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Once straights think for themselves
Thank you for your irenic reply and for your candor throughout these
Regarding my earlier comment...
> Once straights allow themselves to think objectively (as
> rarely they have in the past), straight people, whatever their
> religious or moral beliefs, don't have to think very hard or long to
> recognize that securing for lesbigays the access to stable and
> committed unions is in the best self-interest of straight folks as
You have clearly demonstrated that my parenthetical comment proved
problematic for you, and if for you, likely for others.
Unquestionably it diverted attention from my main point. Therefore
based on your assessment, I have removed the parenthetical material in
the web version of this post at
http://andromeda.rutgers.edu/~lcrew/natter/msg00151.html The comment
> Once straights allow themselves to think objectively,
> straight people, whatever their religious or moral beliefs, don't
> have to think very hard or long to recognize that securing
> for lesbigays the access to stable and committed unions is
> in the best self-interest of straight folks as well.
I note that when I used Isherwood's phrase "heterosexual dictatorship"
in a later post, you took it as personally as you took my
generalization about straight people in the section above. I did not
intend either as evaluations of you personally. I am concerned
primarily about systems in which we operate, not about willful malice
or ignorance. My difficulty in making that point to you demonstrates I
have a communication problem that I have not yet resolved. Let me
try, not to 'win' an argument, but to be as clear as I can be about
issues I find important.
I find that heterosexism, like many other pernicious -isms, has some
of its main power not in the personal malice of individuals towards
its victims, but in the impersonal patterns of heteroprivilege that
persist even after the beneficiaries of those patterns have long ago
worked through their personal attitudes towards those whom the system
E.g., when I reported to the authorities that a student sent me
obscene antigay email last spring threatening to murder me and to maim
Ernest, the student was apprehended, jailed for a few days, released
at my insistence, counseled, and disciplined by the deans. The
student may seem the model for the problem persons that lesbigays
face, but I did not find him nearly as threatening to my equal
participation at Rutgers as are others, including some friends. The
student proved to be just a disturbed young man, high on drugs and rap
music. I had never taught him nor seen him before this episode. I
experience much more real disadvantage at Rutgers from the President,
yet he's a friend of mine; Ernest and I have frequently been in his
home for dinner -- and from my colleagues on the Board of Governors,
on which I recently served for two years with seat and voice but no
vote, in my role as then chair of the University Senate. I
encountered no personal malevolence there at all; quite the contrary,
several became friends outside that setting. Yet these colleagues
maintained policies systemically denying medical and other benefits to
same-sex partners -- benefits granted by most other universities in
Not once did I ever bring up the University's policy in this regard
except to report actions that the Senate had taken supporting lesbigay
litigants. Nor had I ever mentioned my views on the matter as chair
of the Senate, for it would have been inappropriate for me to do so,
even when other senators brought resolutions to the floor. I am
pleased that at the end of my time on the board, the board announced
its intention to grant benefits, and the details are still being
negotiated between the university and the attorneys of the five of us
who brought suit requesting these benefits years before I was ever
even elected a senator.
I see nothing to be gained by putting adversaries on a guilt trip,
especially when the adversaries hold their privileges without personal
ill will. I see much necessity, however, to educate all of us to the
justice demands upon us for the privileges that we hold unfairly. I
do not need to feel guilty about being a white person, for example,
nor for being a male; but enormous justice responsibilities fall upon
me to redress the privileges unfairly given me by being white and
being a male. Just one small example: when I teach females, I need
to be far more knowledgeable about women's literature and women's
history than the patriarchal educational system of the 40s and 50s
ever prepared me to be. The same when I teach persons of color. I
think a straight teacher is perpetuating injustice when they teach
lesbigay students and fail to know far more about lesbigay literature
and history than those whom they are educating.
We need to be in solidarity across all the barriers that we have
inherited that divide us. I do not help very much if I respond to my
privileges as a white person or a male by saying, "I am not
prejudiced; therefore there are no barriers. Why are you people
complaining about folks like me?"
As a gay person I find it important to speak around straights as I do
around lesbians and gays. That is one reason that I have steadily
identified myself not only as Louie Crew but also as 'Quean
Lutibelle' -- knowing in advance that the campy appellation seems to
some as 'in your face' and aggressive, knowing too that it might cut
me off at least momentarily from privileges that I would otherwise
have a white and male. On the other hand, I have no desire to live a
double life; nor do I seek friendship or collaboration with persons
who would expect me to. I have found that even those who oppose
homosexuality have often delighted in my candor. In time 'Lutibelle'
become just good fun, the way that it is in the gay male community.
I appreciate your hearing me out, and I appreciate your counsel.
Please keep me in your prayers.