Queer News On Campus [QNOC] Articles Digest
For the week ending 2009.06.28
Brought to you by the Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals. http://www.lgbtcampus.org
Archives of the QNOC Digest can be found at http://queernewsoncampus.blogspot.com
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1. The State News - Struggling for same-sex equality
2. Inside Higher Ed - Fifty Years After Stonewall
3. Hartford Courant - Sexuality Issues: College Material?
1. The State News, June 23, 2009
435 E. Grand River Ave., East Lansing, MI 48823
Struggling for same-sex equality
By Brittany Shammas
Marriage is something urban planning graduate student Matt Earls says he’s always dreamed about. But for Earls and his boyfriend, public policy graduate student Paul Holland, marriage remains a dream in Michigan, where a 2004 amendment to the state constitution banned same-sex marriage.
“I guess I just don’t know why my same-sex preference is stopping me,” Earls said. “There’s just something about marriage that seems a lot more concrete than, ‘I’m in a relationship.’ I think it adds more stability.”
Holland and Earls, who have been dating for more than a year, are one couple out of thousands in Michigan hoping for a change to current restrictions on same-sex marriage. The couple said they are confident Michigan is headed toward equality.
Michigan’s 2004 vote to approve Proposal 2 created an amendment to the state’s constitution that defined marriage as between one man and one woman, making same-sex marriage illegal within the state.
The proposal was designed to protect families as the foundation of society, said Marlene Elwell, who helped draft it as director of Citizens for the Protection of Marriage. The basic unit of a family, which is the strength of a nation, has always been a man, a woman and their children, she said.
“A marriage is between only one man and one woman,” she said. “It doesn’t mean you have four women together and that defines a family. It’s been like that forever. It’s just that in recent years, people want to change that.”
Holland said although he understands the position of a person who doesn’t want to see a religious term used to define something against his or her beliefs, he doesn’t think it is fair for marriage to be tied to civil statute. The benefits that come with marriage should be available for everyone, regardless of their sexuality, he said.
“Since the word marriage is entwined in civil law, then civilly, everyone’s entitled to marriage,” he said.
Three years after the proposal was approved, MSU, which began offering domestic-partnership benefits to same-sex couples in 1997, was forced to change its policy in 2007, MSU Trustee Colleen McNamara said.
The former policy was illegal under the amendment to the constitution, she said. McNamara said MSU’s current policy, which now complies with state law, still has the effect of providing benefits to same-sex couples employed by the university.
Gary Glenn, president of the American Family Association of Michigan, which filed a suit against MSU for the same-sex benefits it offered, said offering benefits to same-sex couples equates their relationship with marriage, which is unconstitutional.
“The only thing states can recognize as a marriage is the union of one man and woman,” he said. “(That union) is a role-model relationship for each successive generation of children.”
Since Proposal 2’s approval, all Michigan legislation promoting benefits for gay people has occurred at the county and township level, said Julie Nemcek, co-director of Michigan Equality. Twenty percent of the state’s population now resides in areas where ordinances prohibit housing and employment discrimination on the basis of sexuality, she said. Rep. Pam Byrnes, D-Lyndon Township, recently announced plans to introduce legislation to overturn the ban on same-sex marriage in Michigan. Byrnes could not be reached for comment.
The greatest progress made toward same-sex benefits in Michigan and in the nation as a whole are changes in the prevailing attitude toward gays, Nemcek said. The public has developed a greater understanding of gay people and relationships, she said.
Twenty years ago, Holland said some people still used the word “degenerate” to describe a gay person. Now, he said, the word is recognized as inappropriate. Progress toward equality is under way, even though it is moving slowly, Holland said.
“Our country, even through hiccups and starts, has become more equal over time,” he said. “In the next 10 years, I’m pretty confident gay marriage will be in Michigan. I think we’re headed in that direction.”
MSU social science professor Stephanie Nawyn said as more gay individuals feel comfortable coming out, the public grows more understanding of the importance of gay rights, she said. “More people now know they have friends, they have family members who are gay and lesbians and what that’s done is made people see they aren’t crazy or sex-crazed, they’re people that they know, they’re people they love,” she said.
“That has done a tremendous amount to change people’s attitudes toward gay marriage.”
Research now indicates most Americans think gay couples should be allowed to visit each other in the hospital and inherit each other’s estates, and more than half support some form of same-sex marriage, Nawyn said.
In the past 10 years, six states have legalized same-sex marriage and three have created provisions for partnerships, said Michael Craw, an MSU professor in James Madison College. Beginning with Hawaii in 1993, the movement to extend marriage to same-sex couples has taken off in recent years, he said.
Iowa was the most recent state to legalize gay marriage in April, joining Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts and Connecticut, he said.
In the long run, the outlook is positive for same-sex marriage, as exposure to and acceptance of gay men and women has expanded nationwide, Craw said. Nawyn said people who have friends or family members who are gay are more likely to be open to same-sex marriage, using former Vice President Dick Cheney as an example. Cheney, whose daughter is a lesbian, now supports same-sex marriage, she said.
“These are people who sit at your dinner table,” she said. “As it has become more acceptable, people become more open to allowing them the same rights — and marriage is just one of those.”
But the issue will play out at the level of each individual state, Craw said.
In Michigan, if the issue of same-sex marriage could return to the ballot, Elwell said she would be prepared to fight again to keep marriage between a man and woman.
Holland said although he doesn’t think Michigan will legalize same-sex marriage by the time of the next election cycle, it could be possible within six years. He and Earls have discussed marriage, and would be disappointed to have to leave the state if they decided to get married before the state makes marriage legal.
“Both of us were born and raised here, we’ve gone to school here,” Holland said. “We both have pride in our state and we love our state. It’s not only inconvenient, but it’s nothing that weighs us down. We just wish it wasn’t that way … It’s something you hope for.”
2. Inside Higher Ed, June 24, 2009
1320 18th Street NW, 5th Floor, Washington, D.C. 20036
Fifty Years After Stonewall
By Scott McLemee
When the police conducted a routine raid on the Stonewall Inn, a bar in Greenwich Village, during the early hours of June 28, 1969, the drag queens did not go quietly. In grief at the death of Judy Garland one week earlier, and just plain tired of being harassed, they fought back -- hurling bricks, trashing cop cars, and in general proving that it is a really bad idea to mess with anybody brave enough to cross-dress in public.
Before you knew it, the Black Panther Party was extending solidarity to the Gay Liberation Front. And now, four decades later, an African-American president is being criticized -- even by some straight Republicans -- for his administration’s inadequate commitment to marriage rights for same-sex couples. Social change often moves in ways that are stranger than anyone can predict.
Today the abbreviation LGBT (covering lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender people) is commonplace. Things only become esoteric when people start adding Q (questioning) and I (intersex). And the scholarship keeps deepening. Six years ago, after publishing a brief survey of historical research on gay and lesbian life, I felt reasonably well-informed (at least for a rather unadventurous heteroetcetera). But having just read a new book by Sherry Wolf called Sexuality and Socialism: History, Politics, and Theory of LGBT Liberation (Haymarket) a few days ago, I am trying to process the information that there were sex-change operations in Soviet Russia during the 1920s. (This was abolished, of course, once Stalinism charted its straight and narrow path to misery.) Who knew? Who, indeed, could even have imagined?
Well, not me, anyway. But the approaching anniversary of Stonewall seemed like a good occasion to consider what the future of LGBT scholarship might bring. I wrote to some well-informed sources to ask:
“By the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, what do you think (or hope) might have changed in scholarship on LGBT issues? Please construe this as broadly as you wish. Is there an incipient trend now that will come to fruition over the next few years? Do you see the exhaustion of some topic, or approach, or set of familiar questions? Or is it a matter of a change in the degree of institutional acceptance or normalization of research?”
The responses were few, alas -- but substantial and provocative. Here, then, in a partial glimpse at what may yet be on the agenda for LGBT studies.
Claire Potter is a professor of history at Wesleyan University. In 2008, she received the Audre Lorde Prize for “Queer Hoover: Sex, Lies, and Political History,” an article appearing in Journal of the History of Sexuality.
One of the changes already underway in GLBTQ studies is, ironically, destabilizing the liberation narrative that begins with Stonewall in 1969 and ends with the right to equal protection in Romer v. Evans (1996). Part of what we know from the great burst of energy that constitutes the field is that the Stonewall Riot we celebrate as the beginning of the liberation movement is not such a watershed, nor is the affirmation of equal protection the end of the story.
For example, I begin the second half of my queer history survey with Susan Stryker’s “Screaming Queens: The Riot at Compton’s Café” documenting a similar San Francisco rebellion in 1966, three years prior to Stonewall; I end with Senator Larry Craig being arrested in a Minneapolis men’s room. GLBTQ liberation is unfinished and becoming more complex as the research emerges that takes us on beyond Stonewall. But I would also add a caveat: Where are the transnational and comparative histories that are on the cutting edge in other fields, like ethnic studies, cultural studies, anthropology and women’s studies?
Just as significant, in my view, is that the greatest social stigma and official discrimination (not to mention inattention in queer courses and integration into the mainstream curriculum) is still aimed at the group we celebrate when we celebrate Stonewall, transgendered and transsexual people. This is an area where we need a lot of growth.
What I would like for transgender studies in 10 years is what is happening already in gay and lesbian history: placing the emergence of identities and the emergence of liberation struggles in a longer history that goes beyond the North American 20th century. Often senior scholars view trans history as “impossible” to write, a past without an archive other than interviews with the living. However, people said that about gay and lesbian history, African‑American women’s history and other new fields, and it always turned out not to be true.
Furthermore, I would argue that trans studies has a tenuous and often politically situational relationship to the GLB and Q of the field, and that needs to be addressed because the critical issues that are specific to trans studies are not being taken seriously in most curricula that claim to actually teach the field.
The final thing I would like to see by 2019 is graduate students writing dissertations in GLBTQ studies being honestly considered for regular old history jobs, rather than jobs in the history of gender: these young people are writing in legal history, urban history, the history of science, political history, medical history and whatnot -- and they are often only considered seriously for jobs in gender or women’s studies.
What pushes a field ahead is when young people can do important research, not be professionally stigmatized for it and know they can make a living as scholars.
Doug Ireland is a veteran political reporter covering both sides of the Atlantic. He is currently the U.S. correspondent and columnist for the French political‑investigative weekly Bakchich, and international affairs editor for Gay City News, New York City's largest LGBT weekly newspaper.
Sad to say, much of what comes out of university gay studies programs these days is altogether too precious, artificial and written in an academic jargon that is indigestible to most LGBT people. Reclaiming our own history is still not getting enough attention from these programs (witness Larry Kramer's long and ultimately failed fight to have the Larry Kramer Initiative he and his brother endowed at Yale become more history‑oriented and relevant).
The OutHistory website -- founded by superb, pioneering gay historian and scholar Jonathan Ned Katz -- desperately needs more institutional financial support to continue and expand its important work of creating the world's largest online historical archive of LGBT historical materials. OutHistory's innovative program to cooperatively and simultaneously co‑publish historian John D'Emilio's work on Chicago LGBT history in that city's gay newspaper, the Windy City Times -- a program which it also hopes to expand -- should be a model for the way gay studies programs can become more relevant to the majority of queers outside the hothouse of academe and to the communities by which our universities are surrounded.
We need to know where we've been to know where we should be going, yet there is still a paucity of attention paid to the history and evolution of the modern gay movement, to the death of gay liberation, with all its glorious rambunctiousness and radical emphasis on difference, and its replacement by what Jeffrey Escoffier has called the assimilationist "gay citizenship movement," which is staid, narrow‑gauge in its fund raising‑driven focus (on gay marriage and the like), and inaccurate in the homogenized, white, nuclear‑family‑imitative portrait of who we are that the wealthiest entities in the institutionalized gay movement present and foster.
One of my greatest criticisms of today's institutionalized gay movement is its isolationism. Our largest national organizations shun the concept of international solidarity with queers being oppressed in other countries, claiming their "mission" is only a domestic one. This is in sharp contrast to European LGBT organizations, where the duty of international solidarity is universal and a priority.
Gay studies programs should be encouraging more scholarship on the 86 countries which, in 2009, still have penal laws against homosexuality on the books, and in helping to give voice to the same‑sexers and gender dissidents in those hostile environments who have difficulty publishing in their own countries or where gay scholarship is banned altogether.
To cite just two examples, the ongoing organized murder campaign of "sexual cleansing" in Iraq being carried out by fundamentalist Shiite death squads with the collusion of the U.S.‑allied government is killing Iraqi queers every day, and the horrors of the Islamic Republic of Iran's violent reign of terror against Iranian LGBTs is driving an ever‑increasing number of them to flee their homeland ‑‑ gay scholars have a role to play in helping these people reclaim their history and culture.
Why is it that the most sensitive, rigorous, and complete account of the way in which homosexuality has been extensively woven into Persian culture in sophisticated ways for over 1500 years has just been published by a non‑gay historian, Janet Afary (Sexual Politics in Modern Iran, Cambridge University Press)? In the hands of Iranian queers, this book will become a weapon of liberation against the theocratic regime's campaign to erase that history and keep it from the Iranian people. University presses need to publish more work by queer writers from LGBT‑oppressing countries (as MIT and Semiotexte have just done with Moroccan writer Abdellah Taia's fine autobiographical novel Salvation Army).
In many countries, homophobia and homophobic laws are part of the legacy of colonialism, and were imported from the West. But where is the gay scholar who has developed a serious critique of and rebuttal to the homophobic conspiracy theories of Columbia University's Joseph Massad, who has invented a "Gay International" he accuses of being a tool of Western imperialism (Massad provides a theoretical framework utilized by infantile leftist defenders of Teheran's theocratic regime for attacks on those, including Iranians, who expose the ayatollahs' inhumane persecutions of queers and sexual dissidents)?
One small, concrete and simple but powerful gesture of international solidarity would be for gay studies programs to sponsor book donation drives to make gay history and culture available to those many queers in oppressed countries who thirst for it as they construct their own identities and struggle for sexual freedom. I can tell you from my own reporting as a journalist that making such knowledge available can save lives.
Let's hope that it won't take 10 years to have less artificial, picky intellectual onanism of the obscure theoretical variety and more gay scholarship that's accessible and relevant to people's lived lives and struggles, in other countries as well as our own.
Marcia M. Gallo is an assistant professor of history at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. In 2006, she won the Lambda Literary Award for her book Different Daughters: A History of the Daughters of Bilitis and the Rise of the Lesbian Rights Movement (Carroll & Graf).
In considering what I might wish to have changed by the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, a 25‑year old quote from Audre Lorde came to mind: “Somewhere on the edge of consciousness, there is what I call a ‘mythical norm,’ which each one of us knows ‘that is not me.’ In [A]merica this norm is usually defined as white, thin, male, young, heterosexual, Christian, and financially secure. It is within this mythical norm that the trappings of power lie within this society. Those of us who stand outside that power often identify one way in which we are different, and we assume that to be the primary cause of all oppression, forgetting other distortions around difference, some of which we ourselves may be practicing.”
By the time 2019 rolls around, we will need to have plumbed the depths of the “mythical norm” and revealed the “distortions around difference” that still separate the L from the G and the B as well as the T not to mention the Q and the I. In the next decade, I would hope that we deepen our understanding of, and mount effective challenges to, the seductiveness of normative values; question the conflation of equal rights with social justice; and celebrate the significance of queer inclusiveness, innovation, and radicalism.
Specifically, our scholarship must:
(1) acknowledge and analyze the continuing marginalization – and strategies for resistance ‑‑ of many queer people, especially those who are poor, homeless, currently or formerly incarcerated;
(2) restore the “L” -- meaning, give credence and visibility to the power of women’s experiences and leadership, still sorely lacking in our consciousness and in our publications;
(3) refocus on the importance of activism -- especially at local and regional levels, beyond the coasts -- to our research and writing.
Christopher Phelps, currently an associate professor of history at Ohio State University, will join the School of American and Canadian Studies at the University of Nottingham later this year as associate professor. In 2007 his paper “A Neglected Document on Socialism and Sex” appeared in Journal of the History of Sexuality.
I'd like to suggest that the interpretive problem of homosexuality and capitalism still cries out for exploration. John D'Emilio, David Halperin, and others have demonstrated that although same‑sex desire extends to the ancients, homosexuality is a modern phenomenon. As a sexual orientation or identity, homosexuality arose only with the individual wage labor and the separation of household and work characteristic of capitalism.
A mystery remains, though, for how did the very same mode of production that created the conditions for this new consciousness also produce intense compulsions for sexual repression? Why, if capitalism gave rise to homosexuality, are the ardent defenders of capitalism, whether McCarthyist or on our contemporary Republican right, so often obsessed with attacking same‑sex desire? How does capitalism generate both the conditions for homosexuality and the impulse to suppress it?
This relates closely to the modalities by which homosexuality and homophobia are to be found in the same minds, from J. Edgar Hoover and Roy Cohn in the 1950s down to the Ted Haggards and Larry Craigs of the present day. I believe this goes beyond self‑hatred. It speaks to a cultural ambivalence, one still present today. We live in a moment when capitalism is experiencing its deepest crisis in fifty years, even as the movement for gay acceptance seems to be advancing, if haltingly. The recent state approvals of gay marriage, for example, contrast markedly with Nazi Germany, where the economic crisis of the 1930s led to the scapegoating of gays forced to wear pink triangles. How to explain this contrast? In what ways is capitalism liberatory, in what ways constrictive?
Conversely, we need a lot more conceptual thinking about homosexuality and the left, by which I mean specifically the strand of the left that opposes capitalism. Many of the signal breakthroughs in what is now called the gay civil rights movement were the result of thinkers and doers who came out of the anti‑capitalist left, most famously the Mattachine Society and the Gay Liberation Front. This is also true of many lesser‑known examples, such as the Marine Cooks and Stewards, a left‑led union of the 1930s and 1940s that Allan Bérubé was researching before his death. (To topic‑seeking graduate students out there, by the way, Bérubé's project deserves a new champion, and we badly lack a definitive study of the GLF.)
To make such breakthroughs, however, gay leftists often had to break with the parties and movements that taught them so much and enabled them to recognize their own oppression. The founders of the Mattachine were men forced out of the Communist Party, which saw homosexuality as reactionary decadence. The libertarian left, both anarchist and socialist, broke free of the impulse for respectability, but such libertarian and egalitarian radicals were on the margins of the styles of left‑liberalism and Stalinism prevalent on the left at midcentury.
So this deepens the mystery, because it means that while capitalism generated homosexuality, it often takes radicals opposed to capitalism to push sexual liberation forward‑‑and yet sometimes they must do so against the instincts of the dominant left. We would really benefit from a deeper theoretical excavation of this set of problems.
3. Hartford Courant, June 28, 2009
285 Broad Street, Hartford, CT 06115
Sexuality Issues: College Material?
By Laurence Cohen & Gina Barreca
Gina, it's not that I don't just love this column thing, especially the big bucks and limo and stuff, but I'm disappointed I didn't get my dream job: director of Yale's new Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Community.
The job went to the director of undergraduate studies in the Women's Gender and Sexuality Studies program. Who would have thought?
If Yale really wanted to welcome "diversity," it should bring back ROTC and create the office of Cigar-Smoking, Genital-Scratching, Straight Men Who Would Prefer That the University Spend Precious Resources on Academic Achievement Instead of Pretentious Symbolism.
Short of that, why not at least put someone detached, neutral and curious in charge of the Office of Sexual Confusion, instead of the head of the department of women and gender and sex stuff?
Even at a politically correct Ivy League university, won't there be sighs and eye-rolling at the notion that anyone claiming a sexual idiosyncrasy is a fragile flower in need of an "office" to watch over them while doing their homework?
A few years back, Dartmouth's Office of Institutional Diversity offered up some suggestions to the school's oppressed minorities on how to express themselves when confronted by "cultural insensitivity." My favorite Dartmouth suggestion: "I don't want to take your comments/terms out of context. Do you mean to suggest that women/minorities/gays ...?"
I hope the new Yale office does something helpful like this, because God forbid women and gays should have to talk to the rest of us without a script.
You think women and gays have not learned to be experts in improv, Larry?
Wait, wait. I can't type and laugh — just a second.
You're the one with the script, Larry baby. You're just mad because it's outdated.
You're just grumbling and crabby because for three thousand years now you've convinced yourself it was "nature" or "human law" or "divine decree," and now you've realized you're dragging around a dog-eared copy of a cross between "The Iliad," "Paradise Lost," "Father Knows Best," "Dobie Gillis" and "Two and a Half Men."
Your script is looking a little dusty.
Women, gays, minorities — any disenfranchised group — we ALWAYS knew you were carrying the playbook. But because you were also carrying the torch, the arrow, the bankbook and also had the ability to burn us at the stake, we sort of kept the giggling and sly remarks to ourselves.
As one of the first women at Dartmouth back in 1975, I got asked a lot of what would now be considered politically incorrect questions by my male peers. I was told, for example, that when their grandfathers attended the college, there were no women. I explained that when their grandfathers attended the college, there were no indoor lights — some things get better.
Yet when I was asked by boys who REALLY didn't have a clue whether I was attending a "man's school" because I was "a lesbian," I didn't even know how to BEGIN to answer. Should I explain the improbability of their reasoning?
Then a gay friend of mine cribbed a line from activist Flo Kennedy, who, when asked by hostile guys whether she was a lesbian, always answered, "And are you my alternative?"
If Yale and Dartmouth — and UConn, for that matter — can help all people learn to respond to a stupid question with a smart answer, then these institutions can pat themselves on the back.
Gina, there is just something otherworldly about the Ivy League in particular, and "progressive" universities in general, carving up the population into ever-smaller slivers of victims for purposes of pretending that every race, color, creed, nationality and sexual confusion needs an academic department and a university bureaucracy to call their very own.
Even as we speak, Harvard is proudly posturing about its spanking brand new endowed chair in, you guessed it, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender studies.
How do you like them apples, dumb old Yale?
It's what California State University Professor Emeritus Victor Davis Hanson calls "therapeutic curriculum" — academic fancy dancing that's designed to make everyone feel good, but not necessarily to educate them about anything worthwhile.
A detached, neutral, objective, broad-based study of history, philosophy, politics and literature would allow sufficient time to explore the wardrobes of the transgendered while still maintaining the rigor of academic achievement that produces intellect and scholarship, not sob-sister symbolism.
Larry, I'll say this VERY SLOWLY so that YOU CAN FOLLOW MY ARGUMENT: There is NO NEUTRAL.
Life is not a car where you choose the gears. (Although, if it were, you would certainly be in reverse.) There is no "normal" — unless you're talking about the setting on a washing machine.
Part of what is crucial about education is to make apparent that everything we understand and learn is from a particular perspective. The fact that the sole perspective put forth as "objective" and representative of the best thought in the world has almost without exception been created by privileged straight white guys is — um, what, Larry? Just coincidence?
You don't think the game was rigged? You think rich, straight white men were the only ones who came to "truth" about history, philosophy, politics and literature? And so we need to keep studying that way, because that's how it was done in the neutral good old days when Dartmouth, Yale and Harvard were pure?
I'll speak slowly again: There is no entirely objective, no thoroughly "detached" approach to anything — even the word "detached" implies a thing from which one needs to become detached. That's something education teaches people, Larry. You might want to look into it.
•Gina Barreca is an English professor at the University of Connecticut and a feminist scholar who has written eight books. Laurence D. Cohen is a public policy consultant and a journalism instructor at the University of Hartford.
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