Some time ago, I recommended Texas A&M University as a good place to get an education. Now that it has added a course in the English Department called “Gay and Lesbian Literature” I need to reconsider. Generally, when a school dedicates entire courses to homosexuality its days are numbered as a university to be taken seriously.
Dr. Krista May now offers a course that “surveys the historical and social constructions of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender identities, primarily as they are expressed in the literature of British and American writers.”
That sounds innocent enough. But why spend a semester studying such a narrow aspect of literary works of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries? The syllabus continues: “The course also investigates earlier literary periods in order to contextualize relatively recent notions of sexual identity by situating them within cultural and historical frameworks.”
Interesting, isn’t it? The issues covered in the class include “literary expressions of homo-social behaviors in ancient Greece and Rome; development of homosexual subcultures in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries; construction of female ‘romantic friendship’; the influence of late nineteenth-century sexologists and of Freud; intersections of racial, class, and sexual identities; and postmodern interrogations of identity.”
The stated purpose of the course is to provide students with “a starting point for understanding historical concepts that inform contemporary notions of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender identities …” This is done in order to challenge students to “think critically about strategies deployed in literary expressions of sexual identity.”
There is so much more to the reading in “Gay and Lesbian Literature” than the obvious Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. Students also get to read The Columbia Anthology of Gay Literature as well as The Testosterone Files: My Hormonal and Social Transformation from Female to Male. Now that’s intellectual progress! Who said the Aggies were a bunch of backward hicks?
Despite my distaste for the subject matter of her class, Dr. Krista May impresses me with one portion of her syllabus. She says something similar to what I say to all of my classes the first day of each semester:
“Everyone is expected to respect his or her classmates and the instructor. During this course, we will be reading about and discussing topics that might make us uncomfortable. It is almost certain that the students and instructor will be offended at some point during the course by something that we read or discuss in class ... This does not mean that we should avoid discussing these topics...”
Good show, so far. But, usually, when a professor of Gay Literature hasn’t said something stupid it just means she isn’t finished talking. Consider the following:
“Intolerance of others’ viewpoints will not be tolerated in the classroom…”
If intolerance will not be tolerated then perhaps it is time to develop a new class at Texas A&M University. The course, taught in the general “university studies” program, could be called “Homosexuality and Other Bad Lifestyle Choices.” This would be preferable to spending a whole semester on homosexuality alone and would help fulfill the need for “diverse voices” – a need mentioned specifically in Dr. May’s syllabus.
“Homosexuality and Other Bad Lifestyle Choices” could feature several of the following lectures:
1. Why sodomy always has been the principal cause of AIDS transmission and why homosexuals try to deny it.
2. Why homosexuals have a shorter lifespan than heterosexuals and why it is hate speech to deny it.
3. How homosexuals burden the health care system and why the Democrats don’t talk about it.
Then, the course could move on to talk about other issues like heterosexual promiscuity, drug abuse, and the drinking culture on college campuses.
During “Homosexuality and Other Bad Lifestyle Choices” students would read about and discuss topics that might make them uncomfortable. It is almost certain that the students and instructor will be offended at some point during the course by something that they read or discuss in class. But this does not mean that we should avoid discussing these topics.
“Homosexuality and Other Bad Lifestyle Choices” can help Texas A&M regain its reputation as a serious public university. At the same time, it will likely offend some homosexual Aggies who have been regrettably dubbed as “Faggies” by their less sensitive fellow students.
Of course, it is permissible to talk about the downside of homosexuality and to call it a choice, not a genetic predisposition. Remember that intolerance of others’ viewpoints will not be tolerated in the classroom.