Queer Institutions – A Panel Discussion
Authors: Marc Stein, San Francisco State University; Ashley Ruderman-Looff, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth
Comment: Aaron S. Lecklider, UMass Boston
Thursday 8 October
This panel discussion considers the queer histories of two modern institutions: colleges and prisons. Marc Stein explores how activists at more than twenty colleges went to court in the 1970s to challenge their institutions’ refusal to recognize LGBT student groups. Stein’s paper analyzes these cases and situates the successful litigation at Virginia Commonwealth University in relation to contemporaneous Virginia rulings that upheld the criminalization of same-sex sodomy and the prosecution of an interracial threesome. Ashley Ruderman-Looff’s essay considers the Lavender Scare's impact on women's prison reform. Her essay tells the story of Dr. Miriam Van Waters, a superintendent of the Massachusetts Reformatory for Women who was dismissed from her post in 1949. This paper analyzes Van Waters’ subversive use of the Rorschach inkblot test, allowing her to eschew homosexual diagnosis and include queer women in the reformatory’s rehabilitative programs.
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