Queer/Race

UM tried to teach students how to be Gay. Fail.

Posted in Uncategorized by bblurbs on April 7, 2010

It’s about that time, kids, Registration time. Time to pick out your classes for next semester fall. While talking to one of my freshmen friends and recommending the Queer Race class for next year, I was surprised to find out the past controversy surrounding a “LGBT” class offered at the University of Michigan in 2000. The course (not offered at Maryland, THANK GOD) was an English class, called: How to be Gay: Male Homosexuality and Initiation.

The Course Description begins: “Just because you happen to be a gay man doesn’t mean that you don’t have to learn how to become one. Gay men do some of that learning on their own, but often we learn how to be gay from others, either because we look to them for instruction or because they simply tell us what they think we need to know, whether we ask for their advice or not….In particular, we will examine a number of cultural artifacts and activities that seem to play a prominent role in learning how to be gay: Hollywood movies, grand opera, Broadway musicals, and other works of classical and popular music, as well as camp, diva-worship, drag, muscle culture, taste, style, and political activism”.

 Huh? Am I missing something? This course is laughable to me. Since when does college offer courses teaching students to become homosexual? I thought we were supposed to be academic and getting degrees here, not learning how to be the poster child for homosexuals around the world. “Learn how to be gay” “Homosexual INITIATION”? I guess University of Michigan should also offer some classes on how to be “black”, how to be a “woman”, how to be distinctly hetero perhaps? What do you guys think? Opinons?

 According to other articles, the title and description were “misinterpreted”, saying that it doesn’t teach students how to be homosexual, but “examines critically the odd notion that there are right and wrong ways to be gay, that homosexuality is not just a sexual practice or desire but a set of specific tastes in music, movies, and other cultural forms — a notion which is shared by straight and gay people alike” (1). Hmm, I say, nice try. What were you thinking UM?

You can read (AND LAUGH) more about this course on the University of Michigan website. Click here: http://www.ns.umich.edu/index.html?BG/317descr

(1) http://www.simpletoremember.com/articles/a/gayhowtounivcourse/

Race and Sexuality à la the Socialist Worker

Posted in Uncategorized by cpeverley on February 20, 2010

The Socialist Worker is a newspaper and daily web site that describes itself as “presenting a wide array of left voices involved in today’s struggles and taking up today’s political questions.” Similar to the way in which Prof. Cruz-Malave presented 42nd St/ Times Square as a confluence of culture, race, and class under the sign of “gay,” the Socialist Worker unites under the umbrella of “leftist”/”socialist.”

Sherry Wolf (LGBT socialist activist who I think is awesome) discusses the judicial challenge on Prop 8, Perry v. Schwarzenegger. She talks about the irony of the fact that Olson and Boies (the challengers) plan to use the (essentialist) claim that sexual orientation is immutable and that, like racial minorities and religious groups, gays and lesbians should be treated as a “suspect class,” while the right wing is taking up the constructionist view. Also, she noted that Judge Vaugn Walker (who NOM is challenging because he is gay) ruled that the proceedings should be taped for YouTube, which I think is really cool!

South Carolina Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer made an absolutely horrendous statement comparing welfare recipients to stray dogs. A blogger talks about her frustration with the statement, and with the country’s lack of frustration with the statement, a phenomenon that she attributes to the lack of political representation of the poor.

This article discusses the media coverage of the group of “missionaries” who are in prison under investigation for kidnapping after trying to take Haitian “orphans” (two thirds of whom had at least one parent) to the Dominican Republic, with the intention of finding American, Christian adoptive parents for them.  The media is practically portraying the group as victims, and the blogger the role that cultural and religious imperialism play in the coverage of the situation.

I chose these three articles because although they are not directly related to each other, they all address the underlying ideologies and hegemonies that influence these current events. (In my experience, if there’s one thing that socialists do well and reliably, it’s identifying instances of hegemony!) Sherry Wolf points out the essentialist/constructionist conflicts in the trial of Prop 8, and thinks about how the success or failure of each ideological approach to the case could have long-lasting repercussions for LGBT people. The blogger of “It’s racism, and they know it” looks at the realities of identity politics and the non-unity of people under identities of “class,” the underlying assumptions that we make about the nature of activism and how it affects current movements, and at the relationship between race and class in politics.

The article about the “Christian Right kidnappers” goes beyond the logistics and legality of the situation and instead looks at the ways in which notions of cultural, economic, racial, and religious superiority affected the reaction to the situation. The blogger points out that the same action by, say, Muslim missionaries, would have been met with outrage at their audacity at seeking to convert young children in the wake of a natural disaster… which is exactly what the Christian missionaries tried to do. Because the missionaries were white, middle-class, American, and Christian, though, the media has almost embraced them as victims. This reaction to their actions reflects an underlying (or not-so-underlying) affinity of many Americans to have these kinds of imperialist impulses and feelings of cultural/racial/economic/religious superiority.