1st Edition

Queering Desire Lesbians, Gender and Subjectivity

Edited By Róisín Ryan-Flood, Amy Tooth Murphy Copyright 2024
    396 Pages 9 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    396 Pages 9 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Queering Desire explores, with unprecedented interdisciplinary scope, contemporary configurations of lesbian, bi, queer women’s, and non-binary people’s experiences of identity and desire. Taking an intersectional feminist and trans-inclusive approach, and incorporating new and established identities such as non-binary, masculine of centre (MOC), butch, and femme, this collection examines how the changing landscape for gender and sexual identities impacts on queer culture in productive and transformative ways.

    Within queer studies, explorations of desire, longing, and eroticism have often neglected AFAB, transfeminine, and non-binary people’s experiences. Through 25 newly commissioned chapters, a diverse range of authors, from early career researchers to established scholars, stage conversations at the cutting edge of sexuality studies. Queering Desire advances our understanding of contemporary lesbian and queer desire from an inclusive perspective that is supportive of trans and non-binary identities.

    This innovative interdisciplinary collection is an excellent resource for scholars, undergraduate, and postgraduate students interested in gender, sexuality, and identity across a range of fields, such as queer studies, feminist theory, anthropology, media studies, sociology, psychology, history, and social theory. In foregrounding female and non-binary experiences, this book constitutes a timely intervention.


    Sally R. Munt


    Róisín Ryan-Flood and Amy Tooth Murphy


    1. Queer old movie star

    Esther Newton

    2. Staging our desires: Drag kings and the pleasures of community building

    Liz Millward and Marie Lou Duret

    3. ‘In their loving gaze I saw who I could be’: Revisiting the butch/femme couple as joint subject through Esther Newton’s My Butch Career

    Kimberley Mather

    4. Transcripts, TransTape™, Transience: Locating the bisexual butch 

    El. Reid-Buckley

    5. The punchline isn’t everything: Feminist and queer stand-up dramedy

    Candace Moore

    6. Gender, sexuality and visual culture – an interview with Rosalind Gill

    Rosalind Gill and Róisín Ryan-Flood


    7. Femme frontiers: Tracing the lineage of fore-femmes through to contemporary identities and femme theory 

    Rhea Ashley Hoskin

    8. Book Banning in the U.S.: A call for multi-generational activism

    K. Allison Hammer

    9. From Butch and Femme Lesbians to Non-binary and Queer Women: Intergenerational Shifts from In-person Places to Digital Spaces

    S.L. Crawley and Ashley Green

    10. Carabiners and Violet Tattoos: the desire for nostalgia in online lesbian space

    Eleanor Medhurst

    11. Increased Lesbian Visibility and its Discontents: Comparing the coming out stories of women and nonbinary people across generations 

    Ella Ben Hagai, Brenda Meza, Kristen Pinchbeck and Rachelle Annechino

    12. Queer lineage: On generational sexualities, LGBTQ identity and visibility

    Róisín Ryan-Flood


    13. Against Pathology: Exploring the Desire for Femininity

    Hannah McCann

    14. Complicating queer desires: Identity politics of the lesbian and bisexual communities in South Africa

    Phoebe Kisubi Mbasalaki 

    15. My own private non-binary body

    Libro Levi Bridgeman

    16. ‘Aren’t you ashamed?’: Explicit representation and shame in the work of Eileen Myles, Maggie Nelson and Melissa Febos 

    Prudence Bussey-Chamberlain

    17. Trans history and politics – an interview with Susan Stryker

    Susan Stryker and Róisín Ryan-Flood

    18. Midlife lesbian: Alison Bechdel and Me

    Lee Wallace


    19. Desiring Technologies: Digital Pathways toward Black Queer Sociality

    Dominique Adams-Santos 

    20. The butch on the ferry: The affect and effect of butch longing

    Amy Tooth Murphy

    21. Desire on the Inside: Incarcerated Women, Bisexual Identity, and Human Connection

    Amy B. Smoyer and Rebecca Harvey

    22. Queering romance: Expressions of love and intimacy in late-twentieth-century lesbian relationships

    Rebecca Jennings

    23. Intimacy or intimacies? Queering Jewish women’s desires and intimate lives

    Mie Astrup Jensen

    24. Naming desire: Information seeking and breaking the silence around queer female desire in mid-twentieth-century Britain

    Victoria Golding

    25. Beloved: Crafting lesbian desire and femme intimacies with the Ladies of Llangollen

    Sarah-Joy Ford


    Róisín Ryan-Flood is Professor of Sociology and Co-Director of the Centre for Intimate and Sexual Citizenship (CISC) at the University of Essex, UK. Her research interests encompass gender, sexuality, kinship, digital intimacies, and feminist epistemology. Her books include Lesbian Motherhood: Gender, Sexuality and Citizenship (2009), Difficult Conversations: A Feminist Dialogue (2023) and Consent: Gender, Power and Subjectivity (2023). She is co-editor of the journal Sexualities: Studies in Culture and Society.

    Amy Tooth Murphy is Senior Lecturer in Oral History at Royal Holloway, University of London, UK. Her research interests include butch/femme identities and culture, and queer oral history theory and method. She is the co-editor of New Directions in Queer Oral History: Archives of Disruption and is a Trustee of the Oral History Society.

    “This extraordinary volume brings together cutting-edge work on lesbian desires and subjectivities. Against those who would argue that lesbian identity is obsolete, Queering Desire showcases our extraordinary talent for self-invention—through visual production, performance, and in everyday life. Smart and edgy in equal measure, it challenges taken-for-granted notions of gender and sexual subjectivities while being respectful of the contributions of lesbian elders. If you want to understand lesbian lives today, start here!”

    Prof Arlene Stein, Distinguished Professor of Sociology, Rutgers University, USA

    “This book is breath taking in its reach, potential and necessity. It covers a huge range of areas demonstrating the possibilities of explorations of Queer Desires that are overlooked.  Bringing lesbian/queer/bi/non-binary desires to the fore this book is truly agenda setting ranging across the humanities and social sciences with multi-disciplinary ease and outstanding authors. It is a must read for all interested in difference, desire, intimacies, care, gender, sex, and sexualities.”

    Prof Kath Browne, University College Dublin, Ireland

    “As the torch passes from one generation of queer scholars and activists to another, Queering Desire is the book to read if you want to understand changing configurations of gendered sexualities: how we got here, how this ‘we’ perpetually dissolves and coalesces into new formations, and what our messy, inspiring, contentious, glittering forays into solidarity have to teach about doing the politically needful without disavowing our differences.”

    Prof Kath Weston, University of Virginia, USA

    “This is a landmark book for unprecedented times that brings together and curates an important and innovative set of contributions exploring the queering of desire, identity, and eroticism, paying keen and close attention to some of the exclusions that have shaped the sexed and gendered landscape. The editors of the collection have achieved a remarkable aim, by bringing together a truly diverse set of reflections, creating a lively and important set of conversations that attend to the contemporary context and its historical formations, that work across theory and practice, in the context of representation and lived experience, and which ensures that new voices are heard alongside the important voices of those who have pioneered and shaped sexuality, queer and trans studies. This book is for now, it is the book that has been missing from our bookshelves and that many of us have been looking and waiting for. The book will bring in new generations of readers and scholars, as well as providing a mapping of how we have reached this point and where we might go as we imagine different possibilities for the future.”

    Prof Lisa Blackman, Goldsmiths, University of London, UK

    "This ambitious and important book explores contemporary and historical understandings of lesbian, bisexual, queer and non-binary people’s experiences of identity and desire. Bringing together 25 original contributions from key authors in the field, it provides a timely overview of contemporary debates as well as suggesting new directions for research. An essential resource and a must read for anyone interested in these issues."

    Prof Diane Richardson, Newcastle University, UK