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Friday, September 21, 2018

Guest Commentary

Guest column: Students should enroll in LGBT courses


What does it really mean to be LGBT? Have there always been LGBT peoples? What does it mean when we say people are born LGBT (or born straight)? How are both gender and sex socially constructed? How do gender and sexual identities interact with other identities and people? What is bisexual erasure? Why do straight men frequently have sex with other straight men?

If any of the above questions piqued your interest (and the answers to each are many times more complex than one would think), sign up for WGSS 2360, Introduction to GLBT (Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender) Studies.

This academic course can be used to satisfy Philosophy, Language and Culture core curriculum requirements, to fulfill an elective requirement or to begin a minor in GLBT Studies.

Part history, part sociology and psychology, part political science, part literature, part theory and part biology, WGSS 2360 is interdisciplinary and provides students with numerous opportunities to incorporate perspectives from their major into course discussions and projects.

In addition to LGBT students, those who are androgynous, asexual, genderqueer or intersex, for example, need this course.

Sometimes I hear someone say something along the lines of “but I’m not gay” when encouraging them to sign up for WGSS 2360. That does not matter; GLBT Studies is for everybody. All students need is an open mind and a willingness to read, write and discuss.

The LGBT community is far more diverse and complicated than most currently realize. This course will help all students become more effective allies, as they will be equipped with terminology and history, they will have misconceptions clarified and they will become more aware of the dynamics of privilege and oppression when it comes to sex, gender, gender expression and sexuality, for example.

This course also gives all students opportunities to examine how invisible and very powerful cultural norms have shaped their identities and perspectives. Heteronormativity and cisgender normativity profoundly define and shape every aspect of our lives. In WGSS 2360, students learn why all of this matters and how to see these dynamics at work.

Society does not provide many safe places to have academic conversations about LGBT people and their experiences, but WGSS 2360 is one of those few places. Each semester, students quickly bond with each other and learn how to have what are sometimes difficult and maybe initially uncomfortable conversations. Conversations are also focused on various poems, movies, plays, songs and manifestos, as well as academic articles.

In sum, GLBT Studies is perhaps most important because it will challenge, in some way or another, (almost) everything students have learned so far about all things to do with sex, gender and sexuality.

They will learn how people identify—rather how society allows them to identify—is constantly changing and differs vastly from place to place. LGBT or not, students are also surprised as they learn how many LGBT people there are and how much they have influenced the trajectory of history.

Finally, students across the spectra of sex and gender report that this course helps them find their voice and learn more about themselves.

As an added bonus, in a world ever more attuned to minorities, background in GLBT Studies will only give students additional advantages regardless of where they go or what they do after graduation.

Guest columnist Andrew Joseph Pegoda is a lecturer teaching Introduction to GLBT Studies and can be reached at [email protected]

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