First appeared in Variant 4.5 (December 1992):
© 1992 by Variant; © 2004 by Louie Crew
"In this query, `out' means 'anyone who has revealed lesgay sexual orientation at the institution,'" I stated on the form. Note the active voice: I asked respondents to count lesgays who had given this information about themselves; I did not ask for hearsay. Note the venue: 'at the institution.' I did not ask for private and confidential revelations.
The survey appeared on several lists (See Appendix A). On the form, I urged interested persons to post the survey on yet other lists, as many did.
Eighty-eight persons replied, but I quantified the responses of only
the 30 who provided all the data requested. (See Appendix
The higher the rank, the smaller the percentage of `out' gay males:
Gay Male Percent of Males at the rank of Full Professors 5% Associate Professors 4% Assistant Professors 9% Below 0% Gay male decline: ================================================= 10% | 0 | 9% | | 8% | | 7% | | 6% | 0 | 5% | 0 | 4% | | 3% | | 2% | | 1% ================================================= 0 Asst. Assc. FullLesbians compared with other females, survive at the higher ranks more than do gay males compared other males:
Lesbian Percent of Females at the rank of Full Professors 15% Associate Professors 6% Assistant Professors 13% Below 4% Lesbian vulnerability derives more from lesbians' status as women than from their status as `out': Female (Strait and Lesbian) Percent at the rank of Full Professors 27% Associate Professors 32% Assistant Professors 47% Below 64% Female decline: ================================================= 100% | | 90% | | 80% | o | 70% | | 60% | o | 50% | | 40% | o | 30% | O | 20% | | 10% ================================================= 0 Below Asst. Assc. FullUsing Kinsey's statistics1, which addressed males only, most researchers estimate lesgays, not just those who are 'out,' to be about ten percent of the population. In academia as my respondents described it, only those `out' at the lowest ranks approach that number. Note that computed this way, lesbians and gays fare equally at the top, whereas lesbians fared better than other women and gay males fare less well than other men.
Lesgay % of all at the rank of | Lesbians Gay Males | Full Professors 8% | 4% 4% Associate Professors 5% | 2% 3% Assistant Professors 11% | 6% 5% Below 3% | 3% 0% 'Out' lesgay overall: 6%Since these statistics do not manifest the presence of closeted lesgays, presumable their addition would show lesgays as
Why do `out' lesgays, and especially `out' gay men, show up in smaller proportions the higher the academic rank? Will these percentage hold true with larger samples? With anonymous surveys?
Do colleagues fail to tenure them? And if so why? Are colleagues happy to have lesgays working in the "kitchen" but not the "front office"? Does being `out' increase the risk of a bad tenure decision?
Do `out' lesgays eliminate themselves by moving on to what they consider more comfortable venues for being `out'? Does a generation gap account for the discrepancy: Are full professors more likely to have considered themselves "too old" to participate in the wave of coming out that began in general with Stonewall in 1969 and in academia with the formation of the Gay Academic Union in 1973?
Why do lesbians relative to other women fare better than gay men relative to other men?
Of lesgays `out' as full professors, how many of them waited until they achieved tenure before coming out?
This study cannot answer those questions, but I hope that it prompts others to investigate.
The survey itself raises some questions not only about this project
but also about the use of e-mail, which is not anonymous, to gather data
about any sensitive subject.2
1 Kinsey, Alfred Charles, Wardell B. Pomeroy, and Clyde E. Martin. Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. Philadelphia, W. B. Saunders Co., 1948.
2 Two decades ago, much greater controversy
abounded when Laud Humphreys used automobile license plates to trace the
identity of persons having anonymous in public restrooms. See Tearoom Trade;
Impersonal Sex in Public Places, Chicago, Aldine Pub. Co., 1970. I asked
no one about any sexual behavior nor did I ask anyone to reveal her or
his own sexual orientation, though a few, lesgay and strait alike, did
volunteer that information. The risk respondents to my survey faced was
the risk of being known as the source of sensitive information. Some also
talked about the risk of making a target out of their department or university.
Special thanks to political scientist to Ken Sherrill who first prompted me to think about these questions and to my colleagues at MBU-L (Megabyte University) and ComComDigest (A Digest of Discourse about Computers and Composition) who raised my consciousness about the need for statistics about gender and the distribution of power in our own discipline. I have to take full responsibility for the design of my own survey.
Appendix A: Where the Survey Was Posted
I list below the groups to which I posted the survey. Others posted it elsewhere and some sent copies to people privately. It is impossible to know how many received the survey or how many read it after seeing the subject line.
Group Group's official description on the Rutgers news server (if any): alt.activism alt.discrimination alt.homosexual alt.privacy bit.listserv.erl-l Educational Research List bit.listserv.history History List bit.listserv.mbu-l Megabyte University - Computers and Writing. bit.listserv.politics Forum for the Discussion of Politics. bit.listserv.psycgrad bit.listserv.rhetoric Rhetoric, social movements, persuasion. bit.listserv.tesl-l bit.listserv.words-l English Language Discussion Group humanist misc.education Discussion of the educational system. soc.motss Issues pertaining to homosexuality. soc.rights.human Human rights & activism (e.g., Amnesty International).Through the postings of others, it also appeared on Women's Studies List and other lists not known to me.
Appendix B: Those who responded:
Females distributed in among my respondents rather much as they are distributed in the departments which they described:
My Respondents Their Departments Male 53% 59% Female 40% 41% Not Revealed 7%My respondents hold positions disproportionately in the lower ranks of the departments which they describe.
My respondents Their Departments Full Professors 13% 27% Associate Professors 30% 28% Assistant Professors 37% 25% Below 20% 20%When I asked them to describe themselves, most (70%) checked: "I consider myself more likely than most other colleagues to know the sexual orientation of lesgay colleagues." Another 27 percent considered themselves "about as likely....to know" and only 3 percent said they were "less likely... to know." Whatever else this may or may not mean, the response demonstrates that the survey attracted people who think themselves knowledgeable about such matters. Almost all (93%) requested me to send a copy of the results.
Respondents represent 50/50 the humanities and the sciences+: more specifically:
% of all departments Humanities 50% English 23% History 7% Linguistics 7% Classics 3% German 3% Library Science 3% Religion 3% Sciences.... 50% Computer Science 10% Mathematics 7% Nursing 7% Psychology 7% Anatomy 3% Earth Sciences 3% Finance 3% Industrial Engineering 3% Psychiatry 3% Sociology 3% Average Department Size 26 Average Number of Majors 167Data came from the following universities:
Central MO State University
Lakeheads University City
New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology
Rhode Island School of Design
University Maryland/Baltimore Co
University New Hampshire
University of Calgary
University of Illinois-Chicago
University of Mississippi
University of North Carolina/Wilmington
Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University
Average full-time student population 14,327
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