"Only steers and queers come from Texas": The Texas sodomy statutes and the making of an other, 1860-1973

Jecoa L Ross, University of Texas at El Paso


This thesis explores the history of sodomy as it has been conceptualized through the creation and enforcement of the Texas sodomy statutes between 1860 and 1973. In analyzing state court cases, legislative records, and newspaper accounts, I argue that the evolution of the concept of sodomy from its inception as a broad criminal category in the 1860 Texas sodomy statute to its more-narrow conceptualization by Texas legislators as a behavioral characteristic of homosexual status in the 1973 homosexual conduct statute was a political and historically contingent process. This process was political firstly in that it allowed for the construction of political identities based on bodily practices, and secondly in that shifting conceptualizations of sodomy were strategically utilized by local law enforcement, judges, and state lawmakers in Texas in order to exert power and maintain control over different groups of people between 1860 and 1973. The politicization of sexual behavior and human bodies in Texas by way of the state’s 1860 and 1943 sodomy statutes was made possible through not just the ambiguity of sodomy, which I posit as part of a legacy of confusion surrounding sodomy, but also through a dualistic conceptualization of sodomy adopted in the legislature, at crime scenes, and in court rooms across the state: On one hand, sodomy was conceived as an act. On the other hand, sodomy was also conceived as a behavior—often attributed to a specific type of person who was prone to habitually committing acts of sodomy—or more specifically, as an identity. The distinction between an act of sodomy and sodomitical status is important because, unlike the former, the latter is connected to a process of Othering, producing what I call the sodomitical Other.

Subject Area

American history|Law|GLBT Studies

Recommended Citation

Ross, Jecoa L, ""Only steers and queers come from Texas": The Texas sodomy statutes and the making of an other, 1860-1973" (2016). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI10247435.