A Message from the New Executive Director

I’m honored and pleased to be succeeding Marty Duberman as Executive Director of CLAGS. I taught in theatre and drama and women’s studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison before I accepted my present posit ion in the PhD Program in Theatre at the The Graduate Center, CUNY. At Madison, teaching and writing in lesbian performance theory, the fact that a national center for lesbian and gay studies had been established in New York gave me a sense that the field in which I worked was arriving, securing its legitimacy and its vibrancy and insisting on its visibility. In my two years at CUNY, during which I’ve served on the CLAGS board, I’ve been impressed with the level of activity and accomplishment the center can boast: I know of very few institutes or associations that manage to sponsor and organize as many public events as CLAGS, events foundational to the most important conversations happening in the field. I’m eager to facilitate further distinguished, distinctive work at CLAGS. It remains enormously important that gay and lesbian and queer studies be firmly established in the academy, so that the knowledges our communities produce and the practices they foster can be taught and understood along with more traditional, canonical learning. As a nationally visible center, CLAGS can help advocate for the establishment of gay and lesbian studies programs, undergraduate majors, and graduate programs, in the CUNY system and around the country. Our leadership can provide models for curricula that organize gay and lesbian experiences and knowledges, our diverse histories and cultures, our pains and our pleasures, our insights and our ethics into courses and symposia that will train the next generation of thinkers, teachers, and activists to know the history of our community, its key contributions, and its awesome future. At this point in its history, CLAGS needs to retain the grassroots energy that founded the organization while assuming the responsibility of institutional position and affiliation. Under the good auspices of the CUNY Graduate School and University Center – thanks, in particular, to the support of President Frances Horowitz and Dean Alan Gartner – CLAGS is in a position to model coalition-building across academic disciplines, and between gay and lesbian studies and the activist community. lnterdisciplinarity has always been the hallmark of gay and lesbian studies; CLAGS has long modeled scholarship that builds gay, lesbian, queerspecific knowledges through diverse methods and across multiple identity and community bases. I look forward to fostering conversations among disciplines and communities, and to offering CLAGS’s resources to groups and speakers, scholars and activists who can illuminate our multiplicity, our great collective potential. My experience in lesbian and feminist politics has been primarily academic, although I consider the academy to be a vital site of activism. In my teaching, my scholarship, my writing, my theatre productions, I have always assumed (idealistically and hopefully) that my work might have some consequence in a gradual movement toward profound social change. I’ve been lucky enough to witness regular changes of consciousness, of politics, of affiliation in my undergraduate and graduate students, as a result of ideas that seduced them, provoked them, compelled them to think differently about their relation to culture. I believe that ideas are efficacious, that thought has a direct, real effect (teachers, I suppose, take this on faith). The real effect of ideas, of conversations, of workshops and town meetings, of publications, monographs, the CLAGS NYU series, position papers, of arguments and even loud and contentious public fights, is where CLAGS can make its greatest contribution. I believe we are an activist and an academic organization, one that can offer our communities a place to think, a place to build coalitions across gender, racial, ethnic, class, sexual practice, and ability positions that the gay, lesbian, bisexua l, queer, and transgender movements need to actualize. This is a complex time for gay and lesbian studies in the academy. Queer theory has launched a conversation about language, about identity, about coalition, in a new and different way than our movement addressed these topics before “queer” provided itself as an umbrella. While the galvanizing force of queer activism and theory remains productive, those of us who produce and consume it might be be wary of its commodification, its insidious stylishness. I’m interested to see how different kinds of gay and lesbian (and gender and race) epistemologies and political programs will reassert themselves in the coming years. CLAGS will be deeply invested in these debates, and will take a leadership position as our communities come to new (and perhaps reembrace old) terms. In assuming the position of CLAGS’s Executive Director, I see myself as someone adept at enabling others to do their best work. I can contribute to CLAGS a clear sense of organizational structure and efficient functioning; an enthusiasm for projects and programs that will continue to bring CLAGS local and national visibility and influence; and a vision for gay and lesbian studies that will help CLAGS continue to contribute new knowledge about our lives, our ideas, and our communities into the 21st century. On behalf of the ClAGS board, staff, and members, I want to thank Marty for his many years of tireless hard work and advocacy on behalf of gay and lesbian studies at CUNY and in the academy in general. Marty’s dedication, fervor, and leadership have secured CLAGS’s future. I look forward to working with all of you; your work, your ideas, your lives are the stuff of which CLAGS is made.