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Innocence, Perversion, and Heather's Two Mommies

  • Eric Rofes
Article

Abstract

This paper begins by untangling the twisted threads linking homosexuality and childhood in the mind of America, and explaining how contemporary constructions of homosexuality have become entwined with modern conceptions of childhood. The author draws on the literature on the invention of childhood and especially the pioneering work of Jonathan Silin to show how the entrenchment of capitalism and arrival of compulsory schooling have created a hegemonic form of family and produced a child at once innocent and ignorant. The author then probes the construction of “the homosexual” in the late 19th century and uncovers interconnections between this new social typology and representations of childhood. By examining how these linkages are historically embodied in incidents of sex panic, the author argues that the psyches of lesbians and gay men who are in relationship with children (as parents, teachers, coaches . . .) are often suffused with anxiety and self-doubt. Hence a gay movement emerges rife with hyper-traditional representations of children and youth. Contemporary queer representations of childhood are then explored through a focus on children's books designed for the offspring of lesbian and gay parents. The author suggests that contemporary gay advocacy, which attempts to dislodge perversion as the central representation of homosexuality, will be unsuccessful until activists abandon tactics that infantilize children and perpetuate a vision of childhood as vulnerable, innocent, and unknowing.

childhood gay lesbian children's liberation children's rights children's literature 

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Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press, Inc. 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eric Rofes
    • 1
  1. 1.Social and Cultural Studies, Graduate School of EducationUniversity of California at BerkeleyBerkeley

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