Welcome to the homepage of the Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History, an affiliated society of the American Historical Association. The Committee on Lesbian and Gay History was founded in 1979 to promote the study of homosexuality in the past and present by facilitating communication among scholars in a variety of disciplines working on a variety of cultures. The name of the committee was changed to Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History in January 2009. Since 1982, the Committee has been officially recognized as an affiliate of the American Historical Association and meets annually in conjunction with the AHA conference, where we sponsor sessions on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer history. One need not be a member of the AHA to join the Committee.
Winners for Best Scholarly Book and Undergraduate Essay
January 25, 2013—The Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender
History (CLGBTH) proudly announces the winners of two competitive awards. The John Boswell Prize recognizes an outstanding book on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, and/or queer (LGBTQ) history published in English. The Joan Nestle Prize recognizes an outstanding paper on LGBTQ history completed in English by an undergraduate student. Both are awarded in odd-numbered years, for work completed during the two previous years.
John Boswell Prize (2011-2012):
Allan Bérubé, John D’Emilio, and Estelle Freedman, My Desire for History: Essays in Gay, Community, & Labor History (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011).
My Desire for History elegantly surveys the pioneering work of the late
Allan Bérubé and makes clear his genius as a public historian. The essays themselves—part history, part memoir—are wide-ranging, accessible, and powerful, and include several selections from Bérubé’s unpublished manuscript on the history of the Marine Cooks and Stewards Union. Taken together, the pieces offer not only a retrospective of where the field has been, but an agenda for the future in terms of bringing race and class more centrally into LGBT history. D’Emilio and Freedman’s skillful introduction situates Bérubé’s journey within a broader story about the origins of LGBT history in community history projects. It is a moving reminder of the generosity and interdependence that have sustained this field from its earliest days.
Joan Nestle Prize (2011-2012):
Mark Mulligan, “Female Warriors and Victims of Circumstance: Male Impersonators in Early American Print Culture,” (Assumption College).
Mark Mulligan’s carefully crafted essay explores the evolution of narratives about male impersonators from the Revolution to the end of the Civil War. Based on a close reading of print sources from the American Antiquarian Society, Mulligan demonstrates that the Revolutionary-era discourse of the “female warrior” had origins in older European traditions. The discourse morphed during the years of the Early Republic to emphasize the male impersonator as a victim of circumstance. Yet the trope of the female warrior re-emerged by the time of the Civil War—“both a familiar and recognizable character and also a character …constantly reinvented.”
Mulligan is sophisticated in his use of historiography and attentive to the sorts of questions that the print sources he has unearthed can and cannot answer. His essay shifts focus from the impersonator as exceptional to the impersonator as representative; Mulligan is less interested in the individual experience of any given impersonator than in the male impersonator as a “persona in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century consciousness.”
A scholarly committee determined winners after an open nomination process. The CLGBTH received 16 submissions for the Boswell and 7 for the Nestle. Committee members for both prizes included Margot Canaday, Cookie Woolner, and Ben Cowan. The committee would like to thank the entrants for their submissions, which are worthy of praise and make important contributions to LGBTQ History.
CLGBTH “Queer Souths” Series Showcased in “AHA Today” Blog:
To recognize LGBT History Month, the American Historical Association’s blog highlights the special “Queer Souths” program series the Committee on LGBT History assembled for the 2013 AHA Conference in New Orleans.
COMMITTEE ON LGBT HISTORY ANNOUNCES ANNUAL AWARDS
Winners for Public History, Scholarly Article, and Graduate Student Work
March 23, 2012—The Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History (CLGBTH) proudly announce the winners of three competitive awards. The Allan Bérubé Prize recognizes outstanding work in public or community-based lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer (LGBTQ) history. The Audre Lorde Prize recognizes an outstanding LGBTQ history article published in English. The Gregory Sprague Prize recognizes an outstanding published or unpublished LGBTQ history paper, article, book chapter, or dissertation chapter completed in English by a graduate student. These are awarded in even-numbered years, covering work completed during the previous two years. Scholarly committees determine winners after an open nomination process. The CLGBTH received 11 submissions for the Bérubé Prize, 20 for the Lorde Prize and 14 for the Sprague Prize.
Allan Bérubé Prize 2012:
CO-WINNERS: Out in Chicago, produced by Chicago History Museum, curated by Jill Thomas Austin and Jennifer Brier, staffed by Jessica Herczeg-Konecny, Emily H. Nordstrom, Daniel Oliver, Anne E. Parsons, Mark Ramirez, and Morgan W. Valenzuela.
The Queer Music Heritage Radio Show and Website, produced and staffed by JD Doyle, Houston, TX. www.queermusicheritage.com
The Out in Chicago project team’s innovative installation for the Chicago History Museum worked extensively over a three-year period with community members to, as they describe it, “create an exhibition that recasts the city’s LGBT and urban histories thematically.” It was open to the public from May 2011 to March 2012. Out in Chicago is a lively exhibit that centers the experiences of individuals—especially African Americans, Latinos, transgender people, and the leather community—through four sections: family, home, community, and activism. Extensive use of oral history helped the curatorial team to create an impressively inclusive portrayal of the city’s many and varied queer peoples. New uses of archival and other objects, as well as innovative social media sources, also bring the exhibit to new audiences. Out in Chicago not only is one of the first exhibitions of its kind in a mainstream museum, but also showcases the possibilities of collaboration among institutions and community partners.
Queer Music Heritage is a labor of love of JD Doyle, who for over a decade has worked to “preserve and share the music of queer culture.” Doyle produces and hosts an engaging and informative monthly radio show and maintains an innovative user-friendly website that features a full audio archive of the program, transcribed interviews, and a wide range of visual materials. Among the many historical themes explored are the music of the “pansy craze” of the 1920s and 1930s, the Women’s Music Movement, and the music and politics of Queer Nation. Site content, impressive in its volume and scope, is organized to optimize access by researchers and educators. One noteworthy resource is “Queer Music History 101,” an exhaustively researched two-hour audio course covering the history of LGBT music from 1925-1986. Queer Music Heritage exposes diverse audiences to an important theme in LGBT history and encourages new research avenues.
HONORABLE MENTION: Memory Flash, produced by John Q. Collective, staffed by Wesley Chenault, Andy Ditzler, and Joey Orr.
Deriving from Atlanta-based queer archives, Memory Flash was a one-day, temporary art piece and performance that “reactivated” historical sites in Atlanta through oral history, installation, projection, and audience interaction. This “discursive memorial” was also presented though publications, academic conferences, and a museum exhibit, and deserves special recognition for its creative bridging of archive and repertoire and innovative exploration of place, memorial, and queer history.
Audre Lorde Prize 2012
PRIZE WINNER: Kevin J. Mumford, “The Trouble with Gay Rights: Race and the Politics of Sexual Orientation in Philadelphia, 1969–1982,” Journal of American History (June 2011): 49-72.
Using Philadelphia as a case study, this article demonstrates that we cannot understand “the longer history of gay and lesbian rights without reference to African Americans.” The committee was especially impressed with how Mumford wrote a LGBTQ history that not only draws heavily on other literatures to conceptualize the evidence at hand, but also is written in such a way as to make it highly relevant to scholars in those related fields. The essay builds on and reconceptualizes work in LGBTQ history that is recognizing that communities are not discrete, homogenous, or necessarily in competition with each other, even though much of the evidence might suggest that they are. Instead, by centering rhetorical strategies that urged audiences to recognize intersectionality and common interests, Mumford shows how activists were able to move rights agendas forward in the public sphere.
HONORABLE MENTION: Leila J. Rupp, “The Persistence of Transnational Organizing: The Case of the Homophile Movement” American Historical Review (October 2011): 1014-39.
This article examines the history of transnational homophile organizing in the 1950s, in particular the International Committee for Sexual Equality. It demonstrates that the development of identity movements in a coordinated way, over time, allows certain kinds of thinking to move forward despite the limitations of any one national frame. Rupp introduces historians to the notion of “abeyance structures” which is particularly important to LGBTQ rights, since it demonstrates the ways in which homophilia as a project could be pushed forward and developed despite the limitations of any one nation (particularly, in this case, the U.S.). It also hints at numerous ways that homosexual organizing survived WWII.
Gregory Sprague Prize 2012
PRIZE WINNER: Ryan Lee Cartwright, “Sissies, Strumpets, and Queer Old Maids: Eugenic Family Studies and the Perversion of the Rural Idyll,” Queering the Countryside: New Directions in U.S. Rural Queer Studies, ed. Mary Gray and Colin Johnson (under review with NYU Press).
This essay examines rural U.S. gender and sexual nonconformity by making use of eugenic fieldwork from the 1910s and 1920s. It operates at the intersections of queer studies, rural studies, gender studies, and disability studies and tells us a lot about how ideas about white sexual deviance in the hovel families—particularly “promiscuity”—cemented themselves into the minds of Progressive thinkers. This intellectual trajectory would flower in social policies of the mid to late 1930s that favored support for industrial motherhood over rural motherhood. The committee was especially impressed with Cartwright’s ability to read archival sources against the grain, a crucial technique for doing queer and other subaltern histories. It is also successful at unseating the pastoral, seeing intersectionality, and asking important questions: What is the language used when categories are not stable, what must be borrowed, and what are the consequences?
HONORABLE MENTION: Howard Chiang, “The Science and Transformations of Sex in Republican China,” Ph.D. dissertation chapter (Princeton University).
This examination of the history of “sex change” in mass circulation publications in China from the 1920s to the 1940s addresses the question of how a body might be in transformation from one set of sexed/gendered characteristics to another, and the model is only partly scientific. Many transgender histories are either U.S. or European based, focused on a set of either legal or scientific epistemologies, and organized around the consolidation of identities. Chiang suggests another, perhaps more common, route: Societies with ideas about gender variance already in place had their own notions about how these might correspond, intersect with, or diverge from models emerging in endocrinology, psychology and sexology. The committee was especially appreciative of Chiang’s article in that it fills an important void in the field. He crystallizes how science understood and dealt with sex variance prior to the “discovery” of a transsexual category. It tackles larger issues of science and modernity, including the role of the media (and journalists) in advancing gender norms and also international prestige.