Celebrating a Decade of LGBTQ Scholarship; or What CLAGS Means to Me

Where were you in 1991?
Iwas in San Francisco, working with high school students on
civil rights and civil liberties issues. I remember that, no matter
what the stated topic of discussion in classroom presentations
or individual conversations after meetings, one of the questions
that always came up was that of sexuality and sexual orientation
– mine, theirs, the fear and shame felt by queer students, the
sense of confusion shared by all. In searching out resources for
lesbian/gay/bisexual/ transgender young people, I learned about
a “think tank” for lesbian and gay studies that had been
established in New York. The awareness that such a thing as the
Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies had been established at the
largest metropolitan university system in the nation was in and of
itself a wonder. The fact that CLAGS not only sponsored
conferences, provided funding for queer scholarship, and
promoted the development of LGTBQ Studies but also reached
out to our various queer communities made me excited and
hopeful. It was a sign that things were, indeed, changing — that
the gay high school students I was working with would not be
doomed to isolation or marginalization as they moved into the
world of higher education.
And now, in 2000, CLAGS is going strong. On the eve of
our Tenth Anniversary, I’m honored to be part of it, working with
dedicated staff and board members to insure the organization’s
strength and growth in the future. As members and donors, you
are also a crucial part of this groundbreaking achievement, this
institutional insurance policy against invisibility and illegitimacy.
Ten years ago, a small group of forward-thinking men and
women led by Martin Duberman developed the first universityaffiliated
center for queer scholarship in the US. They recognized
that support for such work meant money, and so they established
important (and still rare) fellowships and awards. They also
recognized that “support” meant providing a space for new and
emerging work to be presented and critiqued, and so they
established a series of accessible colloquia and conferences open
to the public. They knew that there would need to be an office,
and staff, to field questions from throughout the country (and
world) on all sorts of subjects related to LGTBQ history, politics,
and culture. Since 1991, CLAGS has done all of this and more.
By early December 2000, over 70 people had applied for
one of CLAGS’s four fellowship awards, an increase from last
year’s applicant pool. Over the course of this year, we presented
more than 25 colloquia, lectures, or presentations at no charge.
Our Seminars in the City program, also free and open to the
public, tackled issues of Queer Latino/a Sexualities and Identities
in the spring and looked at Gay Economics this fall. We
organized a thought-provoking weekend conference on religion,
sexuality, and the values of citizenship. We continued working
with NYU Press to publish new works through the collaborative
Sexual Cultures book series. Executive Director Alisa Solomon and
NYU’s Carolyn Dinshaw co-facilitated another successful series of
Pedagogy Workshops, which this term looked at issues like erotics
in the classroom, integrating LGTBQ materials, and the queer
canon. Our dedicated, part-time staff responded to hundreds of
telephone calls, letters, emails and other requests for information
and referrals. Board members continued organizing queer
students on CUNY campuses, and plans are well underway for
the second annual Queer CUNY conference in March, 2001.
Amid all of this, we’ve been working even harder to raise the
monies necessary to support the programming CLAGS prides
itself on producing.
None of this could have happened without your financial
support. Whether you renew your membership or give an
unrestricted gift to CLAGS to commemorate our Tenth
Anniversary, or do both, your contribution will help insure the
continuing viability of one of our communities’most important
and innovative institutions. CLAGS receives very little financial
support, roughly 15 percent, from the constantly-besieged CUNY
system. Individual contributions – in the form of memberships
and donations – are what we rely on.
This year, your gift can do even more. In honor of our
Tenth Anniversary, CLAGS is the recipient of a challenge grant
from the Paul Rapoport Foundation. This means that any new or
increased contributions will be doubled. This funding offers us a
special opportunity to make the most of our celebratory year. We
hope that you’ll help us to make the most of it.
Now is the time to renew your membership or join if you’re
not a member, send an extra gift, and encourage your friends
and colleagues to do the same. In addition to the appreciation all
of CLAGS’s supporters receive, donors of $250 and above will
also receive one of the books from CLAGS’s Sexual Cultures series
through NYU Press (there are now five titles).
The last 10 years have been exciting and challenging for all
of us. Let’s make sure that CLAGS is there for the next generation
of LGTBQ teachers, students, and activists.

Marcia Gallo
For the CLAGS Development Committee