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Special Talk: My Butch Career: A Memoir Esther Newton
October 4, 2019 @ 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm
During her difficult childhood, Esther Newton recalls that she “became an anti-girl, a girl refusenik, caught between genders,” and that her “child body was a strong and capable instrument stuffed into the word ‘girl.’” Later, in early adulthood, as she was on her way to becoming a trailblazing figure in gay and lesbian studies, she “had already chosen higher education over the strongest passion in my life, my love for women, because the two seemed incompatible.” In My Butch Career Newton tells the compelling, disarming, and at times sexy story of her struggle to write, teach, and find love, all while coming to terms with her identity during a particularly intense time of homophobic persecution in the twentieth century.
At this event, Newton will be reading extracts from her memoir, My Butch Career (2018), that follows the first forty years of her life, attempting to integrate her female masculinity and lesbianism with life in general and her academic career in particular. Trained in elite history and anthropology programs, she yet misspent her youth trying to be straight, then closeted, and did not come out professionally until getting tenure in 1973 at the age of thirty-four. These extracts will deal with topics like a description of being seduced by a femme lesbian as a freshman in college, the relationship between lesbian butches and transmen, her left wing and feminist family history, and the context in which she researched and wrote Mother Camp, the first anthropological ethnography of female impersonators and the gay male world surrounding them and their performances and the difficulties of writing about lesbian sexuality.
Co-sponsored with the CUNY Graduate Center PhD Program in Anthropology, the Center for LGBTQ Studies (CLAGS), and the Center for Human Environments.