CFP: [Gender Studies] The Gay Science: The Current Medical Discourse of Homosexuality (9/15/07; NEMLA, 4/10/08-4/13/08)

full name / name of organization: 
Susannah Boyle
contact email: 

Call for Papers
"The Gay Science: The Current Medical Discourse of Homosexuality"
39th Convention, Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA)
April 10-13, 2008
Buffalo, New York

We are calling for papers for panel analyzing medical discourse in the 21st
century. A hundred plus years after Kraft-Ebbing and Freud identified
homosexuality as a pathology, a wayward symptom of unhealthy nurturing,
current science identifies homosexuality squarely on the nature side of
that discursive ledger. The practice of diagonising "gender dysphoria" and
the idea of determining physical differences in gay male brains compared
to their "straight" male counterparts seem to essentialize what earlier
scientists had pathologized. We want to ask to what extent these studies,
perhaps unintentionally, stand as a response to GLBT discussions of the
"naturalness" of homosexuality.

The recent work of biologist Chris Roselli, for example, who tried to
create "gay" rams by depriving male ram fetuses of estrogen, suggests that
may become possible to artifically select for sexual orientation. Roselli's
work, like that of others working in his field, raises troubling political
questions for queer men and women. Does establishing a genetic basis for
gayness protect the rights of queers and circumvent religious vitriol? Does
Roselli's work, as some activists fear, present the chilling possibility
that "gay"adults and/or fetuses might eventually be "cured" through gene

In light of this, if lesbians, gay men, trans-men and women, and bisexuals
are just "born that way," as gay lobbyist groups like the Human Rights
Campaign suggest, have we subordinated issues of choice and free will to
winning the political debates concerning same-sex marriage, Gay-Straight
Alliances in schools and other issues that tie in with a greater acceptance
of queerness? Do these medical discoveries may allow us to re-think the
issue of a biologically determined homosexuality? Or should we simply take
the current science as confirmation of a long-held belief by many in the
community? Do these studies suggest that it has become politically
necessary to consider queerness an ethical identity, one that is chosen
rather than pre-determined by nature? Or might the ways that queerness is
performed be more important than its causes? More broadly, to what extent
do these studies link sexuality to human evolution?

The debate that such questions generate highlights the significance of
examining queer response to contemporary medical discourse in the current
political moment where the gains made by queer movements in the past few
decades are in danger of being eroded and even lost. In recognition of
this wide range of debate, we are calling for papers grappling with these
questions as represented in a variety of media as well as encouraging
interdisciplinary work on the relationship between sexual orientation and

Deadline: September 15, 2007

Please email abstracts to and include with your abstract:
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Received on Fri Aug 03 2007 - 20:08:41 EDT