By Siobhan B. Somerville

About Siobhan B. Somerville

Siobhan B. Somerville is Associate Professor of English and Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and an affiliated faculty member in the Department of African American Studies and the Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory. She is the author of Queering the Color Line: Race and the Invention of Homosexuality in American Culture and coeditor of several special issues of journals, most recently “Queering the Middle: Race, Region, and Sexual Diasporas,” a special issue of GLQ.


“Queer” causes confusion, perhaps because two of its current meanings seem to be at odds. In both popular and academic usage in the United States, “queer” is sometimes used interchangeably with the terms “gay” and “lesbian” and occasionally “transgender” and “bisexual.” In this sense of the word, “queer” is understood as an umbrella term that refers to a range of sexual identities that are “not straight.” In other political and academic contexts, “queer” is used in a very different way: as a term that calls into question the stability of any such categories of identity based on sexual orientation. In this second sense, “queer” is a critique of the tendency to organize political or theoretical questions around sexual orientation per se. To “queer” becomes a way to denaturalize categories such as “lesbian” and “gay” (not to mention “straight” and “heterosexual”), revealing them as socially and historically constructed identities that have …

Collectivities, Disciplinarities, Embodiments
Pages ·