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Friday, June 7, 2013

New queer studies professor, OSU Magnus Hirschfeld Fund and OutHistory mentioned in student paper


PHOTO: Oregon State University Queer studies Associate Professor Qwo-Li Driskill. See news story by James Day, "Building a new curriculum: Queer studies, Associate Professor Qwo-Li Driskill is launching a new degree program at OSU," posted June 4, 2013. Also, an OSU a student editorial commented, "A new program is scheduled to make its debut this summer: queer studies. Associate professor Qwo-Li Driskill has been creating the program from scratch. . . . Driskill is looking to make a pitch for queer studies to develop into a minor program at OSU, like the one offered at the University of Oregon. . . . Students can register now for QS 262-Introduction to Queer Studies for the summer and fall 2013 year. The course, which fills bacc core requirements for difference, power and discrimination, as well as writing, will educate students in a number of areas. Curriculum includes questioning the ideas surrounding sexuality and gender and analyzing relevant queer movements." (Quoted from Editorial Staff, "Queer studies: great addition to OSU," Barometer Wednesday, June 5, 2013, p. 3) See my previous posts OSU School of Language, Culture and Society is perfect for OSU Foundation Magnus Hirschfeld Fund (1/19/12) and OSU Foundation Magnus Hirschfeld Fund Agreement (1/4/12).

I recently sent an Oregon State University Student writer the links to my OSU Foundation Magnus Hirschfeld Fund and my gay OSU history: Thomas Kraemer, "Corvallis, Oregon State University gay activism 1969-2004," posted April 30, 2010 (See About and previous post OSU gay history at site (1/16/12))

Having been a student before, I am sympathetic to the fact that students rarely have the time or motivation to read about their own cultural history. Therefore, I was pleasantly surprised to see the following comments by Irene Drage, who was the student I had sent the above links to several months ago:

. . . the Stonewall riots sparked more than violence . . . The riots are the reason behind the United State's pride parades. Since 1970, the parades happen every year around the end of June, to commemorate the Stonewall riots.

The Stonewall riots are easily as influential to our society today as the race riots of Washington D.C. following Martin Luther King Jr.'s death on April 4, 1968, but many schools do not even mention it to their students. I, for instance, didn't even know what Stonewall meant -- other than a stone wall, or Stonewall Jackson from the Civil War -- until a few years ago.

President Obama mentioned Stonewall in his inaugural speech, right after Seneca Falls [women's rights] and Selma, Alabama [black rights]. I have never been so proud to be an American as at that moment, the one when the black president of a former slave nation, in which only white men were deemed equal, acknowledged the validity and legitimacy of the LGBTQ rights movement.

"Unlike other minorities, LGBTQQI people rarely have family members who can share the history of their minority group," Thomas Kraemer, an OSU alumnus, wrote in an email. "Many believe that this lack of cultural history worked against LGBT people for centuries, and still does in many instances." Kraemer, author of "Corvallis, Oregon State University gay activism 1969-2004," is a Corvallis resident and was involved in the first officially recognized gay student group at OSU.

When I asked about the person who taught him about this unique disconnect in LGBTQ culture, Kraemer expanded on his earlier comment in a later email. "Historian Jonathan Ned Katz [the man behind] is the man who taught me that people with a minority sexual orientation or gender identity rarely have a family member who can share their cultural history, unlike most minorities."

Kraemer is also the founder of the "OSU Foundation Magnus Hirschfeld Fund to support educational and research programs at OSU concerning people or animals of a minority sexual orientation or gender identity." The research fund, worth several million dollars, is currently earmarked for Kraemer's own research on gay science and history at OSU. Once Kramer and his partner die, the foundation has signed a contract with Kraemer to manage the fund.

OSU is actually a bigger part of LGBTQ rights history than I ever knew, before I realized how much I didn't know about the history of LGBTQ culture. Former OSU Professor W. Dorr Legg helped found the homophile movement predating the Stonewall riots, as well as the present-day Log Cabin Republicans Club.

Kraemer told me in an email that he was "arrogantly unaware of history when I was in college," and that made me realize that I was too. It is arrogant to believe that anything deemed not important enough to teach us in high school history survey courses must therefore not be important.

It's a trial to educate ourselves without the motivation of grades or tuition, especially when it's on top of school, work and other commitments. But, history is important. If we ignore something long enough, it's almost like it never happened -- it gets eased out of the history books and the news fades from active memory.

(Quoted from Irene Drage, "Rainbows, glitter, short-shorts in the pride parade," Barometer, Tuesday, June 4, 2013 - Irene Drage is a senior in English)

I can tell that Irene Drage is a smart student, but still innocent about the deeper issues of comparisons between race and sexual orientation or gender identity. I caution her to tread lightly in these areas, keep an open mind and avoid conflating the issues of different race and cultural groups, including females who represent the majority of Americans.