Brian M. Watson

archivist-historian, researcher, linked:data

Tag: gender

A Brief History of “Folx”

[image is a screenshot of the word Folx and definition " n. Umbrella term for people with a non-normative sexual orientation or identity."]

[image is a screenshot of the word Folx and definition “
n. Umbrella term for people with a non-normative sexual orientation or identity.”]

This question has come up again and again on twitter so

I am here I am here with answers y’all, and to expand on my tweets there.

The most in-depth research was done by the team at, who define it as

“A variation on the word folks, folx is meant to be a gender-neutral way to refer to members of or signal identity in the LGBTQ community.” (

This definition hits on some important aspects–especially noting that it is a ‘signal.’

While some (quite silly) people declaim this sort of ‘performative language’ like it is a bad thing, or not genuine, I would argue the opposite: by using it (and using it genuinely) you’re showing that you’ve (hopefully) done some of the work and thinking about your own positionality. In the same way that one might talk about Black thinkers or activists. does note its very recent history

[image is a screenshot of’s page here]

This history is also copied here on Radical Copyeditors:


These are both pointing to a more recent history, but the term is older, originating from BiNet and GirlFags BBSes, as WordSpy notes most accurately:

2001 (earliest)
I resent it that some queer folx (primarily non-choice gay or lesbian folx) think I would just deny my queerness at the first sign of inconvenience.
—Clare, Queer By Choice, May 6, 2001
One fairly new mechanism for producing fresh lingo is to reduce the variant spellings of a word to a single term by replacing the changeable letter or letters with x. For example, instead of writing women or womyn some people just write womxn. Instead of the gender-specific latina or latino, some prefer the gender-neutral latinxDoes this explain the x in folx? Not quite. The x isn’t being used to consolidate multiple spellings, but multiple labels: gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, gender-variant, two-spirited, and others.

There you have it — folx is absolutely performative, and it has been embraced by multiple intersections, mostly those of a GSRM (Gender Sexuality and Relationship Minorities) background, but also by native folx to emphasize gender as colonial imposition.

IUB #critlib Reading Group Report

The first Indiana University Bloomington #critlib meeting was this past Monday evening. It was absolutely wonderful—I want to express how appreciative I am of how vulnerable, honest, and aware of their own perspectives and intersections each of the attendees were willing to be, as well as in receiving pushback  and comments.

Attendees included: Jessica Bigelow, Daphne Scott, Amy Martin, Kelsey Grimm, Brian M. Watson, Kyra Triebold, and Shelby Carroll.

Brian M. Watson was the discussion leader, and began with the following acknowledgements:

  • Bloomington is on the ancestral lands and homes of the Shawnee peoples, as well as other native groups, that made their homes and lives here. They were forcefully relocated by the US government in the 19th century.
  • Bloomington and southern Indiana was home to the chattel enslavement of Black men, women, and children, including by a president of the United States of America who supported the legalization of slavery.
  • Indiana was one of the last states to give women equal voting rights. Indiana continues to be a home of grossly homophobic and anti-queer laws and regulations.

We discussed the following articles:

  • Trippin’ Over the Color Line: The Invisibility of Race in Library and Information Studies 2005, Author(s): Honma, Todd:
  • Never Neutral Critical librarianship and technology By Meredith Farkas | January 3:

The following discussion topics were covered:

  • The incredible whiteness of technical and special collections—chemistry and archaeology were the fields mentioned here, with participants speaking to their own experiences.
  • The NAGPRA law and how few librarians seem aware that they might have to turn over their items as well:
  • The expense of following these laws—but how necessary it is.
  • Some libraries and museums put native and indigenous galleries side by side with their staffs. Should libraries do this? Should we ask this of people? Who do we ask? Why?
  • Concerns were raised about asking Black, Native American, or other minoritized individuals to always be the diversity person—to serve on committees, etc.
  • An example of this was given of a Native person asked to be a liaison to a community of Puerto Rican neighborhoods—and how blindly racist that question is.  
  • As white people (as the attendees all were) – what are our roles in this? How do we push back? Ideas offered included
    • Asking communities to help us—and compensation for their time
  • Another illustrative point was about IU’s Lilly Library and how uncomfortable that space could be for a minoritized individual—it’s Spanish Colonial, it has a log cabin building, but a number of racist books, and its funding (this was not intended as a slight on the Lilly, just a point about the architecture of IU).
  • What happens when a museum claims they can take better care of an item than the community? The attendees largely found this unacceptable. We talked about
    • Digital repatriation:
  • Neutrality is a good idea—but who does it bebefit? It benefits those in power who benefit from the status quo. There are some benefits in trying to educate and reach out—but if you let a patron espouse racist views, does that hurt other patrons? Some discussed how they would like to know where their librarian stood. Discussion was also had about how respected librarians were.
  • The feminized aspects of libraries—how often the public is surprised to find out that MLIS degrees require graduate school.
  • What is the hierarchy in librarianship? How do we do better?

Our next meeting will be Monday November 7th, 2019, at 6:30PM EST at Soma East, in Bloomington. Current and graduate MLIS students, current professional or staff librarians, and educators are welcome.

Please contact briwats (a t) iu . edu with any questions or to be added to the mailing list.

Where did the ideas of homosexuality and heterosexuality come from?

This was previously published here, on Pornhub’s Sexual Wellness and Education site.


Too often it is taken for granted that everyone in the world falls into the different camps of heterosexual/straight or homosexual/gay/lesbian. Whether it’s when you’re signing up for Facebook or a dating app, you’re asked to choose on the spot if you’re into men or women. It splits the sexual world down the middle.

Then there is “everyone else” on the sexuality spectrum – which includes groups who use terms as far-ranging as bisexual, asexual, or others that make people feel like they fall outside of the two ‘accepted’ sexualities and which can lead to struggles with identity. For a long time in the West, and still in many places in the world, it is not seen as okay to be homosexual – you’re only allowed to be straight.

But what if I told you that for the vast and overwhelming majority of the human race throughout history, and even throughout the history of Western civilization, this was not the case?

In fact, these ideas about sexuality are only about 150 years old—that’s a whole 100 years after the founding of the United States!

The terms heterosexual and homosexual weren’t even invented by a professional: they were first used by an Austrian poet in 1869 to describe people he saw as being perverts.  Our understanding of heterosexuality and homosexuality is overly dominated by a group of men working in the late 1800s that called themselves sexologists, including Sigmund Freud, Richard von Krafft-Ebing, and Havelock Ellis.

These sexologists believed that the only proper sort of sex was sex between an aggressive and dominant man, and a “normal and properly educated woman” who would ideally have no sexual desire of her own. According to them, any sort of sex that was not meant to make babies – fellatio, cunnilingus, masturbation, homosexuality, BDSM and anything else – was perverted and the people who practiced these activities were to be treated by psychologists. This is why today, we are sometimes scandalized by talking about these things or being interested in them, even though there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with them.

Before the sexologists, there was a much more casual acceptance of what we would call bisexuality, and very few defining factors or terminology when it came to sexual identity. Men who chose or preferred to sleep with other men would be seen as sinning against the church and some of the rules of society, that is true, but there was no such thing as homosexuality as it came to be understood – things fell more on a spectrum, like the Kinsey Scale.

It was seen as common that a child’s first sexual experiences might be with people of his own gender, or in the case of men, between an older man and younger boy. When puberty hit, and the boy became a man or a girl a woman, it was then that they were expected to perform like regular heterosexuals.

Not until 1895 with the trial of Oscar Wilde, was the idea of a “homosexual man” developed. After this period of time, there was a new understanding of homosexuals who had a homosexual identity, personality, and did exclusively what were categorized as homosexual activities (not just sexual). Wilde was seen as flamboyant, interested in interior design, acting like a woman, and everything a man should not be. This is where many of the stereotypes of a gay “type” of person came from.

At the turn of the 20th century, many psychologists and therapists saw homosexuality as a choice and as something that could be cured, and they tried all sorts of horrible ways to ‘fix’ people that were, in retrospect, not broken at all.

We have come a long way since the early 1900s, and have established that it’s completely normal to be homosexual or heterosexual,  and there is an increasing acceptance in society of people of different sexualities. We too often forget that these categories of homosexual and heterosexual are more or less made up or disproven ideas, and that there is a lot of room for the various flavors and types of sexuality out there!

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