to gender studies and black studies. He draws from multiple epistemologies to help readers reconsider “trans” as both a term and an identity. The text is “an attempt to find a vocabulary for black and trans life … it works to do more than provide a ‘shadow history’ or blackness in trans studies or transness in black studies.” Snorton seeks vocabularies for black and trans life through the science of sexuality, through explorations of transatlantic literature, and through the afterlife of Phillip DeVine. The author shares in the acknowledgments that he wrote this book “for those of you who have made new names and found new modes of naming.” That acknowledgment is the foundation of what his book accomplishes: to create new names and new modes of engaging with the past, and to wrestle with modes of categorization in literatures and archives, and with the collective amnesia that allows mainstream memory to forget Phillip DeVine as it memorializes Brandon Teena. This book is an outstanding contribution to conversations about black and trans studies; it will transform scholarly understandings of both fields and the intersections between them. Summing Up: Essential. Upper-division undergraduates and above; professionals. —C. Pinto, Mount Holyoke College