Science and Homosexualities is the first anthology by historians of science to examine European and American scientific research on sexual orientation since the coining of the word “homosexual” almost 150 years ago. This collection is particularly timely given the enormous scientific and popular interest in biological studies of homosexuality, and the importance given such studies in current legal, legislative and cultural debates concerning gay civil rights. However, scientific and popular literature discussing the biology of sexual orientation have been short-sighted in representing it as objective, new scientific work. This volume demonstrates that the quest for the biological “cause” of homosexuality and other sexualities is as old as the term itself. These essays explore the active role experimental subjects played in shaping scientific theories of homosexuality and cultural perceptions of sexuality and sexual identity. Finally this anthology studies the way in which this doctor-patient interaction shaped not only scientific theories of homosexuality, but also cultural perceptions and self-identities as well.Contributors include: Garland E. Allen, Erin G. Carlston, Julian Carter, Alice D. Dreger, Anne Fausto-Sterling, Margaret Gibson, Stephanie Kenen, Hubert Kennedy, Harry Oosterhuis, James Steakley, Richard Pillard, Jennifer Terry
Drawing on original research from medical texts, psychiatric case histories, pioneering statistical surveys, first-person accounts, legal cases, sensationalist journalism, and legislative debates, Jennifer Terry has written a nuanced and textured history of how the century-old obsession with homosexuality is deeply tied to changing American anxieties about social and sexual order in the modern age.
Terry’s overarching argument is compelling: that homosexuality served as a marker of the “abnormal” against which malleable, tenuous, and often contradictory concepts of the “normal” were defined. One of the few histories to take into consideration homosexuality in both women and men, Terry’s work also stands out in its refusal to erase the agency of people classified as abnormal. She documents the myriad ways that gays, lesbians, and other sexual minorities have coauthored, resisted, and transformed the most powerful and authoritative modern truths about sex. Proposing this history as a “useable past,” An American Obsession is an indispensable contribution to the study of American cultural history.