Wayne R. Dynes
Studies: In Search of a Discipline
Originally published in: Academic Questions,
here by permission of the author.
On November 18-20, 1994, the University of Iowa
witnessed an event that stretched time-honored stereotypes of America's
heartland to the breaking point. The Iowa City campus hosted the
conference "InQueery, InTheory, InDeed," a gathering billed
as the "Sixth North American Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual
For those whose adult memories spanned more than one
decade, the changes were startling indeed, even in such a volatile
field as gay studies. To be sure, the Iowa event still found room for a
few well-documented papers on literary figures and social history that
would have been welcome at any earlier event of this kind. But overall
the conference program evidenced an explosion of Queer Theory and Queer
Studies. A few titles of talks and panels suffice to convey the general
tone: "Beyond Binary: Queer Family Values and the Primal
Cream," "The Dialectics of Dominance and Submission:
Emmanuel Levinas as Butch/Top," "Queerying
Performativity," and "Clits in Court: Lesbians and the
Law." Not infrequently the titles of such offerings seem to
mingle the shade of Martin Heidegger with that of Groucho Marx (no
doubt much to the displeasure of each).
From this showing it might seem that queeritude
encourages any and all transgressions into forbidden zones, including S
& M and transsexualism. As if by common consent, however,
pedophilia remains taboo. There are still, it seems, some limits. And,
academic vices being what they are, the proceedings were mostly talk.
One performer created an exceptional impression by undressing and
conversing with his penis. Inadvertently, he may have supplied an
alternative title for the goings on: "Cockteasing Amongst the
The site of the conference remains significant. Up
to this point one might have dismissed the "queer movement"
as a hothouse plant cultivated solely at elite universities on the two
Coasts. But now it has spread to the heartland. Indeed, the organizers
sought to show that their gathering was not merely an intrusion amid
the alien corn by featuring several native American presentations,
including those of Plains Indians — representatives of the
berdache or "two-spirit" tradition.
To judge by the affiliations noted in the conference
program, most speakers were graduate students. In contrast to previous
gatherings in which many participants described themselves as
"independent scholars," these announced affiliations
reflect a good deal of "coming out." Many of the
individuals will shortly be seeking teaching positions. And in fact
some new hires have already been made from this assertive tribe. But
how long will their marketability last? In an age of budgetary
belt tightening and hostile attention from the media and state
legislatures, few of the apostles of queeritude seem to have reflected
deeply on how their employment might be justified. Still, one has to
salute real acts of courage on their part. Except for differences
in personnel, the Iowa City conference might seem almost to have
replicated itself at the Modern Language Association gathering held in
San Diego a month later.  To be sure, such incursions are not
unprecedented at MLA, witness the controversy stirred up by Eve
Kosofsky Sedgwick's "Jane Austen and the Masturbating Girl"
at the 1989 convention.  Now that its hour has come, Queer Studies
is exporting its treasures.
At the moment in fact Queer Studies seems to be
trembling on the verge of queering everything. The "yes
experience" (in William James's sense) is here. In disciplinary
terms, the epicenter of the development is literary studies. Of almost
equal importance, though less entrenched in academia, is the trendy
field of "cultural studies," including film and television.
 However, the effects of queering are beginning to be felt farther
afield, in such seemingly unlikely disciplines as musicology, art
history, and the law. 
The appeal is one of rebellion, defiance, and
transgression. As one advocate puts it: "[t]he preference for
‘queer’ represents ... an aggressive impulse of
generalization; it rejects a minoritizing logic of toleration or simple
political-interest representation in favor of a more thoroughgoing
resistance to regimes of the normal. For academics, being interested in
queer theory is a way to mess up the desexualized spaces of the
academy, exude some rut, [and] reimagine the publics from and for which
academics write, dress, and perform." 
The first eruption of today's queeritude can be
dated with precision. It started in June 1990 with the appearance of an
inflammatory broadside, the anonymous "I Hate Straights,"
distributed at the gay pride marches in New York and other cities. The
text begins "Listen queers ..." This event was
followed by the formation of Queer Nation chapters in various US
cities. Although Queer Nation was an offshoot of ACT-UP, the AIDS
activist organization, the adoption of the name is significant. Members
quickly gained attention by their practice of
"queerituals." Typically, they would descend in small
groups on malls and other public places, behaving provocatively and
chanting, "We're here, we're queer; get used to it!"
The development gave rise to a separatist concept of Queer Nationality.
 As an organizational tool, however, the phenomenon proved
short-lived; by the spring of 1995 virtually every North American
chapter of Queer Nation had disbanded.
The gay and lesbian embrace of the Q word is
striking in view of the earlier history of aversion, at least in the
United States.  In fact the claim that the word has been
"detoxified" is contested, especially by older people. They
remember a time when its utterance all too often served as a token of
hatred, the opening gambit in an ugly game that, played out to its end,
meant fag bashing. Widespread legitimation of the term, these older
observers hold, might well open the door to its hostile deployment by
homophobes — not to mention such close cousins as
"faggot," "pervert," "swish" and so
very many others. In any event, to many veterans it seems ageist for
the young to set aside the feelings of older gay men and lesbians as of
no account. Ageism is a cardinal sin among the politically correct,
though one that is scarcely combatted with the same zeal as racism,
sexism, and looksism. The generational difference appears in the
familiarity of older scholars with the long-standing traditions of
homosexual scholarship stemming from Central Europe (to be reviewed
below) as contrasted with the younger scholars' neglect or ignorance of
this store of information and ideas. In the seasoned veteran's view the
newcomer seeks to reinvent the wheel.
Historically, Britain has been more tolerant of the
Q word, witness its unproblematic use by such homosexual intellectuals
as W. H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood, both of whom emigrated to our
shores. But its adoption by the native-born is something else again. As
a side aspect, the term's current popularity may disclose a hidden
current of Anglophilia. At any rate its embrace is a sectoral, even
elite phenomenon. By no means universally embraced among the homosexual
and lesbian masses, the word queer often functions as a wedge issue
separating generations and classes (working-class gay men and lesbians
have displayed little enthusiasm for it).
A common rationale for the term posits the
reclaiming of queer as analogous to African Americans' use of the word
black. Yet the latter term no longer enjoys preference among African
Americans themselves. Moreover, the analogy has always been imperfect,
and it certainly does not lend itself to indefinite extension. While
some African Americans choose on occasion to employ
"nigger" among themselves, they are unlikely to demand
university departments in "Nigger Studies." Nor will
we soon hear of calls for "Spic consciousness" or
"Wop liberation." Further, isn't it at least within
the limits of possibility that some of those who embrace the word queer
are responding to that wayward internal voice, deeply buried but still
lurkingly present, of self-contempt?  This is not, however, how the
queer activists see themselves.
The next step was a significant merger. For it was
only when the activist ebullition that started in 1990 began to blend
with elements from the repertoire of "Theory" — a mix
of ideas from the repertoires of poststructuralism, postmodernism, and
the special version of historical relativism known as Social
Construction — that Queer Studies emerged.  All these
trends have basked in the aura of contributing to the Left's agenda of
social change, even of "revolution." At best,
however, they amount to a revolution of subtraction, eroding existing
norms and verities, rather than a revolution of addition, creating new
values. What passes for reinventing is merely disinventing. In the view
of activist critics the graduate-school preoccupation with texts
promotes a retreat to the ivory tower. Taken for granted is opposition
to "dominance" and "hierarchy," but in practice
the adoption of such politically correct commitments wars against
narrative coherence. And the clouds of jargon with which Queer Theory,
like its older sisters, has invested itself do not assist the task of
communicating with the masses. 
Marxism, whether in its classical and European
revisionist forms, now plays little direct role. Nonetheless, a remnant
of Herbert Marcuse's substitutionism, whereby students and ethnic
groups would replace the proletariat as agents of social change, is
evident. Accordingly, much deference is accorded the perceived
interests of African Americans, Hispanics, and of women generally
— though not without considerable friction with these groups, who
tend to view the gays as poaching on their preserves. Of course, many
gay men and lesbians are themselves also members of minority groups.
With much cogency some of these individuals have protested that gay
liberation as constituted in the 1970s did not include them. This has
led to a complication, even fractioning, of the principle of
gay/lesbian "identity." Instead of one gay identity,
or two, with a gay paralleling a lesbian identity, there are now
potentially hundreds: a black lesbian S/M one, a disabled white gay
male one, and so forth. In academia this sociopolitical theme blends,
though imperfectly, with multiculturalism.
A major component of Queer Theory was waiting in the
wings so to speak, the product of a 1980s struggle within gay studies.
In that decade a fashionable new approach to the study of homosexual
behavior arose, which its advocates termed Social Construction. 
Denying the existence of any "transhistorical" definition
of same-sex behavior, the Social Constructionist scholars hold that
sexual behavior is, in all significant aspects, a product of cultural
conditioning, rather than of biological and constitutional factors.
Thus same-sex behavior would have an entirely different meaning, say,
in pharaonic Egypt or T'ang China from what it would have in
nineteenth-century Europe. In the view of some proponents of this
approach, the "modern homosexual" is sui generis, having
come into existence in Europe and North America only about 1870; hence
it is vain to conduct comparative research on earlier eras or
non-Western societies. 
The Social Constructionists contrast their own
approach with that of the "essentialists" (a scare label of
their own devising), who ostensibly believe in an eternal and
unchanging homosexuality. Yet most critics of Social Construction are
not essentialists, and to label them as such amounts to a caricature
that has proved tactically useful for polemical purposes but has
advanced understanding very little. Significantly, this dispute enjoyed
little resonance in the gay/lesbian community as a whole, but was
confined to scholars (not a few of them, of course,
It has been suggested that the conflict between
Social Construction and its opponents is another version of the old
debate about nature versus nurture, between those who believe that
human conduct is largely conditioned by biological forces and those who
attribute the leading role to culture (the environmentalists). One's
first response is to say that human behavior is the result of a
confluence of the two forces, but this solution is usually rejected by
those in the environmentalist camp. In similar fashion, the Social
Constructionists hold that culture is supreme, and are little prepared
to concede biological constants.
It does not take much reflection to grasp that
a major source of such doctrines is the tendency of the social sciences
to ascribe all human behavior to cultural determinants. In some Social
Constructionists this tendency mingled with a tincture of late
Marxism--which may itself be regarded as a sociological doctrine. These
two main sources were given focus by the writings of the French social
thinker and historian Michel Foucault, who though not self-identified
as a Social Constructionist seminally influenced such proponents of
Social Construction as Kenneth Plummer and Jeffrey Weeks in England.
These and other adherents picked up Foucault's ideas of historical
discontinuity, of "ruptures" radically segmenting
historical development. 
Social Construction theory has made a useful
contribution in warning against anachronism, the tendency to project
back into the past our own familiar experiences and life ways. Yet the
idea that cultural climates change, changing the expression of
sexuality with them, is scarcely a new discovery. What is disappointing
about Social Construction is that it offers no explanation of the
"grounding" of such change. What mechanisms--economic,
political, intellectual--cause a society to shift from one dominant
cultural climate to another? Moreover, Social Construction
has gone too far in seeking to discourage transhistorical and
cross-cultural investigations of homosexual desire. Implied roadblocks
of this kind must not stymie the investigator, for comparative studies
across time and across social systems are a vital prerequisite to the
emergence of a satisfactory concept of human homosexual behavior in all
its fullness and complexity.
The chief area in which Social Construction has been
influential is in the examination (or nonexamination) of the long
history of same-sex behavior from the ancient Egyptians to the present.
In addition to this diachronic perspective, however, there is also a
synchronic one, seeking to impose relativism on the here and now. In a
number of studies the lesbian philosopher Judith Butler, now a
professor of rhetoric at the University of California at Berkeley, has
sought to apply relativism's solvents even to the human body as the
seat of personal identity.  Maintenance of our gendered selves as
men and women, it seems, requires an unceasing recourse to the
"performativity principle."  Without a pervasive social
ritual of repetition-compulsion, whereby we constantly
"cite" our situation, everything would slip away: we would
not be as we are in any fundamental sense.
Contradicting some supporters, Butler has denied
that her theory implies that "gender is a construction that one
puts on, as one puts on clothes in the morning." She
supports this denial by a further splotch of corrosive relativism
— namely, the claim that there is no "one" to choose
the donning of clothes. This attack on agency, the denial that human
beings have core identities, is a fashionable dogma nowadays; rather,
it is asserted, we are a sprawling archipelago of miscellaneous
constituents, loosely held together by social conditioning. Obviously,
in a brief discussion such as this it is impossible to do justice to
the sublime abysses of Butler's intricate reasoning. Her theories are
noted here because they have enjoyed such resonance among the
What Butler does, it would seem, is to reverse the
conventional descent from bodily existence to sexual dimorphism to
sexual orientation to individuality — and even the latter is
relativized. Turning that hierarchy upside down — her own version
of Nietzsche's "revaluation of all values" — she then
confronts the exquisite task of trying to show how we can maintain the
"illusion" that the stable landmarks of our psychophysical
existence are real. Most of Butler's writing then, and that of her
supporters, obeys the following paradigm: "There is no such thing
as roundness. But in everyday experience there seem to be wheels. How
can this be?"
Although Butler and her allies make copious
reference to recent French theory, writing in this vein discloses a
substantial heritage of nineteenth-century romantic anarchism and
utopianism. The hidden goal, the longing in fact, is untrammeled
self-affirmation without bonds or boundaries. Ever present is the
temptation to the kind of solipsism that flows from a simplistic
understanding of Schopenhauer's "the world is my idea."
Much of what has been said trenches on one of
today's most pervasive cultural fashions: postmodernism. This
phenomenon is too general and well known to require characterization
here.  However, the strand of postmodernism that is perhaps most
applicable is its asserted capacity to efface limits, whether they
apply to gender categories, academic disciplines, high and low culture,
or architectural styles.
So much for theoretical scaffolding. For what
coherence it may possess Queer Studies claims to be part of larger
movements of thought, some of them enjoying great vogue.  As far as
its own definition concerns, that is largely a matter of individual
preference, and it is essential to add, individual expectation. It is
easy to offer a negative definition, for Queer Theory cherishes
everything that is opposed to "heterosexism" or
"heteronormativity." In all candor the search for its
central doctrines has proved illusive, and Queer Studies ranks at
present not so much a theory as a "theory hope" — a
gaudy vessel whose contents are uncertain and incomplete. Perhaps they
are destined to remain so.
Up to this point a key question has gone
unaddressed. Who are the queers? As a union concept it is
not clear whether the label queer designates a) gay/lesbian, b)
gay/lesbian/bisexual, c) gay/lesbian/bisexual/transpeople, etc., or d)
almost everybody, in some mood or other. Thus there is a range of
definitions, from minimalist (a) to maximalist (d). Towards the
maximalist side of the spectrum, adepts must be compelled to
acknowledge that the 1970s male rock star Alice Cooper may, through his
selective, opportunistic appropriation of feminine traits, nonetheless
count as queer. Carrying the semantic blur still further, one scholar
has proclaimed that the United States is already queer! We are in
the Promised Land. In any event, the argument that the term counts as
an instrument of social transformation remains unproven. Another
defender has remarked that the virtue of queer is its very uncertainty
and flexibility. We have recently heard tell, it is true, of the
advantages of "fuzzy thinking." But as a group of
people who have suffered from the fuzziness and illogic of the
fabrications of bigotry, gay men and lesbians should pause before
embracing such imprecision ourselves.
Some assert that the advantage of preferring queer
is economy: it replaces the clumsy adjectival pair "lesbian and
gay," as the plural "queers" supplants the binomial
"lesbians and gay men." Yet this usage involves a
possibly arbitrary limitation of the inclusiveness some prize in the
expression. More significantly, some lesbians who originally looked
with some favor on queer, are now less enthusiastic. They believe that
instead of designating women and men equally, it covertly favors men
— the longstanding objection to "gay." 
As noted above, Queer Studies has not, thus far,
captured the allegiance of the gay and lesbian masses. It also
encounters significant demurral from gay activists working in the
political and legal arenas.  They have found the concept of a
gay/lesbian identity an indispensable tool for political mobilization.
Yet the bases of the whole concept of identity are being eroded by
postmodernism in general and more specifically by the Queer Studies
movement. For those opposed to "hierarchy," the concept of
a core identity is unacceptable simply because it privileges the center
over against the margins, and is therefore a trope of domination. An
attempted solution is to suggest that while identity is a fiction, it
is a politically necessary one. This compromise is clearly
unsatisfactory — even to true believers in Derridean
différance whereby one concept implicates its opposite.
Applied to non-Western societies, where gay and
lesbian people are struggling for recognition of their basic civil
rights, the wielding of queeritude may be fairly regarded as a gambit
of Western cultural imperialism. How can one justify the export of the
queer ideology from our privileged North American university
sanctuaries to the Third World, where our friends are still struggling
to set up the basics of gay-rights organizations and a cultural
infrastructure? These last require the fostering of an emergent
sense of identity and community, however postulatory and fictitious
they may seem to our sophisticates.
Queer Studies and Queer Activism are, as was noticed
at the outset, big news on campus, whatever their other limitations.
Graduate students and young professors are the shock troops.
However, queeritude also exercises its spell over
gay and lesbian undergraduates, who proclaim their new
"out" status in semiformal queerituals — typically
orchestrated by those further along in the process.  In their more
extreme versions these enactments may be likened to a primal scream
emitted as the queer neophyte steps forth from the closet. To be sure,
the hullabaloo offends elders and "establishment" gays
— often deliberately. Of course there is no commotion when one
returns to the closet. A revealing token of this is one current campus
slang term: LUG (Lesbian Until Graduation).
All this activity may be ranged under the general
rubric of "the carnivalesque," as studied historically by
social historians of the early modern period following the lead of
Mikhail Bakhtin. In a more rarified way, some deconstructors
acknowledge that their work has playful or "ludic"
aspirations. While such playfulness may serve as an antidote to
academic solemnity and pomposity, it may also be a cover for narcissism
and self-indulgence. And the question arises as to whether such
self-celebration merits the substantial financial commitment that a
tenured academic post now requires.
Be this as it may, the question must now be
posed: can gay and lesbian studies take root and thrive on
campus? Should they be encouraged to do so? Since it may
come to enjoy the status of a model, it is worth reviewing in some
detail the accomplishments and goals of one such institute. The Center
on Lesbian and Gay Studies (CLAGS) has now established a footing at the
Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY). This group
stems from a series of meetings beginning in 1985 in private locations
(by invitation only), chiefly in the apartment of professor Martin
Bauml Duberman and friends. In 1991 the group secured an institutional
attachment to CUNY. In view of the controversial nature of the group,
it claims to receive no direct support from the University. But clearly
this is a subterfuge, since meeting spaces, telephones, and above all
the university's prestige are all supplied. Moreover, the camel, having
placed its nostrils beneath the tent's edge, will surely seek to
advance to a more fully sheltered position.
At present CLAGS activity comprises mainly monthly
meetings and public forums. Apart from a Newsletter appearing
occasionally, officially the group has produced only one publication,
The CLAGS Directory of Lesbian and Gay Studies (1994). Incomplete as a
directory, this booklet nonetheless gives an indication of the growing
number of scholars, established and emerging, who are willing to
declare their interest in this formerly taboo field. 
CLAGS is resolutely, even defiantly politically
correct. In representative functions it insists on "gender
parity" — equal numbers of men and women — even
though sex surveys have consistently shown that the American lesbian
population amounts to only about half the number of gay men. In any
event quotas, however euphemistically camouflaged to stay within the
rather elastic boundaries of the law, are odious.
Going along with CLAGS' ideological commitments is
cronyism. This has the following aspects: 1) a friendship network whose
origins go back to the Woodstock generation; 2) the personal penchants
of its "maximum leader," Professor Duberman; 3) adherence
to PC, especially the socialist-feminist faith cherished by the CLAGS
In practice CLAGS operates as a cabal, devising its
procedures behind closed doors and presenting a serene — at least
sometimes serene — face to the general public. In the public
presentations, its most successful category to date, one finds a
mixture of valid scholarship (e.g., the French history forum, November
1994) and politically motivated massacres (e.g., the conference on the
work of the medical researcher Simon LeVay, December 1991 ). The latter
event sandwiched a brief presentation by Dr. LeVay between two heavy
layers of politicized denunciation of biological studies of
homosexuality. And even in the seemingly objective gatherings,
participants and ideas are vetted in advance so as to exclude anything
that might make the Left uncomfortable.
To add insult to injury CLAGS often deploys its own
special cant of "inclusivity," to all intents and purposes
a code word for affirmative action. What is striking is in fact its
exclusivity. There are a number of well-documented instances of
scholars who are fully credentialed in the field being denied any
significant participation in CLAGS on the grounds of political
In keeping with some other campus institutes, CLAGS'
aim is not merely to promote some ideas and downplay others, to reward
friends and punish enemies, but to effect social change by an Orwellian
program of thought control. Fortunately, thanks to the work of many
writers from both the conservative and centrist camps, this academic
strategy has been exposed. It seems likely that it will not work. But
it will be unfortunate if topics until recently understudied and
therefore not provided with solid institutes and departments, should be
ceded, for the conceivable future, to cabals like that of CLAGS. The
group is tied to the waning fortunes of the Left Academy and
multiculturalism, with their unlikely expectation that demographic
trends will at long last assure victory, a victory that has eluded the
Left both at the ballot box and in the intellectual mainstream.
CLAGS is vulnerable because it is affiliated to a
public university, supported by New York State tax levies. It uses the
cachet of the City University, and therefore of the public, to advance
its sectarian aims. With a new Congress and a new administration in
many states, our political leaders may well decide to take a fresh look
at the ravages of Political Correctness and affirmative action in our
institutions of higher learning. Other supporters, such as the
Rockefeller Foundation, ought to be asked whether they should continue
underwriting groups like CLAGS.
Is there a remedy for this politicizing? I
recommend a return to the older concept of gay and lesbian studies,
perhaps better termed homophile studies, the origins of which must now
The beginnings of gay and lesbian studies are not
generally well understood, even by those who practice them.  These
studies constitute a legacy of Central European scholarship that began
to flower a century ago. In that era Wissenschaft, defined as the
systematic pursuit of any organized body of knowledge, enjoyed high
prestige. The pioneers of the study of homosexual behavior and culture
realized that the Humanistic heritage, primarily involving the
interpretation of written documents (with classical scholarship at its
center), could be fruitfully joined with the new empirical findings of
sex research. The result was an extraordinary range, quality, and
quantity of studies.
The linchpin was the Scientific-Humanitarian
Committee, the world's first homosexual rights organization, founded in
Berlin on May 14, 1897, by Magnus Hirschfeld (1868-1935), a brilliant
physician of Jewish origin who became the leading authority on
homosexuality in the first third of the twentieth century.
Hirschfeld could not altogether escape being a
child of his own age. Writing in an era when biology and medicine
uncritically accepted the notion of "inborn traits" of all
kinds, he maintained that homosexuals were an evolutionary intermediate
(or intergrade) between the male and the female, and he bolstered his
thesis with data of all kinds showing that the mean for the homosexual
subjects whom he studied by interview and questionnaire fell almost
exactly between those for male and female respectively. In his earlier
writings especially, Hirschfeld championed a Third Sex theory — a
notion that has recently been recycled in the form of the concept of
the Third Gender. 
By means of pamphlets, public lectures, and later
even films, the Committee sought to convince the world that homosexuals
were an unjustly persecuted sport of nature, who could not be blamed
for their innate and unmodifiable sexual orientation. The journal which
the Scientific-humanitarian Committee published from 1899 onward was
entitled the Jahrbuch
fur sexuelle Zwischenstufen mit besonderer Berücksichtigung
(Yearbook for Sexual Intergrades with Special Reference to
Homosexuality). The scope of this publication, edited according to the
most exacting standards, is shown by the first two volumes (1899-1900),
which include substantial articles on medicine, sociology, law,
biology, art, religion, and the women's movement. Each volume concluded
with a critical review of current publications.
The editors of the Jahrbuch profited from a
considerable accumulation of material. Beginning in the late eighteenth
century German scholars, in particular, had studied, with an
objectivity remarkable for the time, the large body of information
disclosed by Greek and Latin Literature, sometimes also offering
comparative perspectives. Much of the material in turn was summarized
and evaluated by two independent scholars, Heinrich Hoessli (1784-1864)
and Karl Heinrich Ulrichs (1825-1895). Also starting in the eighteenth
century was the comparative study of the sexual customs of non-European
peoples, beginning with the shamanistic berdache institution of the
North American Indians. In 1911 Ferdinand Karsch-Haack, an associate of
the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee, collected this harvest in a
massive volume, Das
gleichgeschlechtliche Leben der Naturvölker (Munich, 1911).
The Committee grew into the world's first
center for the study of all aspects of homosexuality. Magnus Hirschfeld
gathered material from various sources on the frequency of homosexual
behavior in the population and the psychological profile of the
homosexual personality. In 1904 Hirschfeld concluded that 2.2% of the
population was exclusively homosexual, and that the figure was
surprising only because so many of his subjects successfully hid their
inclinations from a hostile world.
Aided by the experts in various disciplines who had
been attracted to the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee, Hirschfeld set
about writing a major work that was published in January 1914 under the
Homosexualität des Mannes und des Weibes
(Male and Female Homosexuality). This vast tome summarized everything
that had been learned from the literature of the past, and especially
of the preceding decade and a half, as well as the 10,000 case
histories that Hirschfeld had taken in that time. Its arguments were
directed toward proving that homosexuality was inborn and unmodifiable
and that the reasoning (including early psychoanalytic writings) in
favor of acquired homosexuality was untenable. As a scientifically
documented, carefully argued plea for toleration, it remains along with
the 23 volumes of the Jahrbuch the committee's principal legacy to
In effect a "Renaissance" scholar,
Hirschfeld nonetheless had emerged from the medical field. Other
disciplines also came into play, including classical philology, law,
In England John Addington Symonds and H. Havelock
Ellis emerged as isolated counterparts of the Central European trend.
However, Symonds resided largely abroad and Ellis saw his chief book on
the subject of homosexuality suppressed in his own country.
On coming to power Hitler and his associates singled
out Hirschfeld's institute for particular attention. In the spring of
1933 the books and documents were destroyed or dispersed. Given the
straightened circumstances of world Depression this activity could not
readily be transferred to other countries, though Hirschfeld himself
tried to set up a new institution in France, where he died in 1935.
American gay and lesbian scholarship — all too
often inward looking, present-minded, and monolingual — has
persisted in neglecting this massive achievement, though a few scholars
have sought to keep its memory alive. 
Looking back over the Central European
accomplishment, as centered in the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee,
it is undeniable that it affirmed the parallelism of research and a
social change movement. But this link was not the politicization that
we now experience. The German scholars acknowledged that the integrity
of scientia, systematized objective knowledge, must always be preserved
if it is ever to make any credible and independent contribution to
social change. Moreover, the integrity of the task of social change
itself requires that it not resort to prostituting learning. If
scholarship is a mere slave to political concerns it can make no
independent contribution to their realization, and must always be
discredited by its servility.
Just as German-language scholarship was largely
ignored in the United States, so too did the organizational work fail
to catch fire. In 1924-25 an amateur effort to create a gay rights
group in Chicago quickly expired. Significantly, the influential
University of Chicago school of sociology, though it addressed all
sorts of other "deviants" from taxi dancers to burglars,
failed to publish any serious research on homosexuals.
After World War II there was a start from scratch.
To be sure, Alfred C. Kinsey did recognize the need to utilize the
findings of earlier Central European sex research. But the material was
harnessed to a narrowly conceived behavioristic project realized in his
two massive Reports, in which sexual expressiveness was essentially
reduced to counting "outlets." The background is, of
course, American pragmatism and practicality. Kinsey was critical of
what he perceived as the subjectivism of Freud, which he believed
combined moralistic assumptions with an insufficient data base. In
order to get the numbers he sought, it would be necessary to narrow the
inquiry to that which could be quantified. Kinsey's behavioristic
notion of the malleability of sexual orientation worked against any
stable notion of homosexuality. Still the high rates of incidence he
disclosed — the famous 37% of white males whom he found to have
had same-sex experience (unleashing a controversy that continues to
this day) — were startling at the time. In fact the heated
discussions of sexuality unleashed by the two Kinsey volumes —
the women's volume came out in 1953 just as the furor over the 1948
male volume was subsiding — permanently altered American
awareness of sex, making it possible for the first time to have
widespread discussion outside of specialist medical circles.
Kinsey's books coincided with another important
development, though one that was little noted at the time. In the guise
of the Mattachine Society the American gay movement was founded in 1950
in Los Angeles by Harry Hay and a number of associates. Hay and most of
his colleagues had radical backgrounds, specifically in the American
Communist Party. This background gave them tactical and organizational
skills but proved a liability in other respects. (Nor was it welcome in
CP circles themselves — Stalinism has not been a friend of gay
rights.) At any rate, in 1953 the leadership of Mattachine passed
to a more moderate group, but a precedent was set, and radicalism
revived under the impulse of the antiwar and student movements after
ONE, Inc. originated as a communications counterpart
to Mattachine, also headquartered in Los Angeles. The standards of the
monthly magazine it produced were no match for the profound scholarship
that distinguished the earlier German movement. However, in the 1950s
ONE's educational branch began to offer its own minisemesters in the
form of the Mid-Winter Conferences.  Thus did American gay studies
begin, outside the universities. The latter were still committed to
framing the matter as pathology or at best deviance — in so far
as discussion was encouraged at all. The first regular college courses
to adopt an approach sympathetic to homosexuality, while at the same
time upholding high scholarly standards, seem to have been those
offered by Rosalind Regelson at New York University and at Yale in the
Popular writing of the 1950s tended to focus on
detecting "role models," famous homosexuals and lesbians of
the past who would help the fledgling movement to counteract the common
stereotype of gay people as neurotic misfits who could never amount to
much. While excesses were (and still are) committed in the course of
this reclamation project — one large tome even identified Pontius
Pilate, Vasco da Gama, and William Blake as homosexuals  — it
must be acknowledged that these efforts helped to enlarge the range of
historical enquiry. To ask questions about the sexuality of such
figures as Michelangelo and Virginia Woolf is no longer taboo; indeed
it is mandatory if we are to obtain a fully rounded picture of these
cultural icons and the times in which they lived. Later, to be sure,
Social Constructionists insisted that persons in earlier centuries
experienced their same-sex feelings in fundamentally different ways
than the "modern homosexual" does. Yet the genie has been
released from the bottle, and it is no longer possible simply to rule
such matters out of bounds.
The inception of a new radical phase in the gay
movement is generally fixed at the New York City Stonewall riots of
June 1969. This period, characterized by the insurgency and
counterculture experimentation of the anti-Vietnam war movement and the
student movement, did give birth, in 1973, to a national scholarly
organization, the Gay Academic Union. But the time was not right, and
this broad umbrella group was succeeded by a set of more limited
"caucuses" within such professional organizations as the
American Library Association and the American Historical Association.
A child of the counterculture press (which largely
faded and disappeared), the pulp gay press has flourished, but largely
as a local phenomenon. The trend also gave rise to the nonpornographic
slicks, such as The
Advocate (now completing its third decade) and Out.
These magazines offer a modicum of national and international news and
some literary and historical journalism, but their main interest is
popular culture — the movies, rock music, MTV. Naturally, this
preoccupation feeds into the current vogue for "cultural
studies." The Journal of Homosexuality,
a quarterly expertly edited by the psychology professor John De Cecco
for twenty years, remains the only long-lasting periodical offering
serious and fair coverage of current research.
As samples of current gay scholarship I will mention
two works each of Jonathan Ned Katz, an independent scholar based in
New York City, and John Boswell, until recently the chair of the
History Department at Yale University. Katz's Gay American History:
Lesbians and Gay Men in the U.S.A.: A Documentary
is a big book of documents covering the period from 1528 to the early
1970s.  The 186 items included are generally well chosen and
annotated, though framed to be sure by certain leftist slogans (e.g.
"oppression" and "resistance"). In view of the
nativist tendencies concomitant with the neglect of the earlier German
scholarship, it comes as no surprise to learn that the book's horizons
are limited by American exceptionalism, an unwillingness to recognize
how significantly American patterns of same-sex behavior and, above
all, their treatment in medical and popular discourse, stem from
Almanac: A New Documentary
is another jumbo collection of documents edited by Katz.  The
mixture is much the same, but in this instance the gathering is scarred
by an enormous rift. No material from the years 1740 to 1880 is
admitted, only documents before and after these dates. This artificial
gap serves to align Katz with the fashionable doctrine of Social
Construction, according to which the "modern homosexual" is
radically different from all other manifestations of same-sex
Unlike Katz, professor John Boswell, trained in
sophisticated methods of historical research at Harvard University and
conversant with a number of foreign languages, is not a man of the
Left. However, Christianity, Social
Tolerance and Homosexuality,
a monograph on the Middle Ages in Western Europe until ca. 1400, is
arguably a plea in favor of a certain trend in the Roman Catholic
church, of which Boswell was a practicing adherent.  In the 1960s
Pope John XXIII's attempted modernization, the
"aggiornamento," encouraged some liberal Catholics to hope
that their Church might be prepared to alter its historic positions on
abortion, ordination of women, and homosexuality. The ensuing years
have dashed these hopes. Through a highly selective presentation of
evidence — suppressio veri was his forte — Boswell argued
that the Church had not, at least until the later middle ages,
disapproved of homosexual behavior. Because of his great show of
learning in an area where even most specialists were unprepared,
Boswell wowed most of his reviewers. Although it is flawed through and
through, the book now passes, in some circles at least, as received
A second Boswell work, Same-Sex Unions in Modern
Europe, extends his inquiry into the Christianity of Byzantium and the
Slavic lands.  However, Boswell, who was ailing at the time he
completed the book, could not make up his mind whether his
"same-sex unions" were inherently erotic or not. If the
ceremonies were mere friendship pacts, as they seem to have been, then
the phenomenon is of little relevance. This evidence presented in his
book requires, and is receiving, a careful review by scholars in the
world of Eastern Christianity.
All four of these volumes, then have brought forth
an abundance of information that needs to be studied and pondered. But
the findings are undermined by ideological special pleading, Marxist in
the case of Katz, and Catholic neo-liberal in that of Boswell.
It is a received notion among adherents of political
correctness that every assertion is ideology-laden. Contamination of
this kind may even be a virtue. But (in their view) it must be
contamination of the right sort; no Roman Catholics, even revisionists,
Perhaps it is time to ask whether gay and lesbian
studies cannot be pursued in a nonideological atmosphere, free of any
predetermined course of special pleading. If this objectivity is to be
achieved, the field will need the assessments of outsiders who (for
perhaps understandable reasons) have hitherto remained aloof.
Typically, candidates for university teaching posts
in Queer Theory are ignorant of the history of research outlined above.
They are unlikely to have read any relevant books published before
1980. Before being hired they should be thoroughly grilled as to the
depth of their knowledge of the field.
And should they reply that the history of homosexual
behavior and its cultural expression are not central to Queer Theory,
what then indeed is? That is the question, as we have seen, about
which few know the answer. For the time proclamations of innovation and
intransigence suffice. But for how long?
1. The present cycle of lesbian and gay studies conferences started at
Yale on October 30-31, 1987 in the gathering "Lesbian/Gay Studies
'87: Definitions and Explorations," an event sponsored by the
Whitney Humanities Center, under the aegis of Professor John Boswell,
the historian of medieval homosexuality. This effort, the ancestor of
the Iowa City conference, began what has turned out to be the
"second wave" of this academic movement. In fact the first
such gathering was the Gay Academic Union Conference held at John Jay
College in New York City as early as November 1973. This was succeeded
by other events in New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago.
2. Hilton Kramer and Roger Kimball, "The MLA in San Diego," The New
Criterion, 13:6 (February 1995), 5-16.
3. The paper has since appeared in Sedgwick, Tendencies
(Durham: Duke University Press, 1994), 109-29. Its manifest
inconsistencies notwithstanding — she insouciantly employs the
philosophical term "epistemology" in some twenty senses
— her book Epistemology
of the Closet
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990) has already stood the
test of time as one of the seminal (not ovarian) texts in the current
Queer Theory movement. As a "Queer Straight" (or
"Straight Queer"), a heterosexual who joyously dons the
mantle of queer, Sedgwick ranks as the founding "den
mother" of the Queer Theory tribe.
4. A readable introduction to this realm is Alexander Doty, Making It Perfectly
Queer: Interpreting Mass Culture
(Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993). With a clarity all
too uncommon in this genre, Doty analyzes such manifestations as
"Laverne and Shirley," "The Jack Benny
Program," and the persona of Pee-wee Herman (Paul Reubens). See
also Martha Gever, John Greyson, and Pratibha Parmar, eds., Queer Looks:
Perspectives on Lesbian and Gay Film and Video (New York:
Routledge, 1993); Moe Meyer, ed., The Politics and
Poetics of Camp (New York: Routledge, 1994); and Corey K.
Creekmore and Alexander Doty, eds., Out in Culture: Gay,
Lesbian, and Queer Essays on Popular Culture (Durham: Duke
University Press, 1995).
5. See, e.g., Philip Brett, Elizabeth Wood, and Gary C. Thomas,
the Pitch: The New Gay and Lesbian Musicology (New York:
Routledge, 1994); Jonathan Weinberg, Speaking for Vice:
Homosexuality in the Art of Charles Demuth, Marsden Hartley, and the
First American Avant-GardeAfter Identity: A
Reader in Law and Culture (New York: Routledge, 1995).
6. Michael Warner [ed.], Fear of a Queer Planet:
Queer Politics and Social Theory (Minneapolis: University of
Minnesota Press, 1993), xxvi.
7. A rationale for the idea appears in Warren Johansson and William A.
Shattering the Conspiracy of Silence (New York: Haworth Press,
8. The etymology of "queer" is uncertain. It may be related to German quer,
"slant, transverse." In its full range of meanings,
however, English-language queer has no real parallels in other modern
European languages. Bizarreraro (Spanish), seltsam (German)
and the like have no sexual component.
9. As Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick concedes, "the main reason why the
self-application of "queer" by activists has proven so
volatile is that there's no way that any amount of affirmative
reclamation is going to succeed in detaching the word from its
associations with shame and with the terrifying powerlessness of
gender-dissonant or otherwise stigmatized childhood." She
goes on to claim, improbably, that the childhood experience the term
cleaves to is "a near-inexhaustible source of transformational
energy." "Queer Performativity: Henry James's The Art
of the Novel," GLQ:
A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, 1:1 (1993), 4.
10. See, e.g., Warner's collection, Fear of a Queer Planet.
While Michael Warner, an associate professor of English at Rutgers
University, is an enthusiastic advocate of the full range of
queeritude, some of his contributors elected not to use the term. Two
other collections containing a blend of emergent queer theory and
somewhat older perspectives are Teresa De Lauretis, ed. "Queer
Theory: Lesbian and Gay Sexualities," special issue of Differences, 2:3
(Summer 1991); and Diana Fuss, ed., Inside Out: Lesbian
Theories, Gay Theories (New York: Routledge, 1991).
The New York branch of the British publisher
Routledge has been prodigiously active in producing
"theory" books of all sorts; see Robert S. Boynton,
"The Routledge Revolution: Bill Germano's House of Style," Lingua franca,
5:3 (March-April 1995), 24-32.
11. Citing examples seems supererogatory. One will suffice: the
fondness for "binarism," when such established terms as
"polarity," "dualism," and
"contrast" would do just as well. Needless to say,
"binarisms" are usually bad. The predilection for such
neologisms serves, to be sure, to signal to other adepts that one is a
member of the guild. To those endowed with a more substantial literary
experience, however, it suggests a want of culture.
12. For a balanced collection of essays, see Edward Stein, ed., Forms of Desire: Sexual
Orientation and The Social Construction Controversy
(New York: Garland, 1990). An incisive critique of the Social
Construction approach, especially as applied to ancient Greek history,
appears in Camille Paglia, "Junk Bonds and Corporate Raiders:
Academe in the Hour of the Wolf," in her Sex, Art, and American
Culture (New York: Vintage, 1992), 170-248.
13. Ostensibly, a date towards the end of the third decade of the
nineteenth century finds support in the fact that the word homosexual
was coined privately (by Karl Maria Benkert) in 1868 and incorporated
in a text published the following year. However, historians of ideas
will attest that it is naive to assume that the introduction of a term
automatically signals the appearance of a new concept, Moreover,
such scholars as Mary McIntosh and Randolph Trumbach — themselves
Social Constructionists — place the transition much earlier
— around 1700. The astonishing 170-year gap between the two
proposed starting points for the "modern homosexual" is
greater than the 125 years stretching from the second landmark to the
present! For true believers such a discordance is of little
moment; the key point is that a major shift in sociosexual
conceptualization must have occurred.
14. The latest extension of these ideas, imputing a recent origin even
to heterosexuality, is Jonathan Ned Katz, The Invention of
Heterosexuality (New York: Dutton, 1995).
15. See her two monographs, Gender Trouble:
Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (New York: Routledge,
1990); and Bodies
That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of "Sex"
(New York: Routledge, 1993). Butler, who makes frequent speaking
appearances, enjoys a large following among both female and male Queer
Theorists. She has even garnered the honor of a fanzine, Judy!
(available from PO Box 1421, Iowa City, IA 52244-1421).
16. The term "performativity," which has been spreading
like a mantra, is purloined from the writings of the English analytic
philosopher J. L. Austin, who is otherwise distinctly unfashionable.
The reason, however, is that John Searle, in a prolonged controversy
with Jacques Derrida, forced the French thinker to deal with Austin.
Had this confrontation not occurred, it is unlikely that performativity
would have gained entrance into the house of Queer Theory.
17. For a survey of its development from the 1950s to the present, see
Hans Bertens, The
Idea of the Postmodern (New York: Routledge, 1995).
18. Another umbrella concept is "gender studies."
This trend could be analyzed as having three components: women's
studies, men's studies, and queer studies. See Linda Nicholson,
"Interpreting Gender," Signs,
20 (1994), 79-105. Nicholson shows that gender, originally advanced as
an alternative to the concept of sex, has ended up absorbing the
latter. We are, in effect, back to square one.
19. "The term queer has lately become popular in activist and
progressive academic circles in part, it seems to me, precisely because
it makes it easy to enfold female homosexuality
back ‘into’ male homosexuality and disembody the
lesbian again. ... To the extent that ‘queer theory’
still seems . . . to denote primarily the study of male homosexuality,
I find myself at odds with both its language and its universalizing
aspirations." Terry Castle, The Apparitional
Lesbian: Female Homosexuality and Modern Culture (New York:
Columbia University Press, 1993), 12-13.
20. See Steven Epstein, "Gay Politics, Ethnic Identity: The Limits of
Social Construction," in Stein, Forms,
239-93. A related, but more complex position appears in Diana Fuss,
"Lesbian and Gay Theory: The Question of Identity
Politics," in her Essentially
Speaking: Feminism, Nature and Difference
(New York; Routledge, 1989), 97-112. For distortions that can result
from a dogmatic insistence on identity politics in the classroom, see
the eye-opening volume of Daphne Patai and Noretta Koertge, Professing Feminism:
Cautionary Tales from the Strange World of Women's Studies (New
York: Basic Books, 1994).
21. Robert A. Rhoads, Coming Out in College:
The Struggle for a Queer Identity (Westport, Conn.: Bergin and
22. Papers reflecting an affinity with CLAGS appear in Martin Duberman,
Martha Vicinus, and George Chauncey, Jr., Hidden from History:
Reclaiming the Gay and Lesbian Past
(New York: New American Library, 1989). Although this essay collection
contains several valuable contributions, notably Simon Karlinsky's
indispensable "Russian Gay Literature and Culture" (pp.
347-64), the editors' horizons scarcely extend to encompass the
earlier, vast Central European deposit of homosexual historiography.
That is still "hidden from history."
23. For references, see Wayne R. Dynes, Homosexuality: A
Research Guide (New York: Garland, 1987); and Dynes et al.,
of Homosexuality (2 vols., New York: Garland, 1990).
24. Gilbert Herdt, ed., Third Sex, Third
Gender: Beyond Sexual Dimorphism in Culture and History
25. John Lauritsen and David Thorstad, The Early Homosexual
Rights Movement (1864-1935) (New York: Times Change Press,
1974); James D. Steakley, The Homosexual
Emancipation Movement in GermanySex in the Bedroom: A
History of Sex Research (New York: Basic Books, 1994).
26. W. Dorr Legg et al., eds., Homophile Studies in
Theory and in Practice (San Francisco: GLB Publishers, 1994).
27. Noel I. Garde, Jonathan
to Gide: The Homosexual in History (New York: Vantage Press,
28. New York: Thomas W. Crowell, 1976.
29. New York: Harper and Row, 1983.
30. Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1980. Boswell died of
consequences of AIDS on December 14, 1994.
31. For critiques of Christianity, Social
Tolerance and Homosexuality click here.
32. New York: Villard Books, 1994.
On reflection I remain as skeptical
as ever about the value of Queer Theory. As an aid to those seeking
to form their own opinion, though, I offer the following references.
Ahmed, Sara. Queer Phenomenology,
Chapel Hill: Duke University Press, 2006.
Butler, Judith. Bodies That
Matter: On the Discursive Limits of "Sex." New York: Routledge,
----. Gender Trouble: Feminism
and the Subversion of Identity. New York: Routledge, 1990.
De Lauretis, Teresa. "Queer
Theory: Lesbian and Gay Sexualities." differences: A
Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies 3, no. 3 (1991): iii–xviii.
Edelman, Lee. Homographesis:
Essays in Gay Literary and Cultural Theory. New York: Routledge,
Giffney, Noreen, and Michael
O’Rourke. The Ashgate Research Companion to Queer Theory.
London: Ashgate, 2009.
Halberstam, Judith. In
a Queer Time and Place: Transgender Bodies, Subcultural Lives. New
York: New York University Press, 2005.
Halperin, David. How
to Do the History of Homosexuality. Chicago: University of
Chicago Press, 2002.
Jagose, Annamarie. Queer Theory.
New York: NYU Press, 1996.
Nigianni, Chrysanthi, and Merl
Storr. Deleuze and Queer Theory. Edinburgh: Edinburgh
University Press, 2009,
Preciado, Beatriz. Manifeste
contre-sexuel. Paris: Balland, 2002.
Probyn, Elspeth. Outside Belongings.
London: Routledge, 1996.
Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky. Between
Men, New York: Columbia University Press, 1985.
----. Epistemology of the Closet,
Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990.
Sullivan, Nikki. A Critical
Introduction to Queer Theory. New York: NYU Press, 2003.
Turner, William B. A Genealogy
of Queer Theory. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2000.
Warner, Michael. Fear
Of A Queer Planet: Queer Politics and Social Theory. Minneapolis:
University of Minnesota Press, 1993.
Wilchins, Riki. Queer
Theory, Gender Theory: An Instant Primer. Los Angeles: Alyson,
*) Wayne R. Dynes (born August 23,
1934) is an American art historian, encyclopedist, bibliographer, and
gay activist. He is now Professor Emeritus in the Art Department at
Hunter College, where he taught from 1972 to 2008.
Dynes spent his early years in Southern California, attending public
schools. Notoriously, the 1950s were an era of conformity framed by the
Cold War, but Dynes escaped the full effects of the stifling atmosphere
for this reason: his parents were ideological mavericks, members of a
far-left political sect. Although he broke with this Stalinist
allegiance when he was fourteen (aided by his readings of George Orwell
and Arthur Koestler), his formative years left him with an abiding
skepticism about “politics as usual.”
As it happened, his personal refuge lay in the arts, which he explored
first in the field of literary studies, and then (when he discovered the
field in 1953 as an undergraduate) art history.
After extended sojourns in Italy and England, Wayne Dynes settled
permanently in Manhattan, New York City. He obtained his B.A. at the
University of California at Los Angeles in 1956; his Ph.D. at the
Institute of Fine Arts (IFA) of New York University in 1969. To this
day, his greatest intellectual debt is owed to the German-Jewish
teachers he had the good fortune of studying with in New York (Richard
Krautheimer, Karl Lehmann, and Erwin Panofsky) and London (Ernst Hans
Gombrich and Karl Popper). From these teachers he learned to cast the
widest possible net in research, ever recalling the need for skepticism
about the conventional wisdom and current fashions.
The subject of his art-history dissertation (1969) was an
eleventh-century illuminated Bible from Belgium. Having had virtually
no exposure to religion as a child, he determined to make up for the
lack, flirting for a time with becoming a Roman Catholic. While the
relationship remained unconsummated (he is now glad to say), the newly
acquired knowledge proved useful in the course of his forty years of
college teaching, first at Columbia University, then at Hunter College
(CUNY), where his specialty was medieval art.
Having spent so many years in the classroom expounding the cultural
contributions of the monotheistic religions (which are indeed real), in
his retirement Dynes decided to explore the other side of the medal,
that is to say, the negativity that the Abrahamic faiths (Judaism,
Christianity, and Islam) have bequeathed to Western civilization. The
results of this inquiry, sometimes iconoclastic and eviscerating, are
summarized at http://www.abrahamicalia.blogspot.com.
During the 1960s Dynes was a member of the Mattachine Society of New
York (MSNY). He was in Europe at the time of the Stonewall Uprising in
Greenwich Village in June of 1969. After returning, he collaborated
with his close friend Jack Stafford, a librarian, on a basic
bibliography of gay studies, a project sponsored by Barbara Gittings.
Ultimately, his dedication to this task yielded his tome Homosexuality: A
Research Guide (New York: Garland, 1987). An electronic copy of this
work, together with other contributions by Dynes, may be consulted at
the excellent web site maintained by Dr. Erwin Haeberle at the Archive
for Sexology: http://www.sexarchive.info/BIB/ResGde/index.htm. This
accomplishment led to Dynes’ service as editor-in-chief of the
Encyclopedia of Homosexuality (New York: Garland, 1990). A major
achievement, this two-volume set ranks as the first work of its kind.
It garnered six major awards, including three from library
organizations. It is now also available online at http://www.sexarchive.info/BIB/EOH/index.htm.
For a number of years Wayne Dynes was active in the Gay Academic Union,
editing and publishing its periodical The Cabirion (also known as Gay
Books Bulletin). As a gay scholar he has been sharply critical of the
Social Construction and Queer Theory trends.
Since 2004 Dynes has conducted his own eclectic blog http://www.dyneslines.blogspot.com. This site offers
links to his other blogs, such as http://www.homolexis.blogspot.com/
. Dynes' own text "Homolexis" can be found here: http://www.sexarchive.info/BIB/Homolexis/index.htm.
Now retired, Wayne R. Dynes continues to live and work on the West Side
of Manhattan, a neighborhood said to rank as one of the last redoubts of
the struggling American left. A self-described “libertarian with
sanity,” Dynes prefers to march to the rhythm of a different drummer.