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Running head: AVAILABILITY OF LGBT/QUEER STUDIES

Availability of LGBT/Queer Studies at research institutions


Jesus Romero
Western Michigan University

AVAILABILITY OF LGBT/QUEER STUDIES

Availability of LGBT/Queer Studies at research institutions


Despite being considered sources of new knowledge, research institutions are not doing
well when it comes to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT)/Queer Studies. The
Carnegie Foundation is the source of classification for institutions of higher education in the
United States. Currently, there are four institutions that offer an LGBT major and 28 institutions
that offer an LGBT minor (College Equality Index, n.d.). None of the institutions with an LGBT
major are classified as research institutions and only 15 of those institutions with an LGBT
minor have a research classification (Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching,
July 14, 2014). This is very concerning considering that there are approximately 200 institutions
with the research classification. The establishment of a LGBT/Queer studies program is no easy
task and it can be even harder to maintain as part of the curriculum. Despite the challenges, there
is hope for LGBT/Queer Studies programs using unique strategies of implementation and finding
allies.
Challenges
One of the approaches is to incorporate lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender issues into
current curriculum. Integrating material into required courses, existing diversity courses, or
developing elective courses are some of the options suggested to address LGBT issues in
criminal justice curriculum (Fradella, Owen, & Burke, 2009). Required courses are those that all
students take and this allows for maximum exposure. Often times, diversity courses are also
required for students but it is important that they also cover sexual orientation and gender
identity. Perhaps the best way to incorporate LGBT issues into the curriculum is to offer courses
that are specifically made to address the topic. Chapman and Gedro (2009) advocate the
following practices in human resource curriculum: self-disclosure for instructors and students,

AVAILABILITY OF LGBT/QUEER STUDIES

supporting effective learning communities, as well as creating and maintaining safe learning
spaces. When faculty are open to disclosing their sexual orientation or gender identity, it allows
for them to more easily talk about the topic and for students to bring it up. To support learning,
faculty need to recognize that there are different ways students learn and thus encourage students
to demonstrate learning through several methods. These may include essays, journals, videos,
and presentations. Another strategy is creating a space for individuals to learn that is respectful,
supportive, and encourages learning. However, creating these spaces may not always come easy.
Establishing LGBT/Queer Studies as part of the curriculum can prove to be very
challenging. If courses already exist that discuss LGBT issues, it can make it easier to establish a
minor. These courses might be housed in different departments or programs but they give a
foundation on which to build. Bacon (2012) shares how there was a lot of pushback at the
institution in choosing a name for the minor, which the sub-committee decided to name
"'Sexuality Studies' rather than 'Queer Studies' or 'Lesbian and Gay Studies' (268)." While the
latter can be exclusionary, the former can be seen as too radical. The institution needs to consider
what message they will be sending by offering curriculum that focuses on issues affecting
individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transexual, or queer. Sometimes the
community will support the decision and other times the institution will face backlash. The name
of the minor or major is very important considering that institution's name will be attached to it
but also to ensure that it is inclusive of all sexual orientations and gender identities. Naming a
program is only one of the challenges that exist when establishing LGBT/Queer Studies
curriculum.
Another challenge in establishing LGBT/Queer Studies as part of the curriculum presents
itself in finding a home for the major or minor. It can be an issue of what discipline it falls under

AVAILABILITY OF LGBT/QUEER STUDIES

or it could also depend on where the institution wants to house this curriculum. At the University
of Maryland, College Park, LGBT Studies was one of the few stand-alone programs in the nation
but recently merged with the women's studies department (Lindemann, 2013). It was a move to
help secure more resources for the LGBT Studies program such as graduate students and faculty
to keep the program running. The author does caution that she worries this merger will not result
in the desired outcomes and might also make gay men and transgender individuals feel excluded
since it is part of women's studies. However, it was the best choice for the program and
sometimes it is better to accommodate change if the alternative is termination. This example
demonstrates just how much politics can play into establishing and maintaining an LGBT/Queer
Studies program.
It is crucial to learn how to navigate the politics that come with getting LGBT/Queer
Studies on the books. As Rubin (2011) argues: "The infrastructures of knowledge require
physical space and durable organizational structuresoffices, buildings, libraries, archives,
departments, programs, centers, faculty lines, staff positions, and paychecks" (355). There is a
need to establish a bureaucracy in order to allow for LGBT/Queer Studies to have longevity.
This requires acquiring both human and financial resources to keep it running. As much as
faculty are needed to teach courses, staff are also essential to support faculty and students.
Infrastructure is also necessary not only to have office space but more importantly to provide
visibility and a physical space with which to identify. It is also important that LGBT/Queer
Studies as a whole is supported by other units of campus from resources in the libraries to
collaborations with different parts of campus, such as the multicultural center or student
organizations. All of these can contribute to ensure that LGBT/Queer Studies programs become
institutionalized.

AVAILABILITY OF LGBT/QUEER STUDIES

Contested terrain
There exists considerable tension between LGBT Studies and Queer Theory. Both focus
on gender and sexuality with the purpose of empowering sexual and gender minorities to work
against heteronormativity and other forms of oppression. Some of the significant differences
between LGBT Studies and Queer Theory include: "disciplinary distinctions (e.g., the social
sciences and the humanities); disciplinary and inter/transdisciplinary modes of research; and,
questions of stability and fluidity of sexual and gender identities" (Lovaas, Ella, & Yep, 2006, p.
6). Whether LGBT Studies and Queer Theory are in the social sciences or the humanities can
vary from institution to institution. This is because both can be multidisciplinary and thus
succeed in either discipline. It can be argued that LGBT Studies does not do research across
multiple disciplines as much as is seen with Queer Theory. While LGBT Studies stresses the
stability of gay and lesbian sexual identities, the aim of Queer Studies is to challenge the notion
of fixed sexual and gender identities. The tension that exists is one that dates to the beginning of
Queer Theory.
It is possible that part of the opposition between LGBT Studies and Queer Theory, or
Queer Studies, is that one emerged from the other. LGBT Studies came out of the social
movements of the 1970s and Queer Studies is more recent as it started in the early 1990s.
Halberstam (2003) argues that "the mixing of methods and the eccentric selection of objects of
inquiry has allowed queer scholars to disrupt the logic of coherence that creates a term like
LGBT" (p. 363). This allows queer scholars to use methodologies to match their project instead
of finding projects that allow them to use methods that are specific to their discipline. The use of
the term queer to label research has become an increasing practice among LGBT scholars despite
the fact that the work has nothing to do with queer theory (Slagle, 2012). While the work might

AVAILABILITY OF LGBT/QUEER STUDIES

incorporate sexual identity, it tends to argue for assimilation and that is what queer theory
criticizes. The purpose of both LGBT Studies and Queer Studies is the study of sexuality and
gender, which is what really matters even if they go about it differently.
Opportunities
LGBT/Queer Studies curriculum has the potential to create allies that support and
advocate for equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities. Through this
curriculum individuals will have the opportunity to learn more about LGBT issues, interact with
LGBT individuals, and participate in advocacy efforts. According to Ji & Fujimoto (2013),
identifying as a heterosexual ally to LGBT communities is best viewed as a social identity
construction. It is due to the fact that individuals need external positive validation to solidify
their confidence in identifying and acting as allies in any capacity of setting (p. 1697). This is
important to understand and can be used by faculty to empower allies to take action by creating
spaces that support ally development. Hall (2006) urges faculty to "encourage students to think
critically about how social change occurs, rather than to imagine vaguely that injustice somehow
dissipates magically without the hard work of individuals and groups' organizing" (B16). This is
significant considering that some students are complacent with the status quo and believe that
things will eventually get better. It is a disservice to students to learn how to challenge the way
things are without a sense of ownership in that process, which is why faculty are responsible for
igniting students to take action.
Faculty can also play a role outside of the classroom in advocacy efforts for LGBT issues
on campus. A study found that four reasons for faculty advocacy on LGBT issues on campus
included: awareness, professional role, commitment to social justice, and personal interest
(Messinger, 2011). Some faculty became aware of such issues through their personal research

AVAILABILITY OF LGBT/QUEER STUDIES

while others used their role in faculty governance for advocacy efforts. There were faculty
members with a commitment to social justice, which made them advocate for issues facing the
LGBT community. Personal interest was another reason for faculty advocacy efforts, in
particular for LGBT faculty who experience issues such as obtaining domestic partner benefits.
Advocacy on LGBT issues does not come without its costs since faculty can face bias in tenure
and promotion, personal attacks, and burnout. This is truer of new faculty and thus it is critical
for tenured and more experienced faculty to take on advocacy efforts. As partners in shared
governance, faculty have a significant role in creating and changing what happens at the
institution. Thus, faculty are essential in pushing for LGBT/Queer Studies programs as well as
ensuring that issues affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals on campus are
resolved.
Future research
As it stands now, there is a need for new LGBT research in higher education. Renn
(2010) proposes a research agenda that calls for building and using theory, advancing research
methods, improving educational practice, and connecting to other areas of education research (p.
137). Using queer theory and applying it to higher education organizations and the people in
them can offer new insights into old problems. Some research methods than can prove helpful
are using screening surveys that ask behavioral as well as identification questions and
encouraging partnerships between generations of LGBT scholars to produce new knowledge. As
practitioners, research should inform practice and thus there should be a focus on efforts to
improve campus climate as well as offer LGBT curriculum. It is also important to connect higher
education research with that happening at the K-12 level and graduate programs that prepare
principals and superintendents in order to better serve students who identify as lesbian, gay,

AVAILABILITY OF LGBT/QUEER STUDIES

bisexual, or transgender. This research can assist in the formation of new LGBT/Queer Studies
programs as it will produce new knowledge to be disseminated and scholars to educate future
generations.
Conclusion
Working to establish LGBT/Queer Studies programs requires overcoming opposition,
garnering support, and planning for the future. It is not something that will happen easily but it is
critical that LGBT curriculum is offered at institutions of higher education. Individuals who
identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer (LGBTQ) on our campuses include staff,
faculty, and students. LGBT/Queer Studies is necessary to allow individuals to study their own
histories in addition to spreading knowledge and awareness of the LGBTQ population. Research
institutions should not only offer the curriculum but also produce new knowledge. This
demonstrates the value that the institution places on LGBT/Queer Studies because institutional
support is needed to keep programs running. Furthermore, the institution must ensure that it has
policies that are welcoming to individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or
queer in order to produce a positive campus climate.

AVAILABILITY OF LGBT/QUEER STUDIES

References
Bacon, J. (2012). Teaching queer theory at a normal school. Journal of Homosexuality, 52(1-2),
257283. doi:10.1300/J082v52n01_11
Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching (2014, July 14). Carnegie classifications
data file. Retrieved from http://classifications.carnegiefoundation.org/
Chapman, D. D. & Gedro, J. (2009). Queering the HRD curriculum: Preparing students for
success in the diverse workforce. Advances in Developing Human Resources, 11(1), 95
108.
College Equality Index (n.d.). School listings. Retrieved from
http://www.collegeequalityindex.org/list
Fradella, H. F., Owen, S. S., & Burke, T. W. (2009). Integrating gay, lesbian, bisexual, and
transgender issues into the undergraduate criminal justice curriculum. Journal of Criminal
Justice Education, 127156.
Halberstam, J. (2008). Reflections on Queer Studies and Queer Pedagogy. Journal of
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Hall, D. E. (2006). Imagining Queer Studies out of the doldrums. Chronicle of Higher
Education, B15B16.
Ji, P. & Fujimoto, K. (2013). Measuring heterosexual LGBT ally development: A rasch analysis.
Journal of Homosexuality, 60(12), 16951725. doi:10.1080/00918369.2013.834211
Lindemann, M. (2013). Building (and rebuilding) LGBT Studies at the University of Maryland.
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Lovaas, K. E., Ella, J.P., & Yep, G. A. (2006). Shifting ground(s): Surveying the contested
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doi:10.1300/J082v52n01_01
Messinger, L. (2011). A qualitative analysis of faculty advocacy on LGBT issues on campus.
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Rubin, G.S. (2011). Geologies of queer studies: It's deja vu all over again in Deviations: A Gayle
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Slagle, R. A. (2012). Ferment in LGBT Studies and Queer Theory: Personal ruminations on
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doi:10.1300/J082v52n01_13

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