Emerging Fields of Study

When I learned that CLAGS had secured an interdisciplinary program in Lesbian and Gay
Studies and that the first course, An Introduction to Lesbian and Gay/Queer Studies, was to be
offered in the Fall, I knew that I wanted to be in what I conceived as the first step in a much
larger offering and celebration of critical ideas and counter-hegemonic discourse. I thought: finally, I
won’t be the only student reading and thinking from a radically left, feminist, lesbian, perspective — not
that all of these four leanings must in any way accompany the position of lesbian, gay or queer, or for
that matter, accompany any person entering this class, they just do for me, and thankfully, I wasn’t the
only whatever-it-is-that-I-am sitting at the table.
This introductory course brought to that table a wide array of people, all from extremely different
and varied backgrounds, with many different expectations. I think most of us had many, but not all, of
our expectations filled. One may think that in a course such as this that all the participants are starting
from the same page, but this was not, nor will it thankfully ever, be the case. There were some students
who had not engaged with queer theory, others who had relished in it for many years; a few students
had previously come to see Audre Lorde as their foremother, while others had not considered (or
discussed on a scholarly level) radical lesbian politics or queer motherhood. This class was an official first
step in scratching the surface of a visible academic movement that has been growing strong in ideas,
theory and activism for over 20 years; it is not enough to end here, to offer one course per term, or let
movements wither; this space is integral and must continue to be carved out.
This course also served to illustrate the interest, desire, and
commitment that students, faculty and a large body of scholars have in
the study of LGTBQ issues. This interest can be the basis for a clear
direction that should be taken in the interests of keeping the Graduate
Center, its faculty and students, and CLAGS on the cutting edge of
educational opportunities. If enough of us help push the idea of a
certificate program, this university will be offering a program that offsets
the CUNY-related reservations many of us have. There are universities
that offer an entire course on Foucault through a queer lens. While the
Grad Center has also offered intense LGTBQ courses, they have been
random and disconnected from each other. A certificate program would
help connect such courses, and help build the demand for many more
of them. There could be entire courses on any number of the issues we
had time only to touch on in the Intro course: on heteronormative
conditioning, behavior and thought, or on the debates surrounding
identity politics and issues of performing sexuality and gender. We could
offer an intensely theoretical course framed within the postmodern and
postcolonial, and another based on social/political activist thought (in
the face of a capitalist dragon) as examined via the interdisciplinary
media of writing, art, film, education, and collectives; and another that
debates essentialist biological arguments with socially constructed
theories; and yet another on how ethnicity, gender, class and sexuality intersect along multiple lines of
difference. And get this: these courses would fill up with idea-driven people.