Director’s letter

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,, 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. n
Sarah E. Chinn