The American Cultures Archive 

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Two Spirit People: The Berdache Tradition in Native American Culture. This film examines contemporary attempts among Native Americans to learn about and revive the two-spirit tradition. Interviews with a variety of Native American people make important points about the tremendous importance of learning the history of two-spirit people; the tensions between European American and Native American "gay" traditions; and the fact that the two-spirit tradition derives from a way of thinking about gender that rests on a gender continuum, rather than a gender polarity.

Tomás Almaguer, "Chicano Men: A Cartography of Homosexual Identity and Behavior."
Almaguer argues that Mexican/Latin American sexual systems and European American sexual systems differ dramatically in the ways they categorize individuals: European American sexual systems are based on sexual object choice, i.e., the biological sex of the person toward whom the sexual activity is directed; Mexican/Latin American sexual systems are based primarily on sexual aim, i.e., the act one wants to perform with another person (of either biological sex), and are mapped along an active/passive continuum. Almaguer argues that this difference has important consequences for Chicanos in the United States, particularly with regard to whether and how they identify as "gay."For example, a male who, in the European American system, would be identified as gay because he is sexually attracted to men, would not be considered "pasivo" or "coch¢n" in the Mexican/Latin American sexual system if he was primarily interested in playing the "active" or insertive role in sexual relations. The difference in these meanings can thus create significant dissonance around the concept of a "gay" identity. Almaguer also argues that European American lesbians and gay men frequently experience "coming out" quite differently from Chicanos (and members of other racialized groups) who identify as lesbian or gay. Almaguer argues that European American lesbians and gay men are relatively privileged on the basis of skin color and, often, class background, and thus have been and are better situated to risk the ostracism that often accompanies identifying as "gay."

Sexuality and Gender in the Newport Naval Investigations. This lecture examines how concepts of sex, sexuality, and gender among European Americans underwent a significant shift during this period, arguing that, in fact, in the early part of this century European American understandings of homosexuality shared some general commonality with the Mexican/Latin American sexual systems discussed by Almaguer. The investigations at the Newport Naval Base reveal an historical shift from understandings of homosexuality based on gender inversion to understandings based on same-sex attraction. In the early 1920s, for example, a man who had sex with other men was not considered "homosexual" as long as he was traditionally masculine in his dress, demeanor, and so forth. Similarly during this period, in European American communities only the "butch" member of a lesbian couple was considered homosexual. This lecture also emphasizes that even within European American communities, understandings of gender were complex; for example, behavior that might be quite acceptable for a priest, such as showing emotional concern and compassion for another man, might be unacceptable on the part of a man who was not a member of the clergy.

Jee Yeun Lee, "Why Suzy Wong is Not a Lesbian: Asian and Asian American Lesbian and Bisexual Women and Femme/Butch/Gender Identities."Lee argues that Asian and Asian American understandings of gender roles are, not surprisingly, not exactly the same as European American understandings; therefore, notions of "butch" and "fem" among Asian, Asian American, and European American lesbians and bisexual women often differ in important ways. Lee offers the example of cooking: in some Asian cultures men do much of the cooking, and in others women do much of the cooking. Therefore, for some Asian and Asian American lesbian and bisexual women cooking is a "butch" thing to do, whereas for others cooking is a "fem" thing to do.


The second section of the course emphasizes that all of us have multiple identities -- identities that are classed, raced, gendered, and sexualized -- and that these identities have important

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