There are many places where gay rights laws are anathema, where
gay literature ignites bitter controversy, where gay meeting places
are banished to the shadows.
And then, there's Rutgers University.
Here students can live in a gay dorm. An assistanat dean looks
after gay students. Student fees go to groups promoting gay
concerns. Rutgers has a gay alumni association and gay archives.
The school is committed to rooting out gay-bashing in any form and
"It seems like the community is doing all it can to help them
fit in and not be a freak of nature," says Matthew Klain, 20, a
mathematics major. "Just like, `It's OK.'"
Rutgers, the state university of New Jersey, is not some lone
gay oasis on the U.S. academic scene. Far from it.
Rutgers is among hundreds of schools - public and private,
secular and religious - that are introducing homosexuality to
academic discourse and making their campuses hospitable to gays.
Colleges often serve as incubators for the changes churning
American society at large. In this case, it's part of the shift
from ostracizing to accepting gays - a shift that seems to be
moving forward, despite organized opposition from the religious
right and other sectors.
At Rutgers and elsewhere, even the language for homosexuals has
changed. Now it's "lesbian, gay and bisexual." Or lesbian-gay-bi.
Or LGB, for short.
And queer theory is no insult. It's a scholarly pursuit for the
meaning of sexual desire and gender in society, and the language
used to talk about it.
"The whole flowering effervesence of gay and lesbian studies is
a part of the development of our notions of gender and sexuality,"
said John DeCecco, a psychology professor at San Francisco State
DeCecco, 68, is the editor of The Journal of Homosexuality. He
inaugurated his university's two-year-old minor in Bisexual,
Lesbian and Gay Studies and runs its human sexuality studies
program. He estimates that 200 students enroll in those program
courses at any one time on the campus of 25,000.
"We once believed gender and sexuality were physical, for
making babies or for pleasure, in a limited sense," said DeCecco.
"We're now realizing it has other dimensions: psychological and
erotic, historical and cultural."
Even aside from studies, college campuses are throwing an ivy
cloak around those who once lived in hiding or confusion and fear
of being found out.
"I wish I was in college now, instead of when I was," said
Curtis Shepard, 37, campus organizer for the National Gay and
Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute. …