After four gratifying years, I have decided to step down as the executive director of CLAGS to focus again on research, writing, and teaching. As much as I have enjoyed the position and as proud as I am of all we have accomplished, the truth is, I don’t have the temperament of an administrator. I’m yearning to teach graduate students again, to be more available to my undergraduate students at Baruch, and eager to jump back into the scholarship that I’ve had to put aside since 1999.
Still, it’s not easy to leave a post that has offered so many rewards-both intellectual and personal. I’ve been constantly stimulated by our many programs and publications, and am certain that the insights and inspiration I’ve drawn from our colloquium series, pedagogy workshop, lectures, symposia, conferences, and other activities will have a major impact on my teaching and writing far into the future. Even more, I feel blessed to have had the chance to work with the dedicated, brilliant and caring people who make up our board of directors and with our amazingly capable and compassionate staff, who always took the edge off even the most difficult challenges of the job. I will miss the day-to-day interactions with these cherished colleagues and friends.
But one thing makes leaving easy: that such a superb successor is waiting in the wings. Paisley Currah, a longtime CLAGS board member, knows the organization inside-out. Paisley chaired our program committee for some years, was a leading coordinator of our big Futures of the Field conference in 2001, and has made innumerable contributions to CLAGS’s work at every level.
What’s more, he is a highly regarded scholar in LGTBQ Studies and, at the Graduate Center, taught the Introduction to Lesbian and Gay/Queer Studies course that is the cornerstone of our Interdisciplinary Concentration. Not least, Paisley is easygoing and personable and downright fun to work with. CLAGS will be in excellent hands and I am certain will continue to grow and prosper.
There is much to build upon, thanks to the firm footing CLAGS has had since its early days under the direction of its founder, Marty Duberman, and then under the expert guidance of Jill Dolan. In the last four years, we’ve been able to expand even further. Our International Resource Network, linking up LGTBQ researchers around the world, is moving forward; we will be participating in a regional meeting on the project in Mexico City in August. Meanwhile, a working committee of community and academic scholars and activists has been developing an exciting series of programs for next year exploring the intersections of LGTBQ Studies and Disability Studies. Another committee has been putting together a series under the rubric “Bad Law”-several programs considering ways LGTBQ legal gains, both in legislation and case law, sometimes cut both ways. Our Seminars in the City are going strong, with a special expanded course in Histories of Activism in the works in collaboration with the Audre Lorde Project for the Fall. And our colloquium series of scholars presenting work-in-progress and Lesson Plans, our pedagogy workshop (presented in conjunction with NYU’s Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality), have great plans for next year. (See calendar, pp. 12-13, for details.) We’re thrilled to be able to offer a new fellowship among our various awards and prizes for LGBTQ scholarship (see p. 4 and p.16). And the first 10 years’ worth of Kessler lectures will be published this coming Fall by the Feminist Press-just in time for the December 5 Kessler lecture honoring Gayle Rubin.
All these programs-and the many more that CLAGS will continue to offer-are occurring during a period of economic uncertainty and a national narrowing of discourse. Such conditions make the work of CLAGS more important than ever-and also more challenging. CUNY’s allotment for CLAGS has been sliced in half over the four years of my tenure at the Graduate Center has sustained across-the-board cuts every year; meanwhile foundations have scaled back their funding with the shrinking returns on their endowments. We will need your ongoing support to keep up our range and depth of activity.
As a parting word, I want to thank all of you from the bottom of my heart for all the ways you’ve assisted and encouraged CLAGS-and me, personally-over the years. We truly could not do our work without you. And I want to express my thanks and love to the board and the staff for too many things to even begin to mention. It has been a privilege to work with all of you. Finally, I invite everyone to join me in welcoming Paisley Currah as CLAGS’s new executive director at our Changing of the Guard part on Friday, September 12.
CLAGS has been a central part of my life for more than a decade and I don’t expect to leave it all behind as a civilian. I’m a lesbian after all, and as everyone knows, we never really break up with those close to our hearts, even when it’s time to move on: we remain good pals. So I’ll be seeing you ’round.
With warm thanks for everything,