- a greeting card and a story
- USF Women’s Studies Program Survives attempt to shut them down
- Larry King’s allegedly abusive foster parents sue the school
- HRC members put an end to “Silencing the Christians” or do they?
- Attempts to consolidate WS and Ethnic Studies also thwarted elsewhere but still on the table
1. Greeting Card
This card is brought to you by one of our V-D Sucks dinner guests last night. Here is his story:
I went by my sister’s to help out with her Valentine’s Day extravaganza she and her husband do every year. My sister thinks holidays “must be so hard for gay people” b/c of course we are all forelorn and loveless, so of course I’ll be at her beck and call on Valentine’s Day, Christmas, . . . So I’m standing there surrounded by gold winged cherubs, the fat kind from the [religion] store, trying to explain that while I don’t have a bf this year, I do have plans that do not involve a bunch of “pathetic homos crying in their Chardonnay and thinking predatory thoughts about the neighbors” and little [nephew’s name] hands me this. He says quietly, “I picked it out just for you.” As I open it, my sister says “[Nephew’s name] got you something with animals b/c he never sees you with girls. You could bring a girl by once and a while.” From behind a corner, my nephew watches as my face lights up and when I finally turn to escape the dollhouse, he runs up and hugs me and whispers “the penguins are like you right?” It was the best Valentine I think I’ve ever gotten even if the penguins did break up.
2. Women’s Studies’ Resilience
Last year, I reported that the University of South Florida was under threat of consolidation with all of the Ethnic Studies Programs or closure and circulated a petition letter from their Department. I am happy to report that after national level response from other WS Programs and feminist activists both Women’s Studies and Africana Studies at South Florida remain autonomous and funded. (As noted in my previous post on the issue, Latin American Studies did not survive b/c the program was cut down to 2 faculty/admin by the time the petition was circulated and then the Director resigned in protest over the gutting of his program.) USF WS credits their survival to reaching out both nationally and internationally, creating a global visiting scholars program, increasing their visibility, publishing, and funding on the national and international stage, and increasing the global research of their faculty and majors.
3. Larry King’s Foster Parents
For those who do not know/remember my post on Lawrence King, he was a 15 year old genderqueer gay teen who was shot in the head by a 14 year old classmate for gender transgression. Despite shooting him in the head twice, without any altercation or provocation, Brandon McInerney maintains his innocence and that it was not a hate crime; he has also managed to gain a series of trial postponements while claiming the county, his public defender, and any number of others are biased against him.
King’s death was a shocking reminder of how unsafe N. American schools are for queer and questioning students. King’s story was particularly tragic because his short life had been riddled with abuse and abandonment. He was placed in foster care after his mother’s drug addiction allegedly took precedence over parenting. He was then adopted by a family largely believed to be intolerant of Larry’s identity and who accused of abusing him physically. At 14, the state moved Larry into a group home to get him out of the King environment, and when he was killed most of his friends reported that the King’s were not part of his life anymore. Most of his positive support came from the Ventura County Rainbow Alliance and the school principle who issued a letter to all teachers asking that they educate their students about homophobia and transphobia b/c of both taunts and fears floating around the school.
The Kings, who have consistently denied abusing Larry despite the State of California’s decision to remove him from their care, have now filed wrongful death suits against the school, the Rainbow Alliance, and others. The suit alleges that both the school and the Rainbow Alliance encouraged Larry to dress “flamboyantly” and “effiminately” and to “make passes at” other schoolmates. It argues that had the school and social organizations encouraged Larry to suppress his homosexuality and gender expression and conform to heterosexist norms, he would be alive today. Not only does this ultimately blame Larry for his murder, it also ignores decades of research showing that youth who suppress their sexuality are more likely to have emotional and behavioral problems and/or attempt/commit suicide. Nor does a tube of lipstick and boots from a queer center justify assassination accept according to the Kings and Brandon McInerney.
The Kings had previously lashed out against the Rainbow Alliance for setting placing a donation link on their page about Larry, claiming they were trying to profit from his death; Rainbow Alliance took the link down, but explained that they had simply wanted people to know that they were their to help and that donations help them provide supportive services to kids like Larry, who frequently went to them for support. After intial confusion, most people agreed that the accusation was out of line and possibly motivated by the Kings’ own attempts to get money for their family when Larry died even though he had not been in their custody for over a year.
Despite the ways that the Kings’ suit illustrates the potential homophobia and transphobia they heaped on Larry during his time with them, the Kings’ version of events has even permeated the wikipedia page on Larry’s murder. Even now, Larry is still someone’s victim. (read more at Pink News – follow the supporting links too)
4. Silencing Christians?
The HRC successfully stopped the 1 hour television special Silencing Christians which was set to air on a Michigan television station last week in primetime. The special alleges that the Christian faith is under attack especially from gay people and liberals (where liberals are assumed most of the time to be gay) and that they are using the schools to do it. Citing such credible sources as Ann Coulter, the special argues that the schools are unsafe for Christians and that the “gay agenda” in particular is making it so by claiming that Christians don’t have the right to talk about or act on their faith in school. They also blame curriculum that includes children’s books about gay families and the inclusion of GLBTQ people in middle school and high school classes. They also cite the few examples of liberals who do act like fascists: turning off the microphone during graduation speeches b/c a student referred to G-d, saying a child could not mention Jesus while discussing a religious holiday in class, etc. And of course they continue to try and pit African American civil rights against Gay civil rights b/c they realize that the shift to blaming black people for the loss of gay rights was terribly effective in preventing an organized multicultural, mutli-issue, response to homophobia time and again.
Here is an Excerpt
As you can see, they have attached a survey to the special. You can go online or you can call them to participate; however, they are cataloging the home address associated with the phone number and/or IP addresses of those who participate. They say they are doing this so that they can send each participant a free book about the homosexual agenda.
5. WS and Ethnic Studies Programs survive?
In a showdown between the Dean of Arts and Sciences and the college’s Women’s and Gender Studies and African American Studies over consolidation to save money, a campus wide effort, increased course offerings to new students (which resulted in increased enrollment in the courses and the majors), increased faculty involvement in internship and research programs, and an innovative program connecting faculty, students, and the local community that others are now adopting around the country, saved the day. The college (I’ve been asked not to name), not only refused to backdown on the need for the autonomy and existence of both programs but also used the opportunity to grow its lines and its offerings.
Another college I have been asked not to name, in a similar region of the country, has also just received word that they “should consider cutting their graduate program and/or becoming a certificate program to a larger department” in other words, no more WS accept as a certificate attached to your “real degree.” They are currently drafting a response. When I receive the protest letter or petition, I will of course pass it on to you.
I do have one question about this trend for the academics out there: While I am adament that Ethnic Studies Programs and Women’s Studies Programs should remain autonomous, serve overlapping and unique intellectual interests, and that consolidation is just step one in phasing out diverse faculty and curriculum, I do question why some of the petitions or comments that have crossed my desk on the issue act as tho the pursuits of this disciplines are so alien to one another. Do others get this sense and if so how do we address: homophobia, sexism, and racism, in the pleas to save those programs/departments we hold so dear and need so much?
- “Gay Penguins” card, artist unknown
- WS students WLU/unattributed
- Larry King/unattributed
- Ventura County Star/ Joseph A. Garcia – the image of students memorializing Larry at school proves that he had supporters and friends in the school and was not just “a victim inviting his own abuse” as the Kings’ suit alleges