As I complete my first year as CLAGS Executive Director, all I can think is what a ride it has been. The summer break has allowed some time to put the clutch in neutral, idle, and look back on the trip. Hindsight can let one enjoy the view, appreciate the mostly smooth drive, and occasionally say, “Wow! That was a close one.”
First, the “close one”: We ended last year in an extremely precarious financial position with our grants all but dried up and our funding drastically cut. The Board, the staff, and our incredibly generous donors and members rallied, and we entered the spring term bolstered and ready to dig in and face new (and some of the same old) challenges. And what a spring it was.
In May we were heartened, of course, by President Obama’s statement of support for same-sex marriage. In the midst of continuing coverage of LGBT teen suicide, votes to amend state constitutions thereby limiting LGBT rights, and threats to the physical wellbeing of presumed LGBT children and adults by church pastors and government officials, it was comforting to have a bit of really good news for a change. The inevitable backlash followed, and the cacophonous noise included the usual chorus of mean-spirited talkshow hosts, all-but forgotten Hollywood personalities (Kirk Cameron, anyone?), and the voices of political and religious doom.
While this debate—including the accompanying and often cynical probing of the timing of the President’s announcement—played itself out in the blink-of-an-eye news cycle, CLAGS was rolling along, committing our few resources and talented labor to helping teachers refine and develop queer curricula, sharing cutting-edge scholarship on gender and sexualities, and hosting roundtable discussions on LGBT history, activism, and the arts. Those events and initiatives are described at some length in the following pages, and I hope that even though we have the space to provide the briefest snapshots, we are able to convey the richness of the spring programming. While it probably goes without saying, each element required a good deal of time, effort, and care from the participants, organizers, CLAGS staff members, and our friends at the Graduate Center. On behalf of the CLAGS Board, I would like to express our enormous gratitude.
Looking ahead, the itinerary seems even more ambitious. Just around the corner we have a major conference celebrating the life and legacies of Harry Hay. Along the way, we have a book launch, a series on queer performance in the twenty-first century, a seminars-in-the-city focused on queer arts throughout the city, and our fall culminates in the presentation of the Kessler Award to historian, playwright, activist (and did I mention CLAGS’s founder?) Martin Duberman. I can assure you that the CLAGS office is buzzing with activity in preparation for our ambitious fall calendar.
Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a heck of a ride.
James F. Wilson