Coming out in College: The Struggle for a Queer Identity

Coming out in College: The Struggle for a Queer Identity

Coming out in College: The Struggle for a Queer Identity

Coming out in College: The Struggle for a Queer Identity

Synopsis

Coming out is the process of acknowledging same-sex attractions to oneself and to others. It is both a personal and a public process. For many gay and bisexual students, college marks a pivotal point where for the first time they feel free to explore their same-sex attractions. This book is about the struggles students face in coming out. The focus is twofold: the experiences individuals face in coming to terms with their sexual identity and the process of developing a group identity. The development of a group identity involves a degree of political investment. For some students, becoming political means adopting a "queer" persona. As one student noted, "Queer is kind of an in your face' attitude toward heterosexism and homophobia." A primary focus of this book revolves around the notion of queer identity and how students engage as cultural workers seeking both campus and societal change.

Excerpt

Within the last decade, the debate over the meaning and purpose of education has occupied the center of political and social life in the United States. Dominated largely by an aggressive and ongoing attempt by various sectors of the Right, including "fundamentalists," nationalists, and political conservatives, the debate over educational policy has been organized around a set of values and practices that take as their paradigmatic model the laws and ideology of the market place and the imperatives of a newly emerging cultural traditionalism. In the first instance, schooling is being redefined through a corporate ideology that stresses the primacy of choice over community, competition over cooperation, and excellence over equity. At stake here is the imperative to organize public schooling around the related practices of competition, reprivatization, standardization, and individualism.

In the second instance, the New Right has waged a cultural war against schools as part of a wider attempt to contest the emergence of new public cultures and social movements that have begun to demand that schools take seriously the imperatives of living in a multiracial and multicultural democracy. The contours of this cultural offensive are evident in the call by the Right for standardized testing, the rejection of multiculturalism, and the development of curricula around what is euphemistically called a "common culture." In this perspective, the notion of a common culture serves as a referent to denounce any attempt by subordinate groups to challenge the narrow ideological and political parameters by which such a culture both defines and expresses itself. It is not too surprising that the theoretical and political distance between defining schools around a common culture and denouncing cultural difference as the enemy of democratic life is relatively short indeed.

This debate is important not simply because it makes visible the role that schools play as sites of political and cultural contestation, but because it is within this debate that the notion of the United States as an open and . . .

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