It’s Time to Say Goodbye

It’s nearly ten years to the day – March 19, 1986 – that I gathered a small group of friends together in my living room to discuss the possibility of setting up a lesbian and gay research center. Out of that initial gathering, the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies was MARTIN DUB ERMAN born -though it took five years of mobilization and struggle before CLAGS became formally established, in April 1991, at the City University of New York Graduate School. From the beginning, CLAGS saw its mission as twofold: to increase the amount of reliable scholarship available on the lesbian and gay experience, and to disseminate that scholarship to a general public. And during the past five years, through a series of fellowships, publications, colloquia and conferences, CLAGS has become a vital centerpiece in the burgeoning new field of lesbian and gay studies. The time feels right for me to step down as Director. And for several reasons. CLAGS is on a sure footing, with (some) money in the bank, a large and loyal group of supporters, a dedicated staff and Board, and in the wings a gifted, seasoned new Director in Ji ll Dolan. A new generation needs to reconfigure CLAGS in its own image. And I need to reclaim more of my time for the research and writing that have always (unlike organizational work) centrally defined who I am. I have no (well, minimal) regrets about having given ten years of my life to CLAGS; the work had to be done, and I’m proud of our many accomplishments. But in truth, I’m a scholar-hermit by temperament, and the daily grind of organizational work has never been entirely congenial to me. And, sometimes, it has been downright unpleasant, particularly during those periods – inevitable in movement work – when internal factionalism develops, tempers fray and accusations fly. Yet such periods of self-scrutiny and criticism are, however painful, essential; they allow for new voices and agendas to emerge, they keep our organizations true to their stated purposes, and they ensure that those purposes will constantly be refined to meet shifting conditions and needs.

It has been a great privilege to be part of an enterprise that has done so much to challenge outmoded, stereotypic views of nonconforming gender and sexual behavior – and thereby, ultimately, to changing statutes, legal opinions, hearts and minds. I deeply thank the many thousands of you who have shared our sense of the importance of CLAGS’s work and have contributed time and money toward ensuring its continuance. I have the deepest confidence in those who are taking over the reins at CLAGS, and I urge all of you to give them your ongoing support. Certainly they will have mine.