….Yes, we are here, and yes, we are proud! The establishment of the campus LGBT Club”
Thus reads the flyer posted on the bulletin board across from my office. I could barely see it at first since some student government flyer was posted nearly on top of it (advertising free bowling, of all things), but now that I’ve cleaned up the board, there it proudly stands out: Come Out, Come Out…..
This is big news at our small, still-somewhat rural community college campus. Ten years ago when I was teaching Introduction to Women’s Studies (in the very classroom next to the now-cleaned up bulletin board), male students would stand outside the classroom in wait till the end of class when they would call my students “feminazis” and “lesbos”.
And ten years ago, only 1/4 of the women surveyed at the start of the term self identified as feminist (with more than 3/4s by the end of most terms, I felt not a little satisfaction).
What’s changed? Well, there no longer are “Rush Hour” gatherings at the local pubs as there were when I first moved here. PFLAG and the local human rights group are both very active and established organizations in our community. And there are a few more faculty and staff who are out, including a new Diversity Coordinator on campus who is working hard to draw out the less visible diversity we have on campus and in the community.
When another instructor took over the Women’s Studies classes in 2001, there were enough student protests over her more political approach that the course was put on sabbatical for a few years. But this year I offered Women Writers, and we had courses on gender studies in anthropology and communication, all of which drew in students starved for gender studies. And next year, finally, the return of Women’s Studies.
And the students have changed: they are more vocally liberal on social issues. In fact, all of the essays I’m getting on those dreaded social-issue topics this year are on the liberal/libertarian side of the issue, rather than the literal biblical side. This is a big change.
Yet, there was some student government person who tried to cover the flyer with a “free bowling” flyer. I suppose I should be at least a little thankful he or she didn’t throw away the LGBT flyer: perhaps that restraint is also a sign of change?