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"You Can Tell Just by Looking"
Cover of "You Can Tell Just by Looking"
"You Can Tell Just by Looking"
And 20 Other Myths about LGBT Life and People
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2014 Lambda Literary Award Finalist: LGBT NonfictionBreaks down the most commonly held misconceptions about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their lives In "You Can Tell Just by...
2014 Lambda Literary Award Finalist: LGBT NonfictionBreaks down the most commonly held misconceptions about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their lives In "You Can Tell Just by...
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Description-

  • 2014 Lambda Literary Award Finalist: LGBT Nonfiction
    Breaks down the most commonly held misconceptions about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their lives


    In "You Can Tell Just by Looking" three scholars and activists come together to unpack enduring, popular, and deeply held myths about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, culture, and life in America. Myths, such as "All Religions Condemn Homosexuality" and "Transgender People Are Mentally Ill," have been used to justify discrimination and oppression of LGBT people. Others, such as "Homosexuals Are Born That Way," have been embraced by LGBT communities and their allies. In discussing and dispelling these myths—including gay-positive ones—the authors challenge readers to question their own beliefs and to grapple with the complexities of what it means to be queer in the broadest social, political, and cultural sense.

Excerpts-

  • From the book Myth 7

    HOMOSEXUALS ARE BORN THAT WAY

    Award-winning and openly lesbian actress Cynthia Nixon landed
    herself in hot water—twice. Her missteps? Nixon, best known for playing brainy and neurotic Miranda on Sex in the City, stated, in her acceptance of GLAAD’s Vito Russo Award in March 2010, “I’ve been straight and I’ve been gay, and gay is better.” LGBT advocates objected to the implication that homosexuality was a choice. In a January 2012 interview with the New York Times, Nixon unapologetically stood her ground: “For me, it is a choice. I understand that for many people it’s not, but for me it’s a choice, and you don’t get to define my gayness for me.” Nixon’s words went viral.
     
    Since the Stonewall riots in 1969, LGB activists have encouraged gay people to come out and speak the truth about their lives. Why were activists so angry with Nixon for boldly telling her own truth? What political, and personal, nerve had she inadvertently struck?
     
    In the past decade, the argument that homosexuals are born that way has become a major talking point used by LGB advocates to argue for equal rights. Nixon’s declaration, “For me, it’s a choice,” strayed from this carefully crafted political and legal script. Worse, it could be heard as reinforcing the antigay message of some conservative political groups. These groups, in their own public relations strategy, describe homosexuality as a “lifestyle choice” or “behavior-based identity.” If being gay is a “choice,” it supposedly

    does not merit the civil rights protections extended to racial minorities and women.
     
    But “born that way” is more than a sound bite in a public relations war. Many LGB people describe their sexual identities as in- born, an immutable part of who they are. Some others, like Nixon, claim they choose to be gay. This may be particularly true for lesbians. In the late 1970s, some feminists believed lesbianism was a chosen political and sexual identity. These “political lesbians” did not necessarily have sex with, or even sexually desire, women. Most self-declared lesbians decidedly do desire and have sex with other women (see myth 13, “Lesbians Do Not Have Real Sex”).
     
    Still other LGB people would say their sexuality is both chosen and unchosen. They may not have chosen their same-sex desires, but they do choose to act on them and come out as L, G, or B. Other LGB people would say they do not care how or why they came to be gay—they are gay and it is fine. LGB people, like straight people, have all sorts of ways of answering the question, “Why are you the
    way you are?”

About the Author-

  • Michael Bronski (Cambridge, Massachusetts) has written extensively on LGBT issues for four decades. He is the author of several award-winning books, including most recently A Queer History of the United States. He is Professor of the Practice in Activism and Media in the Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality at Harvard University.
    Ann Pellegrini (New York, New York) is professor of performance studies and religious studies at New York University, where she also directs NYU's Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality. She has written extensively about religion, sexuality, and US public life. Her publications include Performance Anxieties and the coauthored book Love the Sin.

    Michael Amico (New Haven, Connecticut) is a PhD candidate in American studies at Yale University, and is writing a history of the love between two men in the Civil War. He has written for LGBT youth publications, such as Young Gay America, and provided political analysis for the Boston Phoenix and other venues.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from September 2, 2013
    This rigorous book addresses 21 beliefs about LGBT people held by those in and out of the LGBT community. Academics Bronski (A Queer History of the United States), Pellegrini (Performance Anxieties), and Amico have two goals: to “dispel harmful, often hostile myths, stereotypes, and false assumptions about LGBT people” and to “explain what myths do, how they work and move in the world.” The authors examine terminology (“transgender,” “bisexual,” “LGBT”), statistics, research past and present, and cultural phenomena, to show how the American public frames, processes, and accepts or rejects the presence of LGBT individuals and communities through the construction of these foundational myths. What emerges is a disturbing picture of the ways in which research, language, and media are contorted to suit pro- or anti-LGBT agendas. As the authors note, “Our culture is pretty terrible at talking about sex and sexual pleasure,” and it flattens “the messiness of reality” through unexamined myth. This powerful book demands that we look more closely at the ways we move in and structure our society, and asks vital questions that will steer the culture toward justice and equality.

  • Booklist

    October 1, 2013
    Dispelling common myths, stereotypes, and false assumptions is just part of the ambitious goals set by established gender-studies experts Bronski, Ann Pellegrini, and Michael Amico. Exposing the claims and myths LGBT people accept is another key aspect of their other mission. Beginning with the observation that LGBT as a single, clearly defined cultural entity is itself a myth, the authors classify myths and the social compromises they enforce by upholding existing norms, erasing complex differences, encouraging secrecy, and inhibiting logical discussion. This impressive undertaking covers the struggles associated with coming out, sexual abuse, gay identity, and homophobia, subtle and aggressive. This groundbreaking book is rich in smart, stirring, and forthright examinations of myths, negative and positive, and in clarifying examples, and holds to scholarly standards while compellingly and revealingly addressing the curiosity and concerns of mainstream readers.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2013, American Library Association.)

  • PopMatters "One of the most complete sourcebooks about science, sociology and LGBT life out there."

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And 20 Other Myths about LGBT Life and People
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