Thinking Queer: Sexuality, Culture, and Education

By Susan Talburt; Shirley R. Steinberg | Go to book overview

Chapter 4

Identity Politics, Institutional
Response, and Cultural Negotiation:
Meanings of a Gay and Lesbian Office
on Campus

Susan Talburt

If coming out says, “We're queer, we're here, get used to it, ” new-right identity
appropriates this to say, “We knew it, ” and to society, “We told you so.” What
operates as a performative act of identity assertion for “queers” is read by the
new right as descriptive, as not performative at all.

—Cindy Patton, 1993, 145—46

I think that most of those responses [the creation of a gay and lesbian support
office] are sort of token responses and not really substantive responses. I think
this university in general is very good at constructing messages that are, for lack
of a better term, sort of politically correct without really getting at the roots of
most of the problems.... But the university is smart enough as an institution,
and the leadership is smart enough to know that in the world of academia, it's
very important to make those symbolic gestures. In terms of the national reputa
tion of the school, in terms of being able to recruit faculty, staff, and students, and
all those kinds of things. You know, it means that they're not completely clueless,
it means that the school subscribes to basic sort of liberal values. Again, in com
parison to the backlash at a lot of universities and colleges, that's certainly a
positive. —A Liberal U faculty member

The advent of campus activism in the form of identity politics throughout the 1970s and 1980s encouraged the institutionalization of such interdisciplinary courses and programs as Women's and African American Studies, hiring and admissions practices that included “minorities, ” and the creation of centers and campus programming related to “diversity.” In the context of post—Civil Rights and post—Stonewall social movements, the

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