Seemingly everywhere we turn, questions about gender and sexuality are under public discussion. Laverne Cox graces the cover of Time magazine, which declares 2014 the year of the “Transgender Tipping Point,” and the U.S. Supreme Court legalizes same-sex marriage in 2015. But just five years later, politicians, pop stars, and the public at large are still debating the basic freedoms of LGBTQIA people to use public restrooms, serve in the military, and adopt children. This course introduces students to critical theories and vocabularies for understanding, historicizing, and analyzing this type of public discourse as it unfolds. 

We will read scholarship offering theoretical concepts that are useful for making sense of public discourse about LGBTQIA communities. As a class, we will draw on these concepts when analyzing a wide range of discourse. From the 1970s to the present, this discourse includes speeches, interviews, statements, tweets, manifestos, and videos. These artifacts are produced by organizations such as the National Coalition of Black Lesbians and Gays, Combahee River Collective, Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, UndocuQueer, and InterAct: Advocates for Intersex Youth, along with individuals including Zach Wahls, Harvey Milk, Joseph Beam, Bayard Rustin, Audre Lorde, Silvia Rivera, Janet Mock, Phyllis Frye, and Lani Ka’ahumanu.

Informed by this work together, each student will develop his/her/hir/their own original analyses of specific instances of public discourse through a blog writing project. Because I want this course to serve your own interests, you will have the opportunity to select which artifacts you want to analyze when developing your blog posts. In addition to publishing your own blog, you will participate in conversations about issues facing LGBTQIA communities by reading and commenting on others’ blogs.

As we undertake the work of this course, you are likely to encounter difficult ideas. While all intellectually rich courses are inherently challenging, it is also the case that much LGBTQIA rhetoric deliberately seeks to challenge ideas that many of us take for granted. Moreover, most of the readings for this class consist of work addressed to scholars, rather than a textbook that simplifies such scholarship for introductory audiences. So please keep in mind that, from the perspective of this course, it is a good thing to experience some difficulty as you encounter new ideas and complex texts. 

Through grappling with this difficulty, we can expect to become more skilled at participating in scholarly conversations and public debates. Working together in this way does not mean that we will all arrive at the same conclusions about LGBTQIA communities. Quite the contrary. But it does mean that we learn how to communicate with each other and others about a wider range of topics.