Biological and Psychological Lens to View LGBT Identities

Manvi Arora, University of Delhi, India

In attempt to understand LGBT studies, it’s important to view it from an interdisciplinary lens. Studies focusing on LGBT people have not been subject of any single discipline with single object of study. The objects to large extend has been lives of LGBT people themselves. Hence, it is important not to isolate their experiences from social and scientific context. This implies that LGBT studies can only be practiced in amalgamation with different disciplines, in particular sociology, anthropology, biology, psychology, literature, law and history. At present in India and in many other cultures, all orientations and behaviours other than heterosexuality have been seen as “unnatural”, “abnormal” or “sinful”. In such a situation it is even more critical to understand Biological and Psychological perspective and theories behind variant sexual orientations, put forward in this paper.
The biological perspective typically has explained human sexuality through reference to research concerning both human biology and sexual behaviour in other species. Biology indicates what is possible, often, what is pleasurable or painful. But biology does not imply what is proper and improper. Religion, traditions, culture and philosophy guides these judgments.
Biologists have asserted that we might arrive at a “natural” course of sexual behaviour by observing sexual activities among animals. Since animals are incapable of thinking like humans, they are thus unlikely to be influenced by confounding layers of tradition and belief.
For instance “All male mammals masturbate” (Beach, 1951) and animals also display homosexual behaviours. Female rodents and carnivores are most likely to mount other females when they are in estrus, the time of the month when they can conceive. Females in estrus usually show female mating behaviour in the presence of a male animal. Beach believes that role reversibility “reveals a potential for bisexual behaviour” in these mammals (1976). Chevalier-Skolnikoff agrees with Beach that primates appear capable of displaying both “male” and “female” sexual behaviour pattern. The sexual behaviour of lower animals is highly varied (Chevalier-Skolnikqf, 1976). If we were to accept their behaviours as standard for ourselves, we would probably widely expand rather than limit the range of human sexual activities to penile-vaginal intercourse leading to reproduction.
Theorizing Origins of Sexual Diversion
There are numerous biological theories that try to explain the origin of homosexuality, bisexuality and transgendered roles in humans.
a) The Genetics of Homosexuality
Over the past hundred and fifty years, volumes have been written in the professional disciplines and literature to explain the roots of one’s sexual orientation, particularly if it is homosexual or bisexual. Heterosexuality is assumed to be “normal” and therefore needs no causal explanation. Examination of sexual behaviour and orientation from cross culture, evolutionary and interspecies perspectives bring forth a wide variety of sexual expressions, hence substantiating the non-universal and not natural reasons behind it. Still a lot of work is being done by biologists to discover the root cause of variant sexual orientation.
“Kallmann’s (1952) studies with monozygotic (identical) and dizygotic (fraternal) twins were once taken as powerful evidence for genetic influence on sexual orientation. Among 40 pairs of identical twins, Kallmann found 100 per cent concordance rate for homosexuality. Among fraternal twins, only 57.7 per cent of the probands of homosexuals were exclusively heterosexuals. In Kallmann’s report, siblings with an identical genetic code in variably shared the homosexual orientation.”…Access Full Text of the Article

The Portuguese Queer Screen: Gender Possibilities in João Pedro Rodrigues’s Cinematic Production

Antônio M. da Silva, University of Kent, UK


The Portuguese filmmaker João Pedro Rodrigues has developed a significant cinematic production that has attained international recognition. The three feature films he made in the first decade of the 2000s (Phantom, Two Drifters, and To Die like a Man) engage with queer identities from different perspectives. This article examines the ways in which Rodrigues depicts these and argues that the films provide a spectrum of ‘performatively constituted’ identities that represent a challenge to patriarchy’s hegemonic subjectivities. It contends that such identities consequently represent abjection in a society that ignores them but also that the filmmaker gives them visibility and shows that their subjectivities do matter.


The transgender character Tônia in João Pedro Rodrigues’s Morrer como um homem/To Die like a Man (2009) sings a Portuguese fado in the final sequence of the film that opens with the line “Oh, how I’d like to live in the plural!” This line encapsulates how gender identities are constructed and depicted in the three feature films discussed in this article: they are ‘performatively constituted’ in the sense of Judith Butler’s (1990) assertion that “there is no gender identity behind the expression of gender; […] identity is performatively constituted by the very ‘expressions’ that are said to be its results” (34). In other words, these identities are ‘floating’ and not restricted to the biologically born gender.

In this trilogy-like set of feature films, which comprises his debut O fantasma/Phantom (2000), Odete/Two Drifters (2005), and To Die like a Man, Rodrigues offers the viewer a number of possible queer subjectivities. Queer means, in this case, all the identities that do not conform to hegemonic norms regarding gender and sexuality, including homosexuality, bisexuality, and transgenderism. Moreover, it can be argued that queer is also what represents “abjection” (Kristeva 1982), which is a view patriarchy exploits to keep heterosexual identities in place. This happens in a rather symbiotic relationship that arguably needs the queer as an opposite to reaffirm what heterosexual identities are (or what they are not). Such a symbiotic relationship is evident in many patriarchal contexts where masculinity is defined mostly in relation to queer: one is either a ‘proper man’ (whatever that means) or he is queer and thus subject to punishment.

Context therefore plays an important role in queer subjectivities, particularly the urban space where such ‘abject’ identities are less susceptible to punishment and are, to some extent, ‘freer’ from severe regulations. This is evident in the three films discussed herein, which show that Rodrigues’s characters become part of the Portuguese urban space, represented in the films by the capital, Lisbon—as will be developed later in this article. However, as Trindade (2010) argues in relation to the Portuguese film Lisboa, Crónica Anedótica/Lisbon, Anecdotal Chronicle, such characters are Lisbon dwellers but they do not constitute a collective entity (or identity). This is a crucial point regarding these three films because the characters’ ‘failure’ to represent the identity of a group (a ‘category’) to the detriment of each individual’s has been an issue critics have picked on. In other words, Rodrigues’s films show the viewer a spectrum of gender identities but these are based on the individuality of the subjects he portrays rather than trying to create a collective queer identity. Despite this, his approach to queer indicates that such a term can work as an umbrella under which various kinds of gender subjectivities are possible. This is strongly indicated by the director himself stating in an interview that each film is a unique story, even if it could be related to the outside world (Lim 2009).

The aim of this article is therefore to discuss the queer subjectivities Rodrigues constructs in his films and how these are related to the urban space in which the characters are placed. It will refer mostly to Julia Kristeva’s theorisation of abjection while discussing the characters’ subjectivities because these queer characters are part of an urban environment that allows them to get on with their lives as they are but makes them ‘socially invisible’ by treating them as ‘abject’ and refusing to see their existence…Access Full Text of the Article

Towards a Postmodern Poetics: Reading Elizabeth Bishop’s Reccy of Realities

Amit Bhattacharya, University of Gour Banga

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In this paper, I have tried to analyze a few poems by Elizabeth Bishop to show how she takes up or takes in shifting identities and subject-positions in a clear dialogue with cultural norms and expectations. I have also sought to chart her poetic trajectory from alienation to alterity to show how she started by refusing to accept the ‘otherness’ about her and her various poetic personae based on such determinants as gender, sexuality, class or age, and ultimately accepted those self-same counts of ‘otherness’ in a never-ending melee with the ‘so-called’ metareality of conundrum and contingency that is provisionally called ‘life’.

The Spectacle of Science: the Art of Illusion in Prints of the French Revolution

Claire Trévien, University of Warwick, UK

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In this article, I will discuss prints from the French Revolution that utilize scientific instruments as political metaphors. France’s fascination with science during the Enlightenment has been well documented, notably by Bernadette Bensaude-Vincent and Christine Blondel in their recent investigation of its uses as a popular form of entertainment. Whether it was seen as an ally or a foe, the spectacle of science attracted Revolutionary artists. This pull reveals not only an understanding of scientific material thanks to the groundwork of the Enlightenment, but also a need to reposition science within a Revolutionary context. What the prints have in common is ‘spectacle’ in the sense that they are pre-occupied with the idea of illusion, not just as a negative act of deception but as a creative and potentially empowering process, allowing the viewer to see beyond reality into a brighter future.

“Humans as Voices of God and Tradition?” Rethinking the Subjugation of the African Woman in Mariama Ba’s So Long a Letter

Stephen O. Solanke, Ajayi Crowther University, Nigeria

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Over the eons, man has posed asspeaking for and on behalf of God and Tradition. His assumed positions on social issues, therefore, are regarded as infallibles. Polygamy as one of the issues is advantageous for male. This paper discusses, through a sociological consideration of Mariama Ba’s So Long a Letter and the effects of polygamy, that a positive consideration be cast on the issue in the modern African world. Women need not be abandoned, children need not be cast aside, and men’s lives need not become loveless as much as the society need not be shackled with frustrated marriages and destroyed lives. The African world, faced with the negative effects laid on the table in this paper, should sociologically re-adjust itself into the modern world of love-giving, acceptance and sharing.

The “Politically Correct Memsahib”: Performing Englishness in Select Anglo-Indian Advice Manuals

S. Vimala, M.G.R. College, Hosur, India

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Examining select Anglo-Indian advice manuals written after the Indian Mutiny in 1857and during the ‘high imperialism’ period of the British Raj, the essay proposes that this cultural artefact served the purpose of constructing and naturalizing the English Memsahibs’ gendered racial identity. By reiterating the performance of gender, class and race imperatives to construct a unique identity prerequisite for the Anglo-Indian community as well as the Indian colony, these texts aimed at the crystallization of this identity that will strengthen the idea of the British Raj. Such reiteration- apart from revealing the imperial anxiety of the subversion of the Memsahib identity- were useful to caution the English women new to the colonial environment.  Reading these Anglo-Indian advice manuals produced for the consumption of the Anglo-Indian community, what the essay further proposes is that the performance of gendered-racial identity of the English women in India constituted not only the governance of their bodies and the Anglo-Indian spaces, but also their management of travel and material consumption including food.  Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble and Bodies That Matter provide useful insights to study the performance of the “politically correct Memsahib” identity and its attendant relation to the imagining of the homogenous British Raj.   

‘All the world’s a stage and I’m a genius in it’: Creative Benefits of Writers’ Identification with the Figure of Artistic Genius

Claudia Chibici-Revneanu, ENES, UNAM León in Mexico

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This paper focuses on the romantic notion of artistic genius and its operations as a kind of theatrical script functionally guiding many writers’ lives and approaches to their creations. In recent years, the concept has been justly deconstructed as heavily gendered and providing an inadequate representation of actual creative processes. Nevertheless, what these studies of genius have often overlooked are the manifold functions the genius ideology has traditionally fulfilled for artists and society at large. To illustrate this, the article focuses specifically on the complex and often beneficial interaction arising from authors’ self-identification with the genius role and their negotiation of the creative process. A plea will be made for taking seriously the limitations of the genius script while at the same time trying to save-guard its valuable influence on creative writers’ artistic performance.

The Semiotics of Violence: Reading Italo Calvino’s The Castle of Crossed Destinies

Debamitra Kar, Women’s College, Calcutta, India

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This paper attempts a reading of Italo Calvino’s novel, The Castle of Crossed Destinies (1969) from a postmodern perspective. The novel has always been seen as structuralist experimentation, particularly because it was written at a time when Calvino was associated with the OULIPO, the group of the French philosophers like Claude Levi-Strauss, Roland Barthes and others. The paper argues that the simultaneous reading of the words in the text and pictures in the margin, challenges the very practice and method of reading. The novel suggests that it can be read as a card game, a game that accentuates deferral and plurality of meaning. These conflicting readings create the semiotics of violence, which again is reflected in the theme of the stories. The paper cites example of three stories which show that the violence of language is codified as the violence of the feminine on the masculine, arguing that the feminine challenges the rules, laws, and structures of language as well as life and destroys things that adheres to any strict binary form. The conflict between the rule of the Father and the lawlessness of the Mother leads to no higher synthesis—it ends in violence that refuses all routes of communication or meaning.

The Sexologist and the Poet: On Magnus Hirschfeld, Rabindranath Tagore, and the Critique of Sexual Binarity

J. Edgar Bauer, Researcher and Author                 

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Between 1930 and 1932, German-Jewish sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld (1868-1935) undertook a world journey that he eventually reported in Die Weltreise eines Sexualforschers (1933), arguably the first non-Eurocentric, anti-colonialist critique of Asian cultures from a sexological perspective.  Saluted as “the modern Vatsyayana of the West,” Hirschfeld met during his stay in India personalities such as Jawaharlal Nehru, Jagadish Chandra Bose, and Radindranath Tagore, whom he visited at his family residence in Calcutta.  Against the backdrop of Hirschfeld’s “doctrine of sexual intermediaries” and his general postulate that truly creative artists have mostly “united in themselves both sexes in especially pronounced form,” the study analyzes and assesses his reference to Tagore’s femininity. While acknowledging the correspondences between the sexologist’s universalization of sexual intermediariness and the poet’s premise that “[t]he Creator must be conscious of both the male and female principles without which there can be no Creation,” the elaborations focus on their divergent conceptualizations of sexual difference, womanhood, and the erotic life.

In ‘prison-house of love’[i]: The Bad Girl and bad girls of Mario Vargas Llosa

Tajuddin Ahmed

Netaji Subhas Ashram Mahavidyalaya, India

Volume 2, Number 3, 2010Download PDF Version

DOI: 10.21659/rupkatha.v2n3.09


Mario Vargas Llosa’s recent novel The Bad Girl centers around a sexually liberated woman who is in search of individual emancipation through transgressions of all social norms. The issue of female sexuality and its relation with woman liberation occupies an important and debatable position in Feminist discourse. Llosa’s own attitude to liberated female sexuality had been an ambivalent one. In this paper I would like analyse and explore the question of woman’s liberation in the novel of Mario Vargas Llosa, taking into account the major conflicting Feminist discourses as well as the presence and erasure of female sexuality in the history of Latin American novels. 

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