Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Best of Both Worlds

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Best of Both Worlds

Article excerpt

Dr. Siobhan Brooks does not have the background that some would deem fitting of a college professor. Her mother spent years hospitalized for a mental illness and raised Brooks in a San Francisco housing project. Plus, she's part of two groups of people who have been historically ostracized--African-Americans and the LGBT community. In the classroom, though, she may be just what her students need.

"I think I offer a unique perspective to different issues that my students can also relate to," says Brooks, an assistant professor at California State University, Fullerton.

During the 2016-17 academic year, she will introduce a course to students that embodies not only her identity, but shares the untold stories of people like her.

The first class of its kind in Fullerton's Department of African American Studies, she will teach the course The Black LGBT Experience. Each week has a theme "that's probably something that's familiar to students in terms of Black history, but they just don't know the LGBT contribution to that part of our history," Brooks says, noting that Black gay people are represented in periods from slavery, the civil rights movement, and the Harlem Renaissance to present-day hip-hop and the Black Lives Matter movement.

For Brooks, exploration of racial identity came in the 11th grade during a college prep class, which was mostly filled with Black and Latino students. A Black woman from San Francisco State University was her instructor.

"It was the first time that we talked about ourselves as people of color," Brooks recalls. "This was the first time we were forced to look at what's around our neighborhoods --why are there no grocery stores, for example--things that I just thought were normal in my neighborhood, that I was able to start doing critical analysis."

She passed the class with an A, earning her automatic enrollment into San Fransisco State University without taking the SATs. After testing the waters of creative writing and ethnic studies in undergrad, she carved out an intellectual space for herself as a women's studies major.

During college, Brooks was an employee of the Lusty Lady, a strip club in San Francisco. In this environment and elsewhere, she was exposed to different ideologies around sexuality. "I came to a conclusion that heterosexuality is one option upon the spectrum of sexual development, but it wasn't the only option," she says.

In 1996, she received a bachelor's of arts degree. …

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