Audre Lorde Prize

Audre Lorde

Audre Lorde

The Audre Lorde Prize recognizes an outstanding article on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, transsexual, and/or queer history published in English. It is awarded in even-numbered years, for articles published during the previous two years.

Click here to learn more about Audre Lorde.

(Photo credit: Elsa Dorfman, used under Creative Commons license.)


2016

WINNER: Emily Skidmore, “Ralph Kerwineo’s Queer Body: Narrating the Scales of Social Membership in the Early Twentieth Century.” GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 20, no. 1-2 (2014): 141-166.

Emily Skidmore’s highly original, well-written, and nuanced article examines the life and media portrayal of Ralph Kerwineo, a Wisconsin man (named Cora Anderson at birth) who was put on trial for disorderly conduct when his “true sex” was discovered in the 1910s. Skidmore sensitively examines the intertwined stakes of Kerwineo’s queer embodiment, his marriage, and his racial identification (although of African American and Native American descent, he claimed alternately to be Spanish or Bolivian) exploring more broadly how conceptions of citizenship shaped perceptions and practices of masculinity and the possibilities of everyday life. Most uniquely, Skidmore carefully compares discussion of Kerwineo in both the local and national press—revealing how local discourses stressing Kerwineo’s productivity clashed with coverage in larger newspapers like the Washington Post, which took Kerwineo’s supposed sexual and social deviance for granted. The essay, which appeared in a special GLQ issue on the Midwest, makes a major contribution in queer and trans history, not only in revealing stories and lives beyond big cities, but in encouraging scholars to reconsider how the geography of ideas shapes what Regina Kunzel has called the “uneven” history of sexuality and gender in the twentieth century U.S.

HONORABLE MENTION: Alison Lefkovitz, “‘The Peculiar Anomaly’: Same-Sex Infidelity in Postwar Divorce Courts.” Law and History Review.

HONORABLE MENTION: Christopher Phelps, “The Closet in the Party: The Young Socialist Alliance, the Socialist Workers Party, and Homosexuality, 1962 – 1970” Labor: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas.


2014

PRIZE WINNER: James N. Green, “’Who Is the Macho Who Wants to Kill Me?’ Male Homosexuality, Revolutionary Masculinity, and the Brazilian Armed Struggle of the 1960s and 1970s,” Hispanic American Historical Review 92, no 3 (2012): 437- 469

The article examines the meanings of homosexuality within Brazil’s revolutionary left in the 1960s and 1970s. It exposes how homophobia within leftist movements became interwoven with critiques of the counterculture and cultural imperialism, and adds texture and depth to our understanding of the means by which radicals of all genders and sexualities linked masculine authority with self-sacrifice. By situating homophobia of the left within both national and transnational frames, and by paying close attention to the tricks of memory that trouble oral history, Green adds substantial depth to histories of the Latin American “New Man.” The committee was impressed with the depth of research, original perspective of Brazilian communist, radical masculinity, and highly engaging prose. The article will become a major reference point for thinking about global masculinity and also for gay activism.

HONORABLE MENTION: Nicholas L. Syrett, “A Busman’s Holiday in the Not-So-Lonely Crowd: Business Culture, Epistolary Networks, and Itinerant Homosexuality in Mid-Twentieth-Century America,” Journal of the History of Sexuality 21, no 1 (January 2012): 121-140

Deeply researched and nicely written work of original scholarship offers a fresh look at the relationship between capitalism and American gay identity. Syrett revisits John D’ Emilio’s classic “Capitalism and Gay Identity” as a starting point and shows how capitalism facilitated queer sexual relations in middle America during the mid-twentieth century. His story of itinerant queer businessmen pursuing romantic sexual relationships outside of urban and queer centered communities is an important contribution to scholarship on American queer lives as well as business history.


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.


2010

Winner: Whitney Strub, “The Clearly Obscene and the Queerly Obscene: Heteronormativity and Obscenity in Cold War Los Angeles,” American Quarterly 60, no. 2 (June 2008): 373-398

Strub’s well-written and creatively researched essay offers an outstanding local study of how obscenity law was used to police same-sex sexuality and privilege heteronormative sexual expression. While historical studies that focus on constitutional law typically emphasize the liberalization of obscenity law in this period, Strub persuasively demonstrates that, as a practical matter on the local level, police and prosecutors targeted physique magazines, homophile publications, bookstores with gay-themed materials, and movie theaters that showed queer films. Strub thus encourages new attention to obscenity within LGBT studies, while also making original contributions to our understanding of the sexualization of post-World War Two urban geographies and Cold War politics.

Honorable mention: Cristian Berco, “Producing Patriarchy: Male Sodomy and Gender in Early Modern Spain,” Journal of the History of Sexuality 17, no. 3 (September 2008): 351-376

Berco’s article is an excellent study that uses sodomy case records to argue that penetrative same-sex sex was understood by many to be compatible with patriarchal power.


2008

Winner: Claire Bond Potter, “Queer Hoover: Sex, Lies, and Political History,” Journal of the History of Sexuality 15, no. 3 (July 2006): 355-381

We are happy to award the Lorde Prize to Claire Bond Potter for her careful and sophisticated analysis of the rumors and gossip surrounding J. Edgar Hoover’s homosexuality. Potter asks not whether Hoover was or was not a homosexual, but how to do the history of gossip and homophobia, and how to “write history in which facts and truths are – and are not – at issue.” As such, the article opens new ways to think about history of sexuality and homosexuality. Potter suggests that the “outing” of Hoover in the late 1980s was not about LGBTQ people and their history as much as it was about using gossip and homophobia to talk about politics and power. This important observation connects LGBTQ history to political history, and reminds historians the degree to which Cold War America politicized the private sphere. Potter’s article challenges not only the current historiography of “Gay Hoover” and Cold War U.S.A., but also all historians to rethink the nature of their sources and the questions they ask.

Honorable mention: Gillian Frank, “Discophobia: Antigay Prejudice and the 1979 Backlash against Disco,” Journal of the History of Sexuality 16, no. 2 (May 2007): 276-306

Gillian Frank’s article is not archival per se, but his essay is a very important contribution to gay and lesbian history of the 1970s. While much is known by now about the advance and success of campaigns for gay rights, less work has been done on the parallel advance of homophobia. Frank studies the late 1970s, a period that has yet to garner attention from LGBTQ historians, and examines in detail the realm of popular music and the competition between Disco and Rock and Roll, a topic that has so far been overlooked. We found his topic important and his arguments very compelling. While we decided to award the prizes to two articles that are more archive-based, we want to use this opportunity to recommend his article to LGBTQ historians.


2006

Winner: Marc Stein, “Boutilier and the U. S. Supreme Courtʼs Sexual Revolution,” Law and History Review 23, no. 3 (Fall 2005): 491-536

In “Boutilier and the U. S. Supreme Courtʼs Sexual Revolution,” Marc Stein challenges the common interpretations of Supreme Court rulings on such issues as abortion, birth control homosexuality, interracial marriage, and obscenity, 1965-1973. Rather than developing a “libertarian and egalitarian vision of sexual citizenship,” he asserts, the Court instead rejected such a vision in favor of one essentially conservative, “based on the supremacy of adult, heterosexual, monogamous, marital, familial, domestic, private, and procreative forms of sexual expression.” While Stein examines such famous cases as Griswold v. Connecticut and Roe v. Wade, his centerpiece is the lesser-known 1967 Boutilier case, which upheld the principle of excluding and deporting homosexuals from the U. S. Steinʼs research is exhaustive, his methods are interdisciplinary, and his arguments are lucidly presented and accessible to both students and scholars in history, law, and the social sciences. His detailed recounting of the Boutilier case alone is impressive, but he goes far beyond the case to provide a model of LGBTQ scholarship by teasing out both smaller and larger issues that are vital to our understanding of the Supreme Court today.

Honorable mention: Peter Boag, “Go West Young Man, Go East Young Woman: Searching for the Trans in Western Gender History,” Western Historical Quarterly 36 (Winter 2005): 477-497

Peter Boagʼs 2005 essay, “Go West Young Man,” provides a historiographical approach to questions of transgender sub- jectivity in U.S. Western history. Why, he asks, do Western historians ignore female-to-male transgender subjectivity? He cites several reasons, including the desire to recuperate women into U.S. Western history, the historiographical impulse toward progressive narratives that configure cross-dressing women as proto-feminists attempting to usurp male social and political power, and the collapse of gendered meanings onto a strictly polarized set of sexed bodies. In other words, Boag suggests that U.S. Western history might apply a more complex mode of gender analysis to the characters and bodies that inhabited the 19th-century U.S. West. In doing so, “whole new possibilities for understanding gender open up.” Boag thus offers a refreshing approach to the history of the U.S. West, one where sexed bodies and gendered beings exceed the binary models 20th and 21st century scholars seem all too eager to accept.


2004

Winner: Sharon Marcus, “Reflections on Victorian Fashion Plates,” Differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies 14, no. 5 (2003): 4-33

Marcus creatively utilizes color plates from Victorian fashion magazines to demonstrate how homoerotic desire pervaded the lives of middle- and upper-class Englishwomen in the period approximately 1840-1880. Her complex readings of fashion illustrations show, with unusual clarity, how different homoeroticism is from lesbian sexuality and how the former by no means always carries a progressive or subversive message. Her article breaks new ground in the study of consumption, pornography, erotic fantasy and the female gaze, greatly furthering our understanding of gender and sexual paradigms in the Victorian period and today. It is also significant methodologically and theoretically. Its use of visual materials is exemplary, and it puts queer theory and feminist theory into creative dialogue with each other, while showing how both need to be rethought and reconfigured.

Honorable mention: Henry Abelove, “New York City Gay Liberation and the Queer Commuters” in Abelove, Deep Gossip (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003), 70-101

By reading the political history of the Gay Liberationists of late 1960s and early 1970s against the writing of some canonical lesbian and gay American writers (James Baldwin, Elizabeth Bishop, Jane Bowles, William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Frank O’Hara, and others) Abelove greatly enriches our understanding of the fledgling movement’s political rhetoric and preoccupations. He posits a previously under-explored cultural link between the militant, anti-colonial politics that shattered the closet door after the 1969 Stonewall Riots and a diverse group of writers, all of whom became estranged from the United States during the anti-homosexual hysteria of the Cold War, and all of whom spent large parts of the rest of their lives living abroad. The article is also innovative in positing New York City as part of a larger cultural community whose physical extent might reach as far as Morocco or Brazil.


2002

Winner: David Halperin, “How to Do the History of Male Homosexuality,” GLQ 6, no. 1 (2000): 87-124

Halperin’s magnificent essay makes a profound contribution not only to the history of male homosexuality but also to the intellectual study of Western sexualities. By persuasively establishing a taxonomy of diverse – and often contradictory – categories of premodern homosocial and homoerotic behaviors before the construction of the male homosexual in the nineteenth century, Halperin’s essay provides readers with a brilliant template for how to think and write about histories of same-sex intimacy. The committee also recognized Halperin’s ability to synthesize and explain disparate historical materials in a lucid, engaging style. Scholars and teachers in a wide variety of academic disciplines will surely read and argue about this seminal work for many years to come.

First runner-up: Judy Tzu-Chun Wu, “Was Mom Chung a ‘Sister Lesbian’?: Asian American Gender Experimentation and Interracial Homoeroticism,” Journal of Women’s History 13, no. 1 (2001): 58-82

Wu’s groundbreaking essay engages thoughtfully with two historiographical niches that have been conspicuously underdeveloped: our knowledge of female sexuality in Asian American culture and our understanding of same-sex intimacies among Asian American and white women. Using the case history of Margaret Chung, the first U.S.-born woman of Chinese descent to become a physician, Wu elucidates the extent to which anxieties about gender and ethnic nonnormativity exerted a powerful influence over Asian American women in the early decades of the twentieth century. By showing the complex tensions in Chung’s professional and personal lives, Wu’s essay is a model for understanding the delicate interplay of sexuality, gender, ethnicity, and national identity in historical perspective.


2000

Winner: Joanne Meyerowitz, “Sex Change and the Popular Press: Historical Notes on Transsexuality in the United States, 1930-1955,” GLQ 4 (1998): 159-187

In this remarkable article, Joanne Meyerowitz demonstrates that transsexuality had a history long before the famous Christine Jorgensen case. She suggests that the popular consciousness elicited by newspaper and magazine items publicizing European cases created the key condition for an American transsexual identity in an era before any sex reassignment surgery was done in the United States. Meyerowitz reveals how attentive some Americans were to developments across the Atlantic, where physicians were considerably more open to considering hormonal and surgical solutions than were their American counterparts. And she traces a number of individuals, as early as the 1920s and 1930s, who tenaciously sought the medical help they wanted in Europe. This article illustrates how determined historical sleuthing can locate new historical subjects. In addition to the major contribution it makes to the history of transsexuality, this article also offers fresh insight into central issues in the history of medicine and journalism, the complex relationship between doctors and patients, and between communities of experts and their popular audiences.


1998

Winner: Steven Maynard, “‘Horrible Temptations’: Sex, Men, and Working-Class Male Youth in Urban Ontario, 1890–1935,” Canadian Historical Review 78 (June 1997): 191–235

First runner-up: Leslie Choquette, “Degenerate or Degendered? Images of Prostitution and Homosexuality in the French Third Republic,” Historical Reflections/Reflexions Historiques 23, no. 2 (Spring 1997): 205–228


1996

Winner: Marylynne Diggs, “Romantic Friends or a ‘Different Race of Creatures’? The Representation of Lesbian Pathology in Nineteenth-Century America.” Feminist Studies 21, no. 2 (Summer 1995): 317–340


1994

Winner: Will Roscoe, “History’s Future: Reflections on Lesbian and Gay History in the Community,” Journal of Homosexuality 24 (1992): 161–179

Honorable mention: Laurence Senelick, “Lady and the Tramp: Drag Differentials in the Progressive Era,” in Gender in Performance: The Presentation of Difference in the Performing Arts (Hanover, NH: Tufts University/University Press of New England, 1992): 26–45

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