In 1863, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors passed a law that criminalized appearing in public in “a dress not belonging to his or her sex.” Adopted as part of a broader anti-indecency campaign, the cross-dressing law became a flexible tool for policing multiple gender transgressions, facilitating over one hundred arrests before the century’s end. Over forty U.S. cities passed similar laws during this time, yet little is known about their emergence, operations, or effects. Grounded in a wealth of archival material, Arresting Dress traces the career of anti-cross-dressing laws from municipal courtrooms and codebooks to newspaper scandals, vaudevillian theater, freak-show performances, and commercial “slumming tours.” It shows that the law did not simply police normative gender but actively produced it by creating new definitions of gender normality and abnormality. It also tells the story of the tenacity of those who defied the law, spoke out when sentenced, and articulated different gender possibilities.
Amos Badertscher Duke University Press, 1999 Library of Congress TR680.B24 1999 | Dewey Decimal 779.2092
Baltimore Portraits is a unique presentation of photographs by Amos Badertscher. These portraits—many accompanied by poignantly revealing, hand-written narratives about their subjects—represent a sector of Baltimore that has gone largely unnoticed and rarely has been documented. In this volume, the assemblage of images of bar and street people—transvestites, strippers, drug addicts, drag queens, and hustlers—spans a twenty-year period from the mid-1970s to the mid-1990s. Badertscher’s arresting and melancholy photographs document a culture that has virtually disappeared due to substance abuse, AIDS, and, often, societal or family neglect.
The photographer’s focus on content rather than on elaborate technique reveals the intensely personal—and, indeed, autobiographical—nature of his portraits. Their simplicity along with the text’s intimacy affects the viewer in ways not easily forgotten. An introduction by Tyler Curtain contextualizes the photographs both within the history of Baltimore and its queer subculture and in relationship to contemporaneous work by photographers Nan Goldin, Robert Mapplethorpe, Cindy Sherman, Duane Michaels, and others. Curtain also positions the underlying concerns of Bardertscher’s art in relation to gay and lesbian cultural politics.
This striking collection of portraits, along with the photographer’s moving text, will impact not only a general audience of photographers and enthusiasts of the art but also those engaged with gay and lesbian studies, queer theory, and cultural studies in general. It is published in association with the Duke University Museum of Art.
Drag Queens at the 801 Cabaret
Leila J. Rupp and Verta Taylor University of Chicago Press, 2003 Library of Congress HQ77.2.U6R86 2003 | Dewey Decimal 306.77
It's Saturday night in Key West and the Girlie Show is about to begin at the 801 Cabaret. The girls have been outside on the sidewalk all evening, seducing passersby into coming in for the show. The club itself is packed tonight and smoke has filled the room. When the lights finally go down, statuesque blonds and stunning brunettes sporting black leather miniskirts, stiletto heels, and see-through lingerie take the stage. En Vogue's "Free Your Mind" blares on the house stereo. The crowd roars in approval.
In this lively book, Leila J. Rupp and Verta Taylor take us on an entertaining tour through one of America's most overlooked subcultures: the world of the drag queen. They offer a penetrating glimpse into the lives of the 801 Girls, the troupe of queens who perform nightly at the 801 Cabaret for tourists and locals. Weaving together their fascinating life stories, their lavish costumes and eclectic music, their flamboyance and bitchiness, and their bawdy exchanges with one another and their audiences, the authors explore how drag queens smash the boundaries between gay and straight, man and woman, to make people think more deeply and realistically about sex and gender in America today. They also consider how the queens create a space that encourages camaraderie and acceptance among everyday people, no matter what their sexual preferences might be.
Based on countless interviews with more than a dozen drag queens, more than three years of attendance at their outrageous performances, and even the authors' participation in the shows themselves, Drag Queens at the 801 Cabaret is a witty and poignant portrait of gay life and culture. When they said life is a cabaret, they clearly meant the 801.
The U.S.-Mexico border is frequently presented by contemporary media as a violent and dangerous place. But that is not a new perception. For decades the border has been constructed as a topographic metaphor for all forms of illegality, in which an ineffable link between space and violence is somehow assumed. The sociological and cultural implications of violence have recently emerged at the forefront of academic discussions about the border. And yet few studies have been devoted to one of its most disturbing manifestations: gender violence. This book analyzes this pervasive phenomenon, including the femicides in Ciudad Juárez that have come to exemplify, at least for the media, its most extreme manifestation.
Contributors to this volume propose that the study of gender-motivated violence requires interpretive and analytical strategies that draw on methods reaching across the divide between the social sciences and the humanities. Through such an interdisciplinary conversation, the book examines how such violence is (re)presented in oral narratives, newspaper reports, films and documentaries, novels, TV series, and legal discourse. It also examines the role that the media have played in this process, as well as the legal initiatives that might address this pressing social problem.
Together these essays offer a new perspective on the implications of, and connections between, gendered forms of violence and topics such as mechanisms of social violence, the micro-social effects of economic models, the asymmetries of power in local, national, and transnational configurations, and the particular rhetoric, aesthetics, and ethics of discourses that represent violence.
Many straight Americans would never embrace homosexuals as neighbors, co-workers, or friends. Still less would they accept as equals those transgendered individuals who work the streets to provide themselves with drug money.
This book seeks to change that perception. It celebrates the lives of Shontae, China, Keisha, Detra, and Monique, five Afro-American gay hustlers who struggle to survive and to maintain a life of dignity and value in the face of their drug use and criminal activity. As individuals they vary in terms of background, the manner in which they entered the transgendered world, and the nature of their initiation into the drug subculture. None of them has escaped the ravages of urban decline, crime, drugs, and poverty that accompany life in an inner city, but by the same token, none of them has capitulated to the stresses with which they live.
It is impossible to read these accounts and not come away emotionally drained. As Monique explains, their lives take place in a world of chances. "You take a chance on living or dying, on being hurt or not being hurt, a chance on finding a friend or finding an enemy." It is from this world that their voices speak so eloquently about their families, hustling, sexuality, sexual abuse, friendship, and intimacy.
By letting these women speak, Leon E. Pettiway evokes questions and encourages discussion and a re-evaluation of those who are labeled as deviant. Pettiway reaches beyond academic convention to offer a view with depth and emotion that mere statistics could never provide. While the poverty and often destructive lifestyle of these women may be gut-wrenching, their experiences reveal joy, pain, and the profound strength of the human spirit with which we can all identify. These lives have much to teach us about ourselves and those we label as "other."
Invisible Lives is the first scholarly study of transgendered people—cross-dressers, drag queens and transsexuals—and their everyday lives.
Through combined theoretical and empirical study, Viviane K. Namaste argues that transgendered people are not so much produced by medicine or psychiatry as they are erased, or made invisible, in a variety of institutional and cultural settings. Namaste begins her work by analyzing two theoretical perspectives on transgendered people—queer theory and the social sciences—displaying how neither of these has adequately addressed the issues most relevant to sex change: everything from employment to health care to identity papers. Namaste then examines some of the rhetorical and semiotic inscriptions of transgendered figures in culture, including studies of early punk and glam rock subcultures, to illustrate how the effacement of transgendered people is organized in different cultural sites. Invisible Lives concludes with new research on some of the day-to-day concerns of transgendered people, offering case studies in violence, health care, gender identity clinics, and the law.
Mema's house is in the poor barrio Nezahualcoyotl, a crowded urban space on the outskirts of Mexico City where people survive with the help of family, neighbors, and friends. This house is a sanctuary for a group of young, homosexual men who meet to do what they can't do openly at home. They chat, flirt, listen to music, and smoke marijuana. Among the group are sex workers and transvestites with high heels, short skirts, heavy make-up, and voluminous hairstyles; and their partners, young, bisexual men, wearing T-shirts and worn jeans, short hair, and maybe a mustache.
Mema, an AIDS educator and the leader of this gang of homosexual men, invited Annick Prieur, a European sociologist, to meet the community and to conduct her fieldwork at his house. Prieur lived there for six months between 1988 and 1991, and she has kept in touch for more than eight years. As Prieur follows the transvestites in their daily activities—at their work as prostitutes or as hairdressers, at night having fun in the streets and in discos—on visits with their families and even in prisons, a fascinating story unfolds of love, violence, and deceit.
She analyzes the complicated relations between the effeminate homosexuals, most of them transvestites, and their partners, the masculine-looking bisexual men, ultimately asking why these particular gender constructions exist in the Mexican working classes and how they can be so widespread in a male-dominated society—the very society from which the term machismo stems. Expertly weaving empirical research with theory, Prieur presents new analytical angles on several concepts: family, class, domination, the role of the body, and the production of differences among men.
A riveting account of heroes and moral dilemmas, community gossip and intrigue, Mema's House, Mexico's City offers a rich story of a hitherto unfamiliar culture and lifestyle.
For two years Ester Newton did field research in the world of drag queens—homosexual men who make a living impersonating women. Newton spent time in the noisy bars, the chaotic dressing rooms, and the cheap apartments and hotels that make up the lives of drag queens, interviewing informants whose trust she had earned and compiling a lively, first-hand ethnographic account of the culture of female impersonators. Mother Camp explores the distinctions that drag queens make among themselves as performers, the various kinds of night clubs and acts they depend on for a living, and the social organization of their work. A major part of the book deals with the symbolic geography of male and female styles, as enacted in the homosexual concept of "drag" (sex role transformation) and "camp," an important humor system cultivated by the drag queens themselves.
"Newton's fascinating book shows how study of the extraordinary can brilliantly illuminate the ordinary—that social-sexual division of personality, appearance, and activity we usually take for granted."—Jonathan Katz, author of Gay American History
"A trenchant statement of the social force and arbitrary nature of gender roles."—Martin S. Weinberg, Contemporary Sociology
In this dramatic and compelling narrative, anthropologist Don Kulick follows the lives of a group of transgendered prostitutes (called travestis in Portuguese) in the Brazilian city Salvador. Travestis are males who, often beginning at ages as young as ten, adopt female names, clothing styles, hairstyles, and linguistic pronouns. More dramatically, they ingest massive doses of female hormones and inject up to twenty liters of industrial silicone into their bodies to create breasts, wide hips, and large thighs and buttocks. Despite such irreversible physiological changes, virtually no travesti identifies herself as a woman. Moreover, travestis regard any male who does so as mentally disturbed.
Kulick analyzes the various ways travestis modify their bodies, explores the motivations that lead them to choose this particular gendered identity, and examines the complex relationships that they maintain with one another, their boyfriends, and their families. Kulick also looks at how travestis earn their living through prostitution and discusses the reasons prostitution, for most travestis, is a positive and affirmative experience.
Arguing that transgenderism never occurs in a "natural" or arbitrary form, Kulick shows how it is created in specific social contexts and assumes specific social forms. Furthermore, Kulick suggests that travestis—far from deviating from normative gendered expectations—may in fact distill and perfect the messages that give meaning to gender throughout Brazilian society and possibly throughout much of Latin America.
Through Kulick's engaging voice and sharp analysis, this elegantly rendered account is not only a landmark study in its discipline but also a fascinating read for anyone interested in sexuality and gender.