Monday, January 12, 2009

QNOC Digest 2009.01.04

Queer News On Campus [QNOC] Articles Digest
For the week ending 2009.01.04

Brought to you by the Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals.

Reminder: If you come across articles that should be included in the digest, please email a link to the article to

1. Edge Boston (Boston, MA) – Woman claims college 'turned' her gay
2. ASU News (Tempe, AZ) – ASU to enhance mental-health services through grant
3. Inside Higher Ed (Washington, DC) – 'Tricks of the trade'
4. The Modesto Bee (Modesto, CA) – Community briefing: New alumni group forms at UOP
5. The Berkshire Eagle (Pittsfield, MA) – School to host Queer Film Festival '09
6. Austin American-Statesman (Austin, TX) – Students working to grow UT's first gay fraternity

1. Edge Boston, December 30, 2008
46 Plympton Street, Boston, MA 02118
Woman claims college 'turned' her gay
By Kilian Melloy

A recent topic of discussion at conservative chat site Free an April, 2005 article from the Web site of a conservative talk-show host who interviewed a young woman, then in college, about her sexual orientation--from the perspective that college "taught" her to be gay.

The original article, which was posted at the Web site of The Dennis Prager Show on April 19, 2005, claimed that by "honoring" homosexuality--through media depictions of lesbians on the TV series "The L Word," for example--society was encouraging young people to "choose" homosexuality.

The item cited an article that appeared in McGill University's student paper. The article, by Anna Montrose, then a student at McGill, read, in part, "It's hard to go through four years of a Humanities B.A. reading [French intellectual Michae] Foucault and [UC Berkeley gender studies theorist Judith] Butler and watching [the lesbian-centered TV series] "[The] L Word" and keep your rigid heterosexuality intact."

Continued McGill's article, "I don't know when it happened exactly, but it seems I no longer have the easy certainty of pinning my sexual desire to one gender and never the other."

The item at the site for The Dennis Prager Show, which seemed to have been written by Prager, detailed how Prager interviewed McGill, finding her to be "a bright and articulate 22-year-old woman," and declaring of McGill, "She is a fine example of the type of thinking and behavior a homosexuality-celebrating culture--such as that at our universities--produces" for having put into print her questioning of her own sexuality.

In the transcript of the interview, Prager asked McGill, "So you and I both believe that how people behave sexually, including which sex they will engage with sexually, is largely determined by society and not by nature."

Answered McGill, "Yeah, I completely agree."

Noting that GLBT equality advocates claim that they are gay or lesbian by nature, rather than by choice, Prager said, "I don't believe [sexual preference is] fixed necessarily at all and neither do you.

Added Prager, "I have a heterosexual preference because my values tell me that male/female love is the ideal. You don't think it's the ideal. Is that fair?"

Responded McGill, "I think that it's one of many options."

Prager went on to say, "Thousands of years of Western civilization preferring male-female bonding leading to marriage and family is a good thing, and Anna feels that it's a bad thing. Is that totally fair? Or am I putting words in your mouth?"

Replied McGill, "I don't think it's necessarily preferable. I think that people should be able to make their own choices."

Prager asked McGill, "So you're saying that for thousands of years, Western society has been wrong for preferring male-female marital bonding."

McGill answered, "I only think it's wrong in that it limits other possibilities, which are equally good."

Prager went on to ask McGill whether she had had sexual experiences with other women, whether she had also had sexual experiences with men, and whether sexual experiences with each gender were equally meaningful.

McGill answered, "Well, there is definitely a difference, but they are also both meaningful."

Prager asked, "At this point, do you hope to marry one day?"

McGill replied, "I haven't really decided on that."

Prager responded, "You don't even have that hope? You haven't decided on the hope? I asked if you hoped, not if you decided."

McGill told Prager, "Well, hope would imply that that would be ideal. But I'm not going to say that getting married would be ideal.

"But I'm also not against marriage," McGill added. "I mean you get insurance benefits by getting married so I can definitely see a case where I would get married."

"For insurance benefits?" asked Prager.

McGill answered, "Yeah."

"That's why you would marry?" Prager inquired.

"And tax benefits as well," McGill responded. "It's very convenient."

The exchange was posted at Free for comment on Dec. 29 of this year.

The comments provoked by the article ranged from (evidently male) commentators assuring others in the thread that their own heterosexuality was not a choice, to a suggestion that young lesbians require "Repeated, videotaped exploitation" as a "course of therapy," to claims that homosexuality is "an acquired taste" and McGill had "simply become bisexual, and amoral."

One commentator wrote, " There is a difference between homosexuality and kinky. This chick is kinky."

Commented another, "After reading the transcript, she comes across as such a wet-brained window-licking idiot that I'm surprised they didn't open her mind to bestiality too."

Answered another, "The silver conservative women will continue to bear children, while this chicky obviously will not."

One participant wrote in to repeat the oft-asserted claim that if homosexuality were genetically determined, gays and lesbians would have long ago disappeared because they would not have reproduced.

This assertion was rebutted by the observation that in most societies throughout history, young people were forced into arranged marriages and pressured to have children.

Another correspondent wrote in with the speculation that variances in sexual orientation are a natural phenomenon, and compared gays with identical twins.

Higher education also came under attack, with some correspondents denouncing gender studies, and similar courses.

One sub-thread concerned whether college girls with no sexual experience in high school might discover they are lesbians in college, bringing at least one commentator in to insist that there is nothing wrong with girls getting through high school without having had any sexual experiences.

Taking note of McGill's comment that marriage is a good way to secure health benefits, one participant cracked, "I've got to show my wife this quote: The Meaning of Love."

2. Arizona State University News, December 30, 2008
Centerpoint Suite 416, 660 S. Mill Ave., Tempe, AZ 85281
ASU to enhance mental-health services through grant
By Julie Newberg

ASU was recently awarded a three-year $300,000 continuation of a grant to enhance mental-health services and suicide-prevention programs from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

The grant makes it possible for ASU to continue and expand suicide prevention efforts with the involvement of many departments across all four ASU campuses to address student mental-health needs through a proactive, preventive and crisis-response approach that specifically targets first-year students and other at-risk student populations.

Data from the 2006 American College Health Association – National College Health Assessment show that 94 percent of Arizona State University students sampled felt overwhelmed at least once during the school year. Seventy-three percent reported feeling very sad and 57 percent said they felt like things were hopeless. Forty percent felt so depressed at least once that they found it difficult to function. Nine percent reported seriously considering attempting suicide and one percent reported having made an attempt.

"It is easier for a young person's problems to go unnoticed when he or she is away at college and not under the eyes of parents, old friends and high school teachers," says Martha Dennis Christiansen, who is principal investigator for the project. Christiansen serves as Associate Vice President of University Student Initiatives and Director of Counseling and Consultation.

Students who leave home for college go through a time of transition when they establish their own identity, leave traditional support systems and experience a wide range of stressful situations.

"We know that first-year students tend to be at higher risk for a number of different problems," says Dan Schulte, a coordinator for the grant project and assistant director for training services at Counseling and Consultation. "Normal stresses are often experienced much more significantly."

Stress, sadness and depression may be factors that contribute to suicidal thoughts. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students behind accidents.

The grant funds awareness and skill-building training sessions that are offered to ASU "gatekeepers" such as community assistants and residential life administrators who are most likely to encounter students who are having problems. Staff members who work with campus minority populations such as American Indian, disabled, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and international students are also trained since these groups may be at risk as well.

"Of course stressors are not the same for everyone who is part of a minority group, but in general students who are members of a minority group face a greater level of stress in their daily lives simply by being who they are," Schulte says. "This grant helps address the needs of minorities and other special populations at ASU."

While efforts from the previous three-year grant focused on the Tempe campus, new money will be spent on preventive measures throughout ASU's four campuses.

Training efforts have already paid off with community assistants in residence halls feeling more confident in approaching students who are struggling or engaging in risky behavior.

"They're not always sure what to do. They don't want to pry," Schulte says.

After learning in training that it's OK to reach out to those in need, community assistants often find that the intervention is welcomed by students who may be overwhelmed by circumstances in life or mental illnesses such as clinical depression.

Students can also utilize an online personal wellness profile to assess their physical and mental health at In addition, a four-session workshop called "Think Different, Feel Better" helps students to better understand and manage their moods.

"It's been very successful for the students who have taken part in it," Schulte says.

Other collective factors involve making everyone in the ASU community aware of the risk of suicide and helping those students who need support.

"Suicide is a community issue. In order for a community to reduce suicide risk, we must work together toward that change. One step toward community action is becoming informed about suicide risk and protective factors. Other steps include integrating this knowledge into everyday actions such as making students feel welcome, guiding students into social groups that are supportive, noticing changes in student behavior, and directing students to counseling and other services when appropriate," Christiansen says.

For more information on wellness programs at ASU, go

3. Inside Higher Ed, January 2, 2009
1320 18th Street NW, Suite 500, Washington, D.C. 20036
'Tricks of the trade'
By Scott Jaschik

SAN FRANCISCO — Here's a shocker: The one-night stand may be being replaced by long-term monogamous relationships when it comes to sex at academic conferences. That was among the revelations Tuesday at a panel of the Modern Language Association devoted to conference sex. Well, actually it was devoted to theorizing and analyzing conference sex, although it was probably the only session at the MLA this year in which a panelist appeared in a bathrobe.

The annual meeting of the MLA has long been known (and frequently satirized) for the sexual puns and imagery of paper titles — even if many of the papers themselves are in fact more staid than their names would suggest. As the MLA meeting concluded on Tuesday, however, one session sought to put sex at academic conferences center stage. Drawing on literature, theory and experience, panelists considered not only the role of sex at conferences, but talked about identity, love and (perhaps more timely to many MLA attendees) the dismal academic job market.

Many presenters at the MLA use categorization to make their points, and this session was no exception. Jennifer Drouin, an assistant professor of English and women's studies at Allegheny College, argued that there are eight forms of conference sex (although she noted that some may count additional forms for each of the eight when the partners cross disciplinary, institutional or tenure-track/non-tenure track, or superstar/average academic boundaries).

The categories:

1. "Conference quickies" for gay male scholars to meet gay men at local bars.

2. "Down low" sex by closeted academics taking advantage of being away from home and in a big city.

3. "Bi-curious" experimentation by "nerdy academics trying to be more hip" (at least at the MLA, where queer studies is hip). This "increases one's subversiveness" without much risk, she said.

4. The "conference sex get out of jail free" card that attendees (figuratively) trade with academic partners, permitting each to be free at their respective meetings. This freedom tends to take place at large conferences like the MLA, which are "more conducive" to anonymous encounters, Drouin said.

5. "Ongoing flirtations over a series of conferences, possibly over several years" that turn into conference sex. Drouin said this is more common in sub-field conferences, where academics are more certain of seeing one another from year to year if their meetings are "must attend" conferences.

6. "Conference sex as social networking," where academics are introduced to other academics at receptions and one thing leads to another.

7. "Career building sex," which generally crosses lines of academic rank. While Drouin said that this form of sex "may be ethically questionable," she quipped that this type of sex "can lead to increased publication possibilities" or simply a higher profile as the less famous partner tags along to receptions.

8. And last but not least — and this was the surprise of the list: "monogamous sex among academic couples." Drouin noted that the academic job market is so tight these days that many academics can't live in the same cities with their partners. While many colleges try to help dual career couples, this isn't always possible, and is particularly difficult for gay and lesbian couples, since not every college will even take their couple status seriously enough to try to find jobs for partners. So these long distance academic couples, gay and straight, tenured and adjuncts, must take the best academic positions they can, and unite at academic conferences. "The very fucked-upness of the profession leads to conference fucking," Drouin said.

The idea that many academic couples have so little time together that they need academic conferences to see one another suggests a broader comparison, she said. "Conference sex is a metaphor for life in the academy: One takes what one can get when one can get it."

Ann Pellegrini, associate professor of performance studies and religious studies at New York University, was the panelist who presented while in a bathrobe (although it should be noted in fairness that she wore it over her clothes). While Pellegrini was playful in her attire, her serious talk — which brought knowing nods in the audience — was about how literature scholars' infatuation with books and ideas is, for many of them, the first love that dare not speak its name. "For many of us, books were our first love object."

What is "the passion that compels us to a specific author," she asked, or the genre that "makes us hot?"

For many academics, part of growing up was getting strange looks from friends or family members who couldn't understand all that time reading, and who continue to not understand as a graduate student devotes years to analyzing passages or an author's story.

These kinds of passions lead to books that are in some ways "annotated mash notes." But however much passion academics feel for the works they study, their devotion doesn't fit into the categories of "recognized intimacy" society endorses. At the MLA conference, with its sessions and parties devoted to this or that subfield, such passions are to be expected, but not elsewhere.

And Pellegrini noted that this separateness from society extends beyond the initial connection between budding scholars and some book or set of ideas. Academics are regularly "accused of speaking only about ourselves," she said. "But when we venture out into public square," and try to share both their knowledge and beliefs, "we are accused of being narcissistic" and of speaking only in "impenetrable jargon."

Milton Wendland of the University of Kansas linked the jargon and exchanges of academic papers to academic conference sex. The best papers, he said, "shock us, piss us off, connect two things" that haven't previously been connected. "We mess around with ideas. We present work that is still germinating," he said. So too, he said, a conference is "a place to fuck around physically," and "not as a side activity, but as a form of work making within the space of the conference."

At a conference, he said, "a collegial discussion of methodology becomes foreplay," and the finger that may be moved in the air to illuminate a point during a panel presentation (he demonstrated while talking) can later become the finger touching another's skin for the first time in the hotel room, "where we lose our cap and gown."

For gay men like himself, Wendland said, conference sex is particularly important as an affirmation of elements of gay sexuality that some seem to want to disappear. As many gay leaders embrace gay marriage and "heteronormative values," he said, it is important to preserve other options and other values.

"Conference sex encounters become more than mere dalliance and physical release," he said. It is a stand against the "divorcing physicality from being human, much less queer," he said.

Of course, not every sexual exchange at an academic conference ends with both parties happy. Israel Reyes, an associate professor of Spanish at Dartmouth College, noted that some of the sex (or attempts to get sex) at academic conferences is sexual harassment.

Reyes devoted most of his paper to a critique of Jane Gallop's 1997 book, Feminist Accused of Sexual Harassment (Duke University Press), which recounts accusations that Gallop harassed two graduate students. Gallop has written frankly of her sexual relations with her professors and students. The University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, where she teaches, cleared her of the harassment charges, but found that in one case, her relationship with a graduate student was inappropriate.

The charges against Gallop, Reyes noted, came out of an incident that included banter and kissing at … an academic conference, and this is no coincidence, he argued. Generally, Reyes praised Gallop for questioning some widely accepted definitions of harassment, but he said she was "less perceptive" when writing about herself, and the reasons that may have led the graduate students to complain about her.

One irony of the panel was that participants (and others at the MLA) said that the meeting has become less outrageous over time, and that there are far fewer of the sexually suggestive paper titles than used to be the case. And this year, there can be no doubt that the sex panel was not the norm — what with lots of discussion of classroom reforms, faculty life, the latest research, the job market, and so forth.

But at the panel on conference sex, Daniel Contreras of Fordham University lamented the lack of excitement at the MLA of late, recounting how two meetings ago, he was at a session where one of the speakers scolded audience members who had been talking during the session. The scolding was "the most exciting moment I had had at the MLA in years," he said. "Did eight years of Bush drain away any energy we might have had for intellectual exploration?" he said.

To show how dull things have become, Contreras quoted from a Junot Diaz novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, in which a character is being beaten up by two goons. Describing the senseless pain and savagery, Diaz offers a comparison: "It was like one of those nightmarish 8 a.m. MLA panels: endless."

Contreras asked, "How did it come to this?" And he suggested that some freedom and outrageousness is a good thing for the MLA. "It seems evident to me that there has been a lull at our conference," he said. "My experience in the profession has been that there was always something we could gawk or at least giggle about while reading through the catalog: they are doing a panel on that?"

Now, he added sadly, "not so much."

The panel was simply called "Conference Sex" in the MLA program, not—as an organizer quipped it might have been named—"Tricks of the Trade."

4. The Modesto Bee, January 2, 2009
1325 H Street, Modesto, CA 95352
New alumni group forms at UOP
Community Briefing

A newly formed Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender club for alumni of the University of the Pacific will host its first reception Jan. 24 in Stockton. The Pacific Pride Alumni Club also has tentative plans for a second reception on Alumni Weekend, June 26, 27 and 28. The club's mission statement says it will provide support to students and graduates and work to improve the climate on campus for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students and alumni. The club has 15 members. For more information about the club, call Corrie Martin at 946-2899 or visit the club's Web site,

5. The Berkshire Eagle, January 3, 2009
75 South Church St., P.O. Box 1171, Pittsfield, MA 01202
School to host Queer Film Festival '09
By Community

WILLIAMSTOWN — The Dively Committee for Human Sexuality and Diversity will present the Williams College Queer Film Festival 2009 from Jan. 16 through 22 at Images Cinema, 50 Spring St.

The highlight of the festival will be the Jan. 17 appearance of acclaimed writer, actor, and director John Cameron Mitchell to host the screening of his films, "Shortbus" and "Hedwig and the Angry Inch," and to DJ at a dance party following.

'Edge of Heaven'

The festival will start at 8 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 16, with "The Edge of Heaven," a 2007 Turkish-German film written and directed by Fatih Ak n, which won the Prix du scénario at Cannes.

At midnight, the South Hadley-based Come Again Players will present a traditional live-cast midnight screening of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show."

'Breakfast With Scot'

Saturday, Jan. 17, will begin with free coffee and donuts at 11 a.m., followed at 11:30 a.m. by the film, "Breakfast with Scot," a 2007 Canadian comedy about a retired ice hockey player turned sportscaster, whose quiet domestic life with his partner is disrupted when he becomes the legal guardian of his nephew.

'Hedwig and the Angry Inch'

Mitchell will be at the 4 p.m. screening of his 2006 film, "Shortbus," followed by a question-and-answer session and discussion. At 9 p.m., his 1998 cult classic, "Hedwig and the Angry Inch," will be shown, followed by dance party at The Log ,76 Spring St., with Mitchell as DJ.

'But I'm a Cheerleader'

On Sunday, Jan. 18, enjoy brunch at noon followed by a 1 p.m. showing of the 1999 satirical romantic comedy, "But I'm a Cheerleader," in which a high school girl discovers her true sexual identity when sent away to be "cured" of her homosexuality. To RSVP for the brunch, e-mail justin.

'Rag Tag'

On Monday, Jan. 19, "Rag Tag," the 2006 seriocomedy by Adaora Nwandu, will screen at 8 p.m., and on Tuesday, Jan. 20, two documentaries — "Saving Marriage: The True Story of the Massachusetts Fight to Save Marriage Equality" (2006) and "Be Like Others/Transsexual in Iran" (2008) — will be shown at 7 and 8:45 p.m., respectively, in a one-admission double bill.


The festival will conclude with the 2007 "Y," the story of an intersex teenager, at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 21 and "The Bubble/Buah, Ha," a 2007 film about a group of 20-somethings sharing life, love, and a tiny apartment in modern day Tel Aviv, at on Thursday, Jan. 22, at 8 p.m.

Tickets for all screenings will be available from Images starting Monday, Jan. 5. Regular ticket prices apply. The films are free for Williams College students with ID. Information: 458-1039.

This year's festival is sponsored by The Rainbow Times, the region's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) newspaper.

The Williams College Dively Committee for Human Sexuality and Diversity strives to develop an understanding of human sexuality and sexual orientation and their impact on culture through a broad array of programming that explores issues relating to gender difference, sexuality, homosexuality, and feminism, and that encourages a respect for and awareness of human sexuality and diversity.

6. Austin American-Statesman, January 5, 2009
P.O. Box 670, Austin, Texas 78767
Students working to grow UT's first gay fraternity
By Jazmine Ulloa

When graduate student Armando Sanchez first entered the University of Texas at Austin as a freshman, he didn't think fraternity life was for him.

Latino, gay and somewhat introverted, he didn't think he fit the mold of the typical pledge at the traditional predominantly white fraternities on campus. UT also has Greek organizations that are largely Latino, but Sanchez said he didn't think he could be himself and still fit in because of his sexuality.

Then he heard that a group of students planned to start the first gay and bisexual fraternity chapter at UT — and one of only two in Texas. The other is at UT-El Paso.

Russell van Kraayenburg, a senior in radio-television-film, helped launch the fraternity, Delta Lambda Phi, after researching the national organization online and talking about it with his two closest friends. The three worked over the summer to become a "colony" of Delta Lambda Phi, the nation's largest and oldest fraternity organization for gay and bisexual men.

They will become an official fraternity chapter after initiating three pledge classes. They inducted their first class in November. Sanchez, 22, was among the first seven members.

"For most gay and bisexual men, it's hard growing up, especially if your family is not open or accepting to the idea of you being in love with a man if you're a man. Those family ties can be lessened or severed at the worst," Sanchez said. "In the gay community there is already a sense of artificial family. But in a fraternity, you have a brother who you can call a brother and know that you can count on him for anything. I think that's very reassuring when you have grown up feeling alone and isolated based on your sexuality."

Van Kraayenburg and the other members said they wanted to break the stereotype of the traditional fraternity and create a more inclusive brotherhood, open to gay, bisexual and straight men.

"That's part of the goal of fraternities: You bond with these men who become your brothers because you share similar circumstances and processes," van Kraayenburg, 22, said. "Coming out can be a very difficult process, or coming out as an ally or showing support for the queer community can be difficult and isolating. So a brotherhood would give us all a place to be 100 percent ourselves, comfortably, naturally, just ourselves."

Since September, the members have met weekly at restaurants, cafes and other places near campus. It's too soon to begin thinking about buying a house, said Joe Anderson, who helped launch the local chapter. They are focused on reaching out to students this semester to form their next pledge class.

"We are just excited to get the ball rolling," Anderson said. "Our main goal is to serve as a resource and as mentors" to incoming students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer.

UT has a number of groups for gay, bisexual and transgender students, but the Delta Lambda Phi members say going through an initiation process to become a brother forms stronger bonds.

"There's no doubt that some people think that this might be the wrong way to go about it or might think that there is no reason we should even be participating in a Greek system," van Kraayenburg said. "But I think those individuals think that the Greek system is flawed in general, and I don't think so at all. I think the Greek system and the chance to become a brother or sister with a group of people is an amazing process."

They're not the first at UT to seek the connections and support system a fraternity can provide outside of the traditional Greek organizations.

The first Jewish fraternity at UT formed in 1929. The first African American fraternity arrived in 1960 — five years after UT began desegregating. The first Latino fraternity at UT formed in 1986, and Asian fraternities followed in the 1990s.

Compared to the more established fraternities, most of these fraternities charge lower dues and can rarely count on their young local alumni bases for financial support. They tend to charge in the range of $100 to $250 per semester, while older fraternities charge from $2,000 to $5,000 per semester.

They also struggle to find members because they draw on a smaller pool of students.

"Money is always a huge issue that I don't think a whole lot of people really respect," said Adrian Barrera, president of Sigma Lambda Beta, a predominantly Latino fraternity at UT. "We don't pay a whole lot of dues, so it's up to us to make the money, to raise the funds to do the events we want to do."

The members of Delta Lambda Phi said they're focused on planning community service projects centered on raising sexuality awareness on campus and want to begin a mentoring program for gay and bisexual high school students to help them deal with some of the issues fraternity members faced when they were younger, Anderson said.

Van Kraayenburg plans to apply to a culinary school in New York City this year, but first he wants to build Delta Lambda Phi's membership. He will not lose touch with his new fraternity brothers, he said.

"I would not have known four of these men had I not started this fraternity, had we not all worked together," he said. "They are some of the greatest people I've met with some of the greatest stories I've heard."


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