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Book contents

18 - Queer Short Stories: An Inverted History

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 November 2016

Brett Josef Grubisic
Affiliation:
University of British Columbia
Carellin Brooks
Affiliation:
University of British Columbia
Dominic Head
Affiliation:
University of Nottingham
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Summary

In 2013 LGBT History Month Scotland, a website project administered by LGBT Youth Scotland and partially funded by the Scottish government, posted a submissions call for Out There, an anthology in which Scottish authors who self-identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex would explore the nation's social and sexual landscape. The call stated that in addition to posting select pieces online, the anthology would be published by Glasgow's Freight Books, whose sister publication, Gutter, devoted a 2012 issue to LGBT stories.

From the vantage point of 2015, a special issue and an anthology focused on LGBT writing does not represent groundbreaking news. That status quo, however, is in itself noteworthy. When Lillian Faderman and Stuart Timmons remark that ‘changes in gay life over the past half-century have been astonishing’, they refer to widespread societal developments (in the European Union and North America especially) related to the heightened agency and social status of sexual minorities that began in the late 1960s. These changes are all the more striking in light of earlier periods. Ellis's 1897 summation – ‘I realized that in England, more than in any other country, the law and public opinion combine to place a heavy burden and a severe social stigma on the manifestations of an instinct which to these persons who possess it frequently appeared natural and normal’ (p. 59) – stands in marked contrast to Tom Warner's 2002 description of the ‘historically unprecedented’ accomplishments of Anglo-American activists during the twentieth century's final decades: they rejected ‘the quasi-human role in which gays, lesbians and bisexuals had been cast throughout history, a role that forced them to hide their sexual orientation, to disguise themselves, and to lead double lives filled with fear, isolation, and self-loathing’.

Burdensome conditions took various forms. Faderman illustrates one effect of categorization: ‘As an undergraduate in college I was an English major, but the only time I learned about a lesbian book was in an Abnormal Psych class, where [Radclyffe Hall's 1928 novel] The Well of Loneliness was mentioned.’ Similarly, Terry Castle remarks on Jeanette Howard Foster, whose Sex Variant Women in Literature was ‘issued privately and at her own expense in 1956, at a time when no reputable publisher would touch the subject of female homosexuality’; as an undergraduate in the early 1970s, Castle located Foster's book ‘hidden away in a special, non-circulating, “Triple X-rated” stack behind the front desk’.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2016

References

Burton, Peter, ed., The Mammoth Book of Gay Short Stories (London: Robinson, 1997).
Davidson, Toni, The Gradual Gathering of Lust (Edinburgh: Canongate, 2007).
Livia, Anna, ed., Incidents Involving Warmth: A Collection of Lesbian Feminist Love Stories (London: Onlywomen, 1986).
Osman, Diriye, Fairytales for Lost Children (London: Team Angelica, 2013).
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