Catherine OPie Self PortraitCatherine Opie, Self-Portrait/Cutting, photograph, 1993

QuEeR tHeOrY!!!

WMST 420 - Spring 2016
4-6:45 Mondays, EC 034

Women & Gender Studies Program
Queer Studies Minor
California State University, Fullerton

Prof. Karyl E. Ketchum, Ph.D.

Office: Humanities 212D

Office hours:
Mon 12-1 and 2:30-3:30, Wed 12:00-1:00

Message Center: (657) 278-2480
(I generally receive messages left here within 24 hours)


714.625.3616 (txt me if you need a quick response!)


Dear Students WELCOME to qUeEr tHeOrY Spring 2016!!!

Course Documents:

Dr. K's Key Terms and Concepts in Gender Studies

Syllabus Spring 2016 NOTE: Because our course will continue to change and evolve over the semester, you should follow the reading schedule on this webpage only; please disregard the reading schedule in the syllabus--it is already outdated!

FINAL EXAM QUESTIONS (due in the Women and Gender/Queer Studies office, Humanities 230, by
3:00pm, May 16)



This course is shaped by the questions of your frustrated professor--questions that, even after many years of trying, I have yet to find a satisfactory answer to!!!

1. What the f#@^ is gender???

2. Is it possible to force language--visual, spoken, written--to signify the complexity of who we each know ourselves to be--to register (and positively affirm) all our differences so we might connect with each other in more meaning-full ways??

3. Since the moments of our lives are all we will ever really have, it seems absolutley critical to experience all the richness, variation and potential beauty these moments might offer even outside of language, and judgement, and "normal." How can we do this?

4. How can one do the most good in the world?


Laura Aguilar
Laura Aguilar, Nature self-portrait #7, 1996. Nature self-portrait #12, 1996.

SYSTEM ERROR - by Christien "Glitch" Rodriguez

What to do with a "glitch" in the system?
An incompatibility with a world
that has formulated its own
exemption from inquiry...
the exemption that defines
the rule it proves breakable...
the grotesque and unwanted reminder
that everything and nothing is real anymore?
I move through the matrix,
or, maybe the matrix moves through me.
Like a glitch that haunts its truths.
The hardest part about being a glitch
is the knowing, thinking, feeling
that I am entirely different
and in every way a duplicate
at the same time...
Haunted by the disorienting recognition
that I am a product of a system
disproved by my existence.
I am incapable of forgetting that I am
surrounded by drones programmed to forget
histories of their own wiring.
The average agent glares at me
with a suspicious glow,
careful not to alert me
to their alerted state,
as they scan thoroughly
up and down my frame...
searching... for my difference.
Once they can place it,
they can place me,
determine the command combination
to extract and follow.
Why they do this,
they do not know.
They do not ask questions.
When they do they ask all the wrong ones.
They ask all the wrong questions
when I do not compute,
when the appearance of my structure
resists placement by mocking it,
when my sign is absent of meaning
so the default of "other"
is often assigned to me.
However, if they only asked
they could find
I am something other than the other,
the third option from the abyss.
Neither thesis nor antithesis,
but something entirely different
as I occupy the ether between.




Tentative Course Schedule:
• Dates listed indicate dates readings and assignments are due
• This schedule will evolve along with the course--please check back frequently for updates!


Introduction and course overview




Theme: Foundations for queer thought

Karyl's reading notes on Dale Spender's article (below) are here.
Please read these notes before you read Spender's article!

Spender, Dale. "Language and Reality: Who Made the World?" The Routledge Language and Cultural Theory Reader. Ed. Tony Crowly and Alan Girvin Lucy Burke. The Politics of Language. London: Routledge, 1980. 145-53.

Excerpt from: Palmer, Donald D. Structuralism and Poststructuralism for Beginners. New York: Writers and Readers Publishing, Inc., 1999.

Excerpt from: Powell, Jim. Derrida for Beginners. New York: Writers and Readers Publishing, Inc, 1997.

Plante, Rebecca F. Sexualities in Context. Ithaca, NY: Westview Press, 2006. Chap 1, "Why Sex Matters."

Duggan, Lisa "Making It Perfectly Queer" from Sex Wars: Sexual Dissent and Political Culture, New York: Routledge, 1995.

“30+ Examples of Cisgender Privileges.” Accessed January 20, 2014.

Course vocab sheet: Key Terms and Concepts in Gender Studies

Film: Intersexion [68 min.]




Theme: Queer Presents and Queer Pasts

GROUP 4 LEADS DISCUSSION ON: Rubin, Gayle. "Thinking Sex: Notes for a Radical Theory of the Politics of Sexuality." Pleasure and Danger: Exploring Female Sexuality. Ed. Carole S. Vance. London: Harper Collins, 1992. Website

GROUP 3 LEADS DISCUSSION ON: Chapter 1: Warner, Michael. The Trouble with Normal : Sex, Politics, and the Ethics of Queer Life. New York: Free Press, 1999. Course text

GROUP 2 LEADS DISCUSSION ON: Piontek, Thomas. “Forget Stonewall: Making Gay History Perfectly Queer,” Queering Gay and Lesbian Studies. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2006. Website

GROUP 1 LEADS DISCUSSION ON: Stryker, Susan, and Stephen Whittle. “Bodies in Motion: Lesbian and Transsexual Histories” The Transgender Studies Reader. New York: Routledge, 2006.

Karyl leads discussion on: Magnus Hiirschfeld, "Selections from The Transvestites: The Erotic Urge to Cross Dress. Stryker, Susan, and Stephen Whittle. “Bodies in Motion: Lesbian and Transsexual Histories” The Transgender Studies Reader. New York: Routledge, 2006.

Watch: Episodes 8 & 9, Transparent

Weimar Berlin




President's Day - no class





2/22, Theme: Public/Private and Modes of Surveillance GROUP 1 LEADS DISCUSSION!

5:30pm tonight: Guest Lecture, Marie Cartier. Dr. Cartier is the author of "Baby, You Are My Religion: Women, Gay Bars, and Theology Before Stonewall." You will be reading a chapter from her text for today's class (see final reading linked below). You can read about Dr. Cartier's multifaceted scholarship, art and activism here:
Karyl's note to students about today's readings and about reading cultural theory!!!:
Dear Students,
In regard to both today’s class and the course in general: Please try—struggle even—to avoid judgment as you are reading. This will require you to practice “metacognition” or, it will require that you think about how you are thinking and otherwise reacting to our texts. This is a RADICAL project, and for some of you it will be difficult! One of the BIG goals of this course is to escape easy (lazy) either/or modes of thought as these are obfuscating. You will not be able to achieve this if you are reading to decide which ideas are "right" and which ideas are "wrong." But even more importantly to me as your professor, if you are unable to think outside of such binary logics you will also be unable to see how these affect every aspect of your life, from the things that cause you emotional pain, to the way you are complicit in the pain and oppression of others; from the way you make meaning of your life, to the way life and others make meaning out of you!

Some questions to ask for today's class: “who benefits from arbitrary consent laws dictating that midnight on one’s 18th birthday is the magical moment when they get to have unencumbered “legal” sex? Who is disprivileged by such laws? What forms of institutional power are justified by sexual consent laws? And, when we give the state permission to sanction some kinds of sex, do we not create a very slippery slope wherein all erotic experiences and responses may be left open to state moral policing? Could this slope in fact be SO slippery that we risk losing control of our bodies entirely to the state? (For example: could it lead to the state taking away an individual’s right to control their fertility? Could it lead to the state deciding which bodies should get medical treatment and which bodies should be diseased or die? Could it even lead to a kind of wide-spread state-sanctioned ranking system of bodies, wherein some bodies are more important than others in a very general kind of way so that these bodies [the important ones] get certain opportunities while the others [the unimportant ones] don’t. COULD THIS REALLY HAPPEN?????? Oh . . . . wait . . . .)

Also: when it comes to legalizing our erotic experiences, to what extent is state power dependent on barely veiled Christian-based (i.e. Patriarchal, Capitalist) morality? (This is particularly important to notice if you either are, or care about, people who, in any degree, present themselves through femininity, as these folks are systemically devalued whenever fundamentalist Christian values take hold as Patriarchy/Capitalism’s Trojan Horse.).

Additionally, since this week we are thinking about the social construction of space, also ask, “who gets to control and dictate the definitions and use of space?” Who decides which spaces are public? Which private? Which acts are OK in which spaces? Are there acts one might do with their body that are not OK, or are “illegal”, in both public spaces AND private spaces (currently there are in most states!) and, doesn't his presume that it is possible--indeed necessary--to maintain governmental surveillance systems even within these "private" spaces? How exactly does this work??? (enter PANOPTICON!).

You will know when you are asking the right sets of questions, and thinking through theory, because a SYSTEM of power will begin to appear to you. In other words, you will find yourself analyzing through a kind of matrix that has a VERY large lens allowing you to see cultural systems (norms, “common knowledge,” conventions, language effects, and all of their attending assumptions). We will call such a lens a, "macro-lens" analysis. This macro lens is a critical supplement to the “micro- lens" analysis (an analysis or critique of power as seen from a personal or individual perspective) that seems to come much easier to students. Allow me to indulge in a metaphor: I imagine this kind of macro lens thinking as something like doing a leaf rubbing when you were a kid: each pass of the crayon over the paper, like each theoretical concept you learn, reveals a bit more of the larger cultural system at work until finally, the entire form and structure of the leaf (the cultural system) becomes visible. If you are not sure what a leaf rubbing is, here’s some expert instruction! (just watch the first 30 seconds!):

Please watch this video by Ivan Coyote and entitled, "no bikini," before coming to class (8:27 min)

Warner, Lauren Berlant and Michael. "Sex in Public." Queer Studies an Interdisciplinary Reader. Ed. Robert J. Corber and Stephen Valocchi. Oxford: Blackwell, 2003. 170-86. Website

Califia-Rice, Patrick. “What Comes Between You and Your Body: An Introduction” Speaking Sex to Power : The Politics of Queer Sex. 1st ed. San Francisco, CA: Cleis Press, 2002. Website

Warner, Chapter 3: Warner, Michael. The Trouble with Normal : Sex, Politics, and the Ethics of Queer Life. NewYork: Free Press, 1999. Course text

Chap 1. Baby, You Are My Religion: Women, Gay Bars, and Theology Before Stonewall. 2013. Routledge.









Procrustean Bed
Etching, circa 1800. In Greek mythology, Procrustes was a bandit who forced people to fit his arbitrary-sized bed by either stretching them if they were too short or cutting off their legs if they were too tall--YIKES!
But, what does this have to do with Queer Theory???




Procrustes makes Theseus fit his perfect bed. ca. 440-430 BC. British Museum: Greece: Athens




2/29 THEME: Cultural Amnesia and the The HIV/AIDS Crisis
Dear Students,
You will be watching a film, reading three short pieces, and doing a bit of independent research in preparation for our class meeting on Feb 29. This meeting will focus on our guest speaker, Professor Tom Peterson, USC School of Social Work.

The film is entitled, " "An Early Frost," (99 min).
About this important film:
"An Early Frost" is a landmark 1985 TV movie and the first major film, made for television or as a feature, to deal with the topic of AIDS. It was first broadcast on the NBC television network on November 11, 1985. The film's IMDB is here.

From Prof. Peterson:
"Even though the storytelling and some of the references [in the film] are dated, students should pay close attention to the levels on which people were trying to comprehend this unprecedented epidemic: the human level, the sexual level, the moral level, the medical level, psycho-social level, economic level, the justice level, the compassion level, the level of transforming values about sexual orientation and sexual behavior - and many more.

In providing the information on the ballot initiatives, please ask the students to read and understand these from the perspective of the prevailing beliefs and attitudes about gay people and AIDS at the time they were on the ballot. Imagine you were a school teacher in 1978 or a person infected with HIV in 1986 and 1988. After living a life in the closet in the 1960s and 1970s, concealing your sexual orientation and compromising your identity day in and day out in order to safeguard your way of life and just survive, you discover that you could be fired from a teaching position and lose your career through a mere accusation as a result of the passage of Proposition 6.

Then, just a few years after the defeat of Proposition 6, a mysterious and catastrophic illness descends on the gay community. It kills people quickly and ravages the health of many of your friends. You don't know if you have it or are a carrier/transmitter of it. You live in fear, not knowing if you were next. You work to help those who are sick, you grieve the losses of cherished friends, you try to help people prevent themselves from becoming infected. You realize you could lose your job for being gay (since there were no protections against discriminating against gay people at the time). You would face discrimination, suspicion and stigma among those who believed that being gay was synonymous with having HIV/AIDS. You would lose your healthcare if you lost your job (since there was no guaranteed access to health insurance), and could quickly lose your home. You could not risk taking time off from work to care for a partner (since there was no Family and Medical Leave Act to guarantee job security). If a person were to become ill, there was no requirement that your employer accommodate your health needs (since the Americans with Disabilities Act was not passed until the 1990s). You stand at the hospital beds of friends and watch them drift away as family members arrive and dismiss the partner from the room. They deny their son's sexual orientation and claim the possessions and property of their son that had been lovingly accumulated by you and their son as a couple.

There were no legal protections, domestic partnership laws or the possibility of marriage for gay people that would have otherwise protected the surviving partner's rights to those possessions and the memories they represent. Far more than a public health crisis and pandemic, AIDS represented the quandary behind the nation’s willingness to show compassion and extend understanding to a despised and marginalized population. Surviving through a pandemic or surviving as a member of a despised and marginalized population is a life challenge. Their compounded effects brought out the best and worst in our society. To understand the early years of the AIDS epidemic requires shedding all that is now taken for granted to see the world as it was."

Watch "An Early Frost" (99 min) here:

Professor Peterson's assignments due before class:
Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, June 5, 1981

#2: Proposition 6, 1978

#3: Propositions 64,69 qnd 102, 1986

#4: Please do some research on PrEP, how it works, the ethical considerations of making it available, the supporters and the opponents. Be prepared to discuss your findings in class!

Interviews students should conduct BEFORE coming to class--please be prepared to discuss!!

This request from our guest speaker:
In preparation for class, please request students to ask the following questions of the following sampling of individuals - and ask them to be prepared to discuss their responses in class.
Sample of individuals for students to interview:
1) One age contemporary not currently in this class
2) One person who is over the age of 40
3) One person who is an openly gay man

Question for your interviewees:
1) When did you first come to understand that AIDS existed?
2) What is your understanding of the disease of HIV/AIDS today?
3) What is your understanding of the period of time for gay men during the height of the epidemic - from 1985 - 1995?







3/07 No class
In lieu of class, please watch the film Film: Outrage (90 min) here:







3/14 Theme: “Crip” Theory: Queerness and Ableness GROUP 2 LEADS DISCUSSION!
Clare, Eli. "Gawking Gaping Staring." Gay and Lesbian Quarterly 9. (2007): pp. 257–61. Website

Part ii, "Freaks & Queers," Clare, Eli. 2015. Exile and Pride: Disability, Queerness, and Liberation. Reissue edition. Durham: Duke University Press Books.

Clare, Eli. "Stolen Bodies, Reclaimed Bodies: Disability and Queerness." Public Culture 13.3 (2001): 359-65. Website

Videos & Media:
(please watch/read all of the 7 media items linked below)

1. John & Michael (10:30)

2. Cara Page & Leroy Moore, Sins Invalid Performance (3:34)

3. Patty Berne, Artistic Director, Sins Invalid (8:57)

4. Crip Sex, Crip Lust and the Lust of Recognition-video by Mia Mingus (10:54)

5. Stacey Milbern & Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha on disability justice (4:05)

6.  In My Language (8:36)

7. grandma, we are poets: a poem by lucille clifton (5:03)








3/21The Problem of Science GROUP 3 LEADS DISCUSSION!

Theme: Foucault: History, Genealogy, Truth, and “Repression”
Foucault, Michel. "We "Other Victorians"." The Foucault Reader. New York: Pantheon Books, 1984. 292-300. Website

Foucault, Michel. "The Repressive Hypothesis." The Foucault Reader. New York: Pantheon Books, 1984. 301-30. Website

Chapters 5 and 6: Wilchins, Riki Anne. Queer Theory, Gender Theory : An Instant Primer. 1st ed. Los Angeles, Alyson Books, 2004.








3/28 Spring Break - no class




4/4 Theme: "Genderqueer"& Normativity as Violence (con't)
Please read the entire text, "Born Gay," (the entire text is in .pdf files below).
This is an exercise in critcal thinking!
As you read, you should take note of those places where the author's ideas are prolematic--often deeply problematic. Please copy each quote, explain why, from a queer theorists point of view, it is problematic, and be prepared to share you rideas in class TONIGHT!!! (Hint: Among other things, pay particular attention to the way in which the relationships among femininity, masculinity and "gayness" is discussed, AND, how scientific objectivism is used by the author...) You should copy all your posts into a Word document as you will be using these in discussion and turning them in to me. :-)

Wilson, Qazi Rahman and Glenn. Born Gay: The Psychobiology of Sex Orientation. New York: Peter Owen Ltd., 2008.
Born Gay: The Psychobiology of Sex Orientation, Preface
Born Gay: The Psychobiology of Sex Orientation, Chap 1
Born Gay: The Psychobiology of Sex Orientation, Chap 2
Born Gay: The Psychobiology of Sex Orientation, Chap 3
Born Gay: The Psychobiology of Sex Orientation, Chap 4
Born Gay: The Psychobiology of Sex Orientation, Chap 5
Born Gay: The Psychobiology of Sex Orientation, Chap 6
Born Gay: The Psychobiology of Sex Orientation, Chap 7
Born Gay: The Psychobiology of Sex Orientation, Chap 8
Born Gay: The Psychobiology of Sex Orientation, Chap 9
Born Gay: The Psychobiology of Sex Orientation, Chap 10
Born Gay: The Psychobiology of Sex Orientation, References

Along with the reading above, please watch the film "Two Spirit." Here's a link:







4/7 Theme: "Genderqueer" & Normativity as Violence GROUP 4 LEADS DISCUSSION!
You should have let Karyl know which text you will be presenting for our Queer Theory Mini Conference by today's meeting!

Wilson, Qazi Rahman and Glenn. Born Gay: The Psychobiology of Sex Orientation. New York: Peter Owen Ltd., 2008. (See pdf files above!)

Chapter 2: Wilchins, Riki Anne. Queer Theory, Gender Theory : An Instant Primer. 1st ed. Los Angeles, Alyson Books, 2004. Course text

Chapter 4: Wilchins, Riki Anne. Queer Theory, Gender Theory : An Instant Primer. 1st ed. Los Angeles, Alyson Books, 2004. Course text

Chapter 2: Warner, Michael. The Trouble with Normal : Sex, Politics, and the Ethics of Queer Life. NewYork: Free Press, 1999. Course text

Why Anti-Authoritarians are Diagnosed as Mentally Ill

Kohlsdorf, Kai. "Resexing Trans." Make/Shift. Fall/Winter 2009/2010. Issue No. 6. **NOTE: Please practice metacognition while you are reading this short piece by Kai Kohlsdorf. This means that, as you read you should be paying very close attention to how you are processing the meanings presented in the text. When you are finished reading the piece through once, read it through again while keeping in mind the things I have listed below. Please write out your thoughts in regard to these three sets of questions and bring to our next class. You will not be required to turn this in but, you should be prepared to discuss some aspects of each of these questions.

1. Are there points when the language of the piece stops you from thinking about the ideas being presented? If so, ask yourself why you feel this way about something so innocent as a series of letters (language)?; where you learned to feel this way?; how this association might be effecting your own experiences of sexuality and of your body?; of other bodies and humans?; of the ability to connect both generally and specifically with others?

2. When the author discusses the importance of his partner validating his body AS HE HIMSELF EXPERIENCES IT, and regardless of the "Real," (or physical world) can you relate? Have you had the experience of understanding something about yourself in a particular way, and then finding that others have misrecognized you--they don't experience your personhood and humanness in the way you understand it. How did this dissonance feel? (Many theorists feel such "misrecognition" is at the heart of the human experience and reminds us of the fact that each of us as individual subjects were innaugurated through a very early misrecognition: an awareness of ourselves as desiring and "lacking." This makes the experience of really connecting to another human being--whether that is a sexual connection or otherwise--even more startling and powerful.)

3. The author discusses a particular relationship and emotional reaction to certain kinds of symbolic material (lingerie, the genitals ze has, squealing, twirling, being a “top,” passing, etc.). Ze refelects on, and is frustrated by, the limited symbolic material available to express one's identity. Please reflect on the ways you have been affected by such limitations. Are there symbols you WILL NOT deploy on or through your body because they cause you to feel erased, or misrepresented, ridiculous, or ______ (you fill in the blank)? Is there a common element among the various symbols you avoid or disavow or censor? How/why does this symbolic content work in your mind, and in the world, in such a way as to make you feel discomforted? Is there symbolic content that you self-consciously DO deploy so that others can make sense of who you are in a way that is more in line with your own experience of self?









Theme: Sex/Gender Within Colonial Discourses:
Chap 1, Setting the Historical Stage: Colonial Legacies. Mogul, Joey, Andrea Ritchie, Kay Whitlock, and & 0 more. 2012. Queer (In)Justice: The Criminalization of LGBT People in the United States. Boston: Beacon Press.

Chap 2. Queer Theory and Native Studies: The Heteronormativity of Settler Colonialism. Driskill, Qwo-Li. 2011. Queer Indigenous Studies: Critical Interventions in Theory, Politics, and Literature. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.

Qwo-li Driskill, Love Poem, After Arizona. Driskill, Qwo-Li, Daniel Heath Justice, Deborah A Miranda, and Lisa Tatonetti. 2011. Sovereign Erotics: A Collection of Two-Spirit Literature. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.


Sexual Citizenship and Globalizing Bodies
NOTE: The readings linked below are in preparation for today's guest speaker, Munmeeth Soni, Esq., from the Santa Ana Public Law Center (PLC). Munmeeth represents many of the transgender and gay detainees seeking asylum in the U.S. who await processing in the GBT protective custody pod in Santa Ana City Jail (they are there now as you read this...). She represents her clients pro bono. This means Munmeeth is not paid for her work by the detainees but rather, she works either on a volunteer basis or is compensated modestly through various grants. Without the work of the PLC and Munmeeth most of these detainees would not have legal representation at all and many would either be lost in a bloated and abusive system or, deported back to the very communities where they experienced persecution and torture (i.e.: she's a hero--or, shero--LANGUAGE!!!!). Munmeeth's talks are always both fascinating and brilliant. Please come to class with questions based on these extremely compelling readings.

Chapter 3, Lionel Cantu Jr. with Eithne Luibheid and Alexandra Minna Stern. "Well-Founded Fear: Political Asylum and the Boundaries of Sexual Identity in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands." Luibhéid, Eithne, and Lionel Cantú Eds. Queer Migrations : Sexuality, U.S. Citizenship, and Border Crossings. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2005.

Katyal, Sonia, "Exporting Identity." Yale Journal of Law and Feminism, Vol. 14. Available at SSRN: or




Panel 1 Queer Theory Mini Conference TODAY!!!




Panel 2 Queer Theory Mini Conference TODAY!!!





5/9 Panel 3 Queer Theory Mini Conference TODAY!!!




5/16 - 5:00-6:50 Final Exam

You should turn in you final exam to The Women and Gender Studies Office (Humanities 230) by 3:00 today!!















































Other Stuff to Check Out:

Gingerbread Person Diagram

The Sexualization Report - 2013

Queer Music History 101!

South African poet, Diana Ferrus's pivotal poem on Saartjie Baartman along with other historical information on Ms. Baartman's life.

The Panopticon

Knight RIdder news coverage of murder of Gwen Araujo

Jan 22, 2010--"USF class exploring 'queer theory' riles conservative group"

LGBT Issues Committee of the Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry; The History of Psychiatry & Homosexuality

















































"Stigmaphile" >><< "Stigmaphobe"?
"Radical" >><< "Assimilationist"?? 


"Gender Identity" as a legally protected category