The study of gender as a fundamental category of social and cultural analysis, while also considering the intersection of gender with other substantive categories of identity, including sexuality, race, religion, class, disability, and nationality. Gender studies encourages scholars to think beyond common sense accounts of gender to examine its complex construction in a range of historical epochs, cultural arenas, and global processes. The field of gender studies utilizes a wide variety of innovative approaches and methodologies, broad in reach, yet unified through a critical angle of vision.
Black LGBTQ+ Poets
Black LGBTQ+ poets write from the intersections of Black and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer identities and experiences. Black LGBTQ+ poets explore issues of gender expression and discrimination, love, sex, sexuality, desire, culture, race, and more through their creative work. Due to compounding oppressions, the history of Black LGBTQ+ poetry and poetics has not been given adequate attention by scholars or mainstream audiences. What follows is a list of poetry books by Black LGBTQ+ poets, anthologies of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) poets who are LGBTQ+, and scholarly articles on the topic, in celebration of Black History Month. We have also included a very brief introduction to African American poetry and recommendations for further reading on that subject.
Poet Danez Smith reading "Genesissy" for Button Poetry, 2015
As with many of these national commemorations, one month is never enough time to fully honor and celebrate the history and culture of marginalized communities, let alone heal the legacies (and ongoing reality) of harm they've experienced. We recognize that there is much more to be done, that racism and anti-blackness can't be eliminated simply through the creation of resource guides, and that the work of realizing justice won't soon be over. But nevertheless, we keep trying, contributing how we can and building upon the efforts of those who came before us, and we continue to learn from and with one another.
If you'd like to engage more deeply with Black History Month, the IU Libraries Arts & Humanities department has created a number of interrelated resources and features to provide more holistic coverage of this remembering. You'll find those, below:
And for all things Black culture, you can never go wrong with the resources, services, and collections of the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center Library.
Additionally, throughout the '21 spring semester, our department is hosting an ongoing Racial Equity & Social Justice Challenge. This program encourage participants to engage with items from our collections that will facilitate and deepen their awareness of a variety of social justice issues, and features a number of titles relevant to Black History Month. If you'd like to join us, take a look at the Challenge Guide.
African American poetry predates the written word and has its roots in a rich oral tradition. shares sonic qualities with Black musical forms like gospel, jazz, blues, hip-hop, and rap, and includes a rich array of poetic sound devices: alliteration, rhyme, anaphora (the repetition of lines or fragments), to name a few. Black Poetry can be about any theme or subject, but the Black experience is often at the center of Black Poetry, which is informed by the distinctiveness of Black culture. Black Poets often unpack and critiques the systemic oppressions and individual discriminations that they, as Black Americans, have endured, like slavery, segregation, and police brutality. Notable writers and movements in Black Poetry are described in the Power of Poetry series of blog posts from the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Critics and supporters of the distinction between African American and American literature abound. The positions of each side are outlined in this wikipedia article on the subject.
All three major Academic Style Guides (APA, the Chicago Manual of Style, and MLA) agree that a person’s correct personal pronouns (they, he, she, etc.) should be respected and used at all times in formal and academic writing. It is not possible to infer a person’s pronouns just by looking at them. To determine the pronouns of someone you are writing about, refer to their biography, or if possible, ask them what personal pronouns they use. If their personal pronouns are unknown or cannot be determined, using singular “they” may be the solution, if you are writing in APA or MLA. For those using Chicago, the guide recommends rewriting the text in a way that does not require using personal pronouns (Chicago, 5.255). Always take care in your writing to use the correct personal pronouns. Never assume a person’s pronouns when writing about them.
In English, personal pronouns are gendered. Historically, English offers only three personal pronouns: masculine (he), feminine (she), and the un-gendered “it” (which is widely seen as rude or disrespectful to use when referring to a person). These few personal pronouns do not adequately express the variety of gender expressions that have been present throughout history. Grammar is not static, but changes over time, adapting to, reflecting and perpetuating biases and social constructs present in the culture. Many people have been excluded by this rigid and artificial binary representation of gender codified in the English language and have had to find or create alternatives to identify themselves in speech and writing.
Below is a chart that lists some of the most commonly used personal pronouns and gives examples for how to use them.
|Nominative (subject)||Objective (object)||Possessive determiner||Possessive pronoun||Reflexive|
|He||He laughed||I called him||His dog barks||That is his||He likes himself|
|I called her||Her dog barks||That is hers||She likes herself|
|They||They laughed||I called them||Their dog barks||That is theirs||They like themself|
|Per||Per laughed||I called per||Per dog barks||That is pers||Per likes perself|
|Ze laughed||I called hir||Hir dog barks||That is hirs||Ze likes hirself|
Academic style guides agree on the importance of achieving gender-neutral writing, and the problem of using “he” as a universal pronoun. For a time, academic style guides suggested the use of “he or she” or alternating between “he” or “she” in writing. This construction is now acknowledged as being not only clunky and awkward, but exclusionary because to use “he or she” suggests a rigid gender binary, excluding all persons whose gender identities are outside of that binary. Luckily, singular “they,” in use since the 14th century in informal and spoken speech, has started to gain traction as a gender-inclusive pronoun to refer to a person of unknown gender in formal and academic writing. More on the history of singular “they” can be found at the Oxford English Dictionary’s website and Historians.org.
Academic Style Guides adapt slowly to changes in grammar, and like grammar, are socially constructed texts that are constantly in flux. To understand Academic Style Guides’ current and past positions on singular “they” as a gender-neutral unknown referent, it is important to keep in mind that Academic Style Guides do not create grammatical rules. Rather, they establish formal guidelines that follow spoken and grammatical conventions which are set by informal writing and speech. Academic Style Guides are often slow to adopt conventions they might see as temporary. Despite the long history of singular “they” in this usage, which mirrors the grammatical evolution of singular “you,” some style guides have waffled on sanctioning its use.
As of 2021, all three major guides (APA, MLA, and Chicago) acknowledge the ubiquity of singular “they” for use with an unknown referent in informal writing and speech. However, only one of the three guides, the 7th Edition of APA’s Style Guide, fully endorses the use of singular “they” as “a generic third-person singular pronoun to refer to a person whose gender is unknown or irrelevant to the context of usage” (APA, 120). MLA, which leaves grammar largely up to the discretion of the author, neither endorses nor prohibits the use of singular “they” in this sense. As a result, it is acceptable in MLA Style. The Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) has a particularly complicated history with singular “they” as a gender-neutral unknown referent. In the 1993 edition, it endorsed “they/their” in this sense (Chicago, 13th Ed. 2.98). However, this was removed from subsequent editions. Though CMOS acknowledges the ubiquity of this usage, it continues to prohibit its use and instead recommends rewriting the sentence in some way that eliminates the need for a pronoun. For more on the history of singular “they” and the Chicago Manual of Style, take a look at this 2017 article written by Cai Fischietto on IU Libraries’ website.
Brett Hoffman (he/him) - Arts & Humanities Library Assistant
Wendy Lee Spaček (she/her) - Arts & Humanities Library Assistant