Name: Martha Robinson Rhodes
‘Not Totally Gay, I Suppose’: A Queer Oral History of Multiple-Gender-Attraction and Bisexuality in 1970s and 1980s Britain
My research will be the first systematic exploration of attraction to multiple genders and ‘bisexuality’ as an identity category in 1970s Britain. I will use interviews and archival research to explore the ‘problem’ that bisexuality presented to groups in the gay liberation movement, and how this changed. I will also explore how individuals made sense of their own desires and navigated circulating discourses of ‘bisexuality’. By addressing these linked areas I aim to show how political debates were inextricable from questions of subjectivity and selfhood.
The context of my research is the erasure of bisexuality in the 1970s and subsequent scholarship (e.g. Butler, Foucault, Sedgwick). Multiple-gender-attraction disturbs a ‘gay/straight’ binary in its capacity to engage in apparently ‘heterosexual’ or ‘homosexual’ relationships, and by occupying an unclear position in a hierarchy of oppressed and oppressor. However, ‘bisexuality’ is still under- represented in queer theory (Callis, 2009; Hemmings, 2002). It is simplistic to attribute this solely to ‘biphobia’; ‘bisexual’ is still a named identity category, and avoided for that reason. For example, much of the behaviour explored by Matt Houlbrook, my supervisor, in ‘Queer London’ (2005) could be considered ‘bisexual’, but was analysed in terms of queerness and masculinity. I will engage with ‘critical queer history’ (Doan, 2013) and problematise the category of ‘bisexual’, without rejecting it entirely; it was used by some in the 1970s, but in ways that were mediated by class, age, gender, location and race. I therefore address those who were attracted to multiple genders (but did not identify as ‘bisexual’), and those who called themselves ‘bisexual’.
This project builds upon my MRes research, an intersectional analysis of multiple-gender-attraction and its construction in the Gay Liberation movement, and my earlier work on bisexuality in the gay press. For my PhD, I will use oral history to understand how individuals negotiated ideas of ‘bisexuality’, and add to the growing corpus of work on subjectivity in queer history.
Supervisors and Institution(s):
Professor Matt Houlbrook, University of Birmingham
Dr Chris Moores, University of Birmingham
Dr Mo Moulton, University of Birmingham
'"Not Totally Gay, I Suppose”: A Queer Critical History of Multiple-Gender-Attraction in the British Gay Liberation Movement’ - Paper presented at the ROLES Sexuality and Gender Conference, University of Birmingham, May 2017
- ‘Bisexuality in Gay News, the Gay Liberation Front and the Campaign for Homosexual Equality’ - Paper presented at a network meeting of ROLES Sexuality and Gender Network, University of Birmingham, November 2016
Scholarly / Public Engagement Activities:
Co-organised the ROLES Sexuality and Gender Conference, University of Birmingham
- I co-organised the 5 panels at the conference
- I also secured funding for the conference
2016 - 2017:
Co-organised network events for PGRs throughout the academic year, as part of the ROLES Sexuality and Gender Network at the University of Birmingham
‘Out in Oxford’ LGBTQ+ Museums Trail, August 2016 – February 2017
- Helped design the trail across collections at the Pitt Rivers Museum, the Museum of Natural History, the Ashmolean, the Museum of the History of Science, the Bate Collection and the Bodleian Libraries
- Also wrote interpretations for two objects in the trail.
Other Research Interests:
Contemporary British History
Radicalism in the 1970s
History of Marriage
History of Selfhood and Subjectivity
History of Sex and Sexuality
- MRes Sexuality and Gender Studies, University of Birmingham
- BA History, University of Oxford, First Class Honours
- Mansfield College Scholarship for “First Class in college examinations”, University of Oxford
- University Scholarship for “Distinction in Preliminary Exams”, University of Oxford
University email address: MXR701@bham.ac.uk
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