“Cross-Dressing for Empire: Transgender Performance at San Francisco's Bohemian Club, 1870s-1920s”
San Francisco’s elite, all-male Bohemian Club holds a lavish annual gathering at its rural retreat in the redwood forests of Northern California that is attended by some of the world’s most powerful men. Since the late 19th century, that gathering has been the scene of elaborate amateur theatrical productions staged by club members, which involve performances that cross boundaries of gender, race, and class. My talk explores the role these performances played in constructing white heteronormative masculine identities for club members in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I argue that modes of identification and embodiment produced through these club performance were integral to the expansion of an American Pacific empire—an empire largely built and administered by the club’s membership around the turn of the last century.