Beans Velocci wins John D'Emilio LGBTQ Dissertation Award from the Organization of American Historians

April 4, 2022

The Organization of American Historians has presented Beans Velocci with the John D’Emilio LGBTQ History Dissertation Award for the best Ph.D. dissertation in U.S. LGBTQ history

Beans Velocci, University of Pennsylvania, “Binary Logic: Race, Expertise, and the Persistence of Uncertainty in American Sex Research” (dissertation completed at Yale University, with advisers Joanne Meyerowitz and Joanna Radin). The recipient of this year’s John D’Emilio LGBTQ History Dissertation Award is Beans Velocci for their brilliant dissertation, “Binary Logic: Race, Expertise, and the Persistence of Uncertainty in American Sex Research.” This archivally rich, theoretically dense, conceptually imaginative, and beautifully written dissertation studies American scientists’ research into sex between the midnineteenth and mid-twentieth centuries. In sparkling prose, Velocci uncovers the complex ways researchers in areas such as zoology, eugenics, and trans medicine took pains to advance ideas about binary sex—often in contrast to the uncertainty of sex in the very subjects they studied—to naturalize sexual taxonomies. In four tight chapters, Velocci reveals both the stubborn insistence upon binary sex across a century of scientific research and the fundamental instability of the objects of scientific study. Balancing thrilling reevaluation of familiar figures such as Harry Benjamin with lesser-known experts, Velocci digs deep into the archives to cogently argue for the ideological investment in binary sex that calcified pernicious ideas that continue to be taken for scientific fact. Velocci’s breathtaking dissertation makes a singular contribution to LGBT history, offering an energetic and constantly surprising contribution to scholarship on sex, science, and U.S. history.