1. Janet E. Halley, “'Like Race' Arguments,” in What’s Left of Theory?, ed. Judith Butler, John Guillory, and Kendall Thomas (London and New York: Routledge, 2000), 64.[return to page 1 of essay]

2. Richard Dyer, The Culture of Queers (London and New York: Routledge, 2002), 7.

3. I take this formulation from Kobena Mercer, Welcome to the Jungle (London and New York: Routledge, 1994), 132.

4. Richard Dyer, White (London and New York: Routledge, 1997), 89.

5. Susan Courtney writes, “…a history of white vision…cannot be read apart from the history of American cinema.” In Hollywood Fantasies of Miscegenation (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005), 4.

6. See Michael DeAngelis, “The Characteristics of New Queer Filmmaking: Case Study—Todd Haynes,” in New Queer Cinema, ed. Michele Aaron (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2004), 41-52.

7. Sharon Willis, “The Politics of Disappointment: Todd Haynes Rewrites Douglas Sirk,” Camera Obscura 54 (2003): 131-75.

8. Willis, “Politics,” 167.

9. Siobhan B. Somerville, Queering the Color Line (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2000), 4.

10. Ibid. Somerville explains that what distinguishes late 19th century sexologists’ construction of homosexuality from mid-20th century conceptions is a shift from defining homosexuality in terms of physiology or even physiognomy (the invert), to defining it in terms of object choice (the homosexual). See Chapter 1, “Scientific Racism and the Invention of the Homosexual Body,” 15-38.

11. Ibid., 39.

12. Kimberle Crenshaw, “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics,” University of Chicago Legal Forum (1989): 141.

13. Halley, “Like Race,” 46.

14. Siobhan B. Somerville, “Queer Loving,” GLQ 11.3 (2005): 337-8.

15. See Halley, “’Like Race.’”

16. Dyer, White, 20.

17. Dyer, Queers, 3.

18. Haynes is granted a certain exceptionalism among contemporary U.S. filmmakers because, as Lynne Joyrich explains, “his films implicitly position themselves as theoretical reflections, intertextual explorations, and self-referential critiques” and thus he is “often [treated] as a theorist and critic of his own text.” Lynne Joyrich, ‘Written on the Screen: Mediation and Immersion in Far from Heaven’, Camera Obscura 57 (2004): 212.

19. Dyer, Culture, 6-7. Also, Haynes stated in a 1993 interview that his films aim to “queer” representations of sexuality by disrupting notions of both heterosexuality and homosexuality, to mark both as interdependent constructs and thus reveal them as “strange.” In Justin Wyatt, “Cinematic/Sexual Transgression: An Interview with Todd Haynes,” Film Quarterly, 46.2 (1993): 8.

20. This is the character’s designation in the official screenplay (see next reference.)[return to page 2 of essay]

21. Todd Haynes, Far from Heaven, Safe, and Superstar: Three Screenplays (New York: Grove Press, 2003), 78.

22. Ibid., 78-9.

23. Ibid., 80.

24. Haynes mentions in the DVD director’s commentary that Eleanor’s reaction to Cathy’s admission of her crush on Raymond is less about Eleanor’s racism and more about feeling betrayed, because Cathy lacked trust in her when Eleanor initially confronted Cathy about the rumors. [return to page 3 of essay]

25. For a discussion on the ways in which a critical race perspective can challenge and reconceptualize the notions of “the closet” and “coming out” within queer theory and discourse, see Marlon B. Ross, “Beyond the Closet as Raceless Paradigm,” in Black Queer Studies, ed. E. Patrick Johnson and Mae G. Henderson  (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2005), 161-89.

26. Ross, “Beyond,” 161.

27. Willis, ”Politics,” 166.

28. Ibid., 165.

29. Ibid., 168.

30. Dyer, White, 13 (my emphasis.)

31. See also Willis’ conclusion, “Ultimately, the film disappoints its own logic because its structural analogy between racism and homophobia fails through its very visual organization. It cannot go beyond the boundaries it has set for Cathy in terms of racialized geography and spaces. And it can’t grant Raymond the independence it permits Frank, because it has not endowed him with a point of view,” “Politics,” 168.

32. See Stanley Fish, “Boutique Multiculturalism, or Why Liberals Are Incapable of Thinking about Hate Speech,” Critical Inquiry, 23.2 (1997): 378-95.

33. Cinematical.com. “Interview: Duncan Tucker, writer/director of Transamerica,”

34. Dorthe Troeften, “Trans/acting Truth: Narrating Transgender in Theory and Practice (Ph.D. diss., University of Minnesota, 2005).

35. I want to thank Colin Haines for pointing this scene out to me.[return to page 4 of essay]

36. Troeften, ”Trans/acting,” 12.

37. Linda Nochlin, “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?,”  ARTnews, January (1971): 22-39, 67-71.

38. See Mercer, Welcome, 221-32.


  • The following is a selected list of contemporary films in which racial difference discourse parallels and intersects with representations of both homosexuality and queerness.
  • Before Night Falls (Julian Schnabel, 1990): Based on the life of Cuban author Reinaldo Arenas, this film explores the theme of homosexuality alongside issues of class struggle in the form of the Cuban Revolution and racial difference in the form of Cuba’s slave past and racial diversity.
  • Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee, 2005): This blockbuster not only examines homosexuality in the context of the American West’s white world of rodeos, cowboys, and sheep herders, but it also positions Mexico as a gay sex tourist destination.
  • Capote (Bennett Miller, 2005): Particularly striking in this film is the way in which the character of Truman Capote conflates his own life with that of the Native American death row inmate Perry Smith’s, inviting Smith’s confidence by telling him that Smith’s family history is the same as his own.
  • Chutney Popcorn (Nisha Ganatra, 1999): This film centers on the issues of interracial romance between whites and Southeast Asians (straight and lesbian couplings), reproductive technology, and queer parenting.
  • The Family Stone (2005): while not a queer film, this romantic comedy features a gay, interracial couple, and the white gay male is also deaf. Thus in the film homosexuality, racial difference, and disability are presented as interlocking discourses.
  • FAQS (Everett Lewis, 2005): A kind of gay utopian vision in which all the “fags” and gender queers fight back against queer bashers. Central to this indie film is the figure of the black drag queen mother, who in queer mammy fashion is the mother of the house and the leader of the revolution. Similarly, Holiday Heart (2000) depends on the figure of the black drag mother as both the heart and conscience of the film.
  • Quinceañera (also known as Echo Park L.A., Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, 2006): This Sundance winner explores homosexuality and teen pregnancy against the backdrop of gentrification, in which middle-class white gay couples drive up prices and drive out the Mexican Americans who have lived in Echo Park for generations.
  • Philadelphia (Jonathan Demme, 1993): This groundbreaking film about AIDS and justice links those with AIDS to the discourse of racial segregation. The black lawyer Joe Miller takes on Andrew Beckett’s discrimination claim only after witnessing the ways in which Beckett’s treatment by the larger society resonates with the history of segregation.
  • Swoon (Tom Kalin, 1992): part of the New Queer Cinema movement, this film, based on the events of the sensational Leopold and Loeb child murder case, positions ethnicity (in this case, Jewishness), class, and sexuality as interlocking discourses.
  • The Wedding Banquet (Ang Lee, 1993): Ang Lee’s first gay themed film, it examines the point where homosexuality, heterosexuality, and interracial desire meet and cross over, against the backdrop of Taiwanese and Chinese immigrant communities in New York City.

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