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The Gay Villain Rides Again: The History of a Queer Biker with Migueltzinta Solís and Suzanne Lenon
Friday 16th April 2021
This presentation of archival images and historical research investigates the story of Solitaire, a mysterious figure who haunted the background and fringes of gay and lesbian (queer) motorcycle clubs. Solitaire’s archive is a puzzle, appearing momentarily in one decade then disappearing without a trace, then appearing again in ephemera printed ten years later. Solitaire is unique among figures of proto-queer biker rebeldom, as archival evidence implies that Solitaire primarily rode bicycles, which must have made integration into motorcycle clubs quite difficult if impossible. Due to Solitaire’s elusiveness, it has been difficult to establish certain facts about this until now unexamined historical figure, including basic details such as Solitaire’s race, ethnicity, gender and sexuality. Like with many queer ancestors, the archival traces of this outsider have been largely dismissed, and it has only been thanks to cross-disciplinary scholar Migueltzinta Solís’s exhaustive research that Solitaire’s story has begun to come to light.
Solitaire’s story is a timely body of research, disseminated at a moment where questions of class, power and masculinity are once again clashing and mixing with notions of queerness. Leather culture and aesthetics have found a queer revival through social media influencers, amateur pornographers and queer contemporary artists, filmmakers and scholars. The history of queer leather and bikes is complicated by many class, race and gender politics, bringing up urgent questions around the politics of power, iconography and representation. In a moment where neo-liberal, homonationalist politics threaten to iron flat the textured vibrancy of queer rebel life, this investigation into the mysterious Solitaire’s life provides an important missing link, a single strand of gay villainy side-winding through the intricately woven matrix of LGBTQIA2S+ themstory.
When the King is/is not a Woman: Queering Elizabeth I with Aidan Norrie
Thursday 6th May 2021
Elizabeth I is one of England’s most famous monarchs. This fame (or notoriety) is largely the result of her depiction as the Virgin Queen—after all, she is considered unusual for neither marrying nor having children. Few monarchs are so inseparably intertwined with their gender, or more accurately, the heteronormative and patriarchal view of their gender. For her part, Elizabeth was an expert in the performative aspect of gender, playing up her femininity when it suited her, while also not being afraid to assert her masculine side when the need arose. As such, Aidan Norrie suggests that throughout the entirety of her reign, Elizabeth asserted her gender identity in ways that today could be described as genderfluid. Using genderfluidity as a lens through which to view Elizabeth, we can better understand why she was able to publically call herself both king and queen, prince and sovereign, which was central not only to her own conception of her role as sovereign, but also to how her subjects viewed her. No other English monarch has blurred the arbitrary gender binary like Elizabeth did; no other female monarch publically declared that they had ‘the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too’. By analysing Elizabeth’s reign through the lens of genderfluidity, the truly genderless exercise of sovereignty in early modern England is made clear, and scholars can stop using Elizabeth’s gender as a way to demonstrate her apparent alterity.