Developing Working Relationships

Dear Friends:

We all have guilty pleasures, and one of mine is the end-of-year top ten list. I love the condensing of the past twelve months in digestible morsels of best, worst, most important, most outrageous; it’s as though I can live the year about to expire all over again from the comfort of my own home and in record time. This past year, though, resists easy summing-up. The euphoria of the election of the United States’ first president of African descent was coupled with the crushing passage of Proposition 8 in California. New York plunged from out-of-control growth to economic freefall within what seemed to be a matter of months: the silent construction sites that blanket the city are testament to the ebullience of the rise and the swiftness of the fall of New York’s real estate and financial fortunes, a microcosm of the economic distress facing so many in the US and around the world in recent months. Even as we are exhorted to feel hope, it seems that violence and destruction are too often seen as the solution to any problem.

Here at CLAGS we share the odd ambivalence, the careening between exhilaration and dismay, that seems to have been the hallmark of 2008. On the one hand, thanks to the ongoing faith and generosity of the Ford Foundation, the International Resource Network can continue its crucial work of connecting scholars in sexuality studies from around the world, providing a space in which national borders can at least provisionally be crossed and challenged. Similarly, OutHistory.org, our groundbreaking LGBT history website, launched this year to great enthusiasm and is continuing to chronicle the infinite variety of the queer past. Through our various projects we have developed working relationships with the New York Public Library, SAGE, the Harvey Milk School, RedBone Press, Visual AIDS, the Center for the Humanities at the The Graduate Center, CUNY, to name just a few of our collaborators. A new fellowship sponsored by the Robert Giard Foundation, funding an LGBT visual artist, garnered almost one hundred applicants. Our roster of events continues to grow: we now host up to fifteen events each semester. And our Board of Directors represents the true diversity of queer intellectual life both inside and outside academia.

We do all this, though, on little more than a shoestring (which seems increasingly frayed). Our hope to hire a full-time office staff member was foreclosed by the CUNY-wide freeze on hiring additional administrative staff. The amount of energy generated by our part-time staff in our small office could fuel a small power plant, but we are increasingly having to do more with less. In the next year I hope to speak more with individual CLAGS members, to get a sense of where you would like the organization to go. And as CLAGS’ 20th anniversary looms in a few years, we will be launching a major endowment fund drive, to help bankroll your visions for the organization. In the meantime, I am so grateful for the loyalty and generosity of our members, without whom CLAGS would disappear, not only financially but also intellectually. Thanks to all of you, and let’s hope that next year brings with it pleasures far more unalloyed.

Best,

Sarah E. Chinn