According to GayCityNews one of my favorite middle fingers in the gay community, Larry Kramer, spoke at his alma mater, Yale, for failing to secure the course of Gay History at the Ivy League school. Kramer also didn't hold back on venting his feelings about how the course study of "gender studies" and "queer theory" are not gay history. He also threw in his two cents about the word "queer" itself and his belief that the usage of the word is deleterious to the gay community as a whole.
At Yale's Gay and Lesbian Association to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award, Larry Kramer apologized to the group for failing to secure a program to teach gay history at his Ivy League alma mater. The Larry Kramer Institute, funded with a $1 million contribution from his late brother, Arthur, in 2001, was closed by Yale in 2006. "When this happened, I thought my heart would break," he said.
Kramer also lamented Yale's dismissal of gay historian Jonathan Ned Katz from the faculty, the suppression of information about the homosexuality of Yale's first benefactor, John William Sterling, and the university press' refusal to publish C.A. Tripp's "Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln" dealing with the 16th president's homosexuality. He also expressed dismay at how the Institute mainly taught "gender studies, queer studies, [and] queer theory," not gay history as he intended. "I would like to proclaim with great pride: I am not queer! And neither are you," he said. "When will we stop using this adolescent and demeaning word to identify ourselves? Like our history that is not taught, using this word will continue to guarantee that we are not taken seriously in the world."
I've never really supported the word "queer" myself. I always identify as gay and have never had a problem with it. Now I understand that "gay" is a very specific label while "queer" is rather open to an interpretation of sorts but I've always felt that queer was a word that we "reclaimed," so to speak, to fill ourselves with pride. But queer is so rainbowy and too kumbaya for me.
The youth seemed to have run with this word and if that continues than so be it. More power to 'em and I'll support them. But I do hear quite clearly what Kramer is saying: "Queer" is silly, it's court jester - what are we to expect from that? I prefer the hard hitting, guttural three letter G-A-Y. That's where my pride comes from.
I also support Kramer's deciphering the difference between Queer Theory and Gender Studies and Gay History. The two aren't the same. Gay History is much like American History or any other history. It's factual records of time. Our place on the time scale. Queer Theory and Gender studies, while they may incorporate aspects of history, is a vague term that seems to tip-toe around the idea of our place and importance on the time scale. On one hand you have Gay History (simple enough, huh?) on the other Queer Theory (hmmm...wha?).
Now I'm not trying to diminish or play down the importance of course work along the lines of Queer Theory. Certainly it has it's place and I'm sure if I were to look over a syllabus I'd probably think it was very interesting. Still it doesn't seem to encompass the simplicity of factual gay history and the course isn't even called "Gay History." If I were signing up for courses I would be much more inspired by "Gay History" than "Queer Theory" although I'd probably sign up for both.
It's always been a pipe dream of mine that if/when I ever get out of the TV industry I'd go back to Grad School and study to become a professor in Gay History and Comparative Literature. What I'd hope to do is teach my students actual gay history (which seems to have been the goal of Kramer) and have them read fiction-based literature published within the contexts of that time to match the historic facts with the cultural consciousness of the surrounding event.
Now that I'm wrapping on my umpteenth TV gig and hearing Kramer's disappointment that idea seems that much more appealing.
Go here for Kramer's full speech.