This week I guest lectured in a colleague’s marriage and family course. Assigned with the task of “discussing gay and lesbian families,” I wanted to cover gay/lgbt/queer families, issues of access to resources, social tolerance, methodologies, and of course you have to discuss the health and well-being of the children. However, I only had on hour to build a rapport, to cover the foundational issues–why families are important social institutions, lgbt/queer terminologies, defining lgbt/queer families, and then get into the more substantive issues I wanted to cover. While I think I gave them some good information, especially foundational, I know I didn’t get to cover the things I most wanted to discuss like the ins and outs of the same-sex marriage debate, “families of choice,” heteronormativity, and more. Most of all, I think I left most unsettled because I failed to leave time for questions. My options were to speak a million miles a minute or trim…
Guest lecturing is a tricky thing. In many ways, it makes me think of job interviews except less formal. Over the weekend, I worked on my lecture and spent a good deal of time thinking about what I wanted to wear. (Dress really affects my confidence in the classroom–and for a one time meeting/talk it is paramount that I feel good about what I’m wearing. I am not talking so much from a style point of view, rather a practical point of view in which I do need to look different from students, but more importantly I need to not be worried about if my zipper is down, tripping over chords–I’m a klutz–and how my shirt is hanging/tucked).
When guest lecturing, I always plan to have too much rather than too little to talk about. In fact, normally in this sort of situation I would have set up 2 half hour lectures. This way you can roll with the mood of the class and various levels of talkativeness. You can also taylor to their interests.
This past Monday, I forgot almost all these “tricks.” To be honest, I think I was just eager to please and couldn’t wait to have some more in class interaction. It really kills me that we didnt get to have the Q&A at the end. I will never make that mistake again, even if it means setting the timer on my phone.
This is me blogging. Im gonna become a blogger and I will blog most every week at least. I will blog about all sorts of issues that come up in my daily life as a professor and academic who is also recognizably queer and also studies queer things. I say this, in this way because of a piece of advice that I once was given by an elder, more established queer academic. Essentially, I was told you can be out or look gay if you don’t study gay things, but if you study gay things, forget about it. It just doesn’t work. Or you have to be really hot. (I wont be naming any names…so no fear to anyone who ever talks to me about anything). This has always stuck with me…and for some dumb reason, I just never followed it and thankfully that has worked out for me.
What I will probably blog about mostly:
I am technically trained as a social psychologist and I love to talk anything related to group processes and social interaction, especially thinking about how people make decisions based on what information they have…I know that is cliché but its true. However, I also enjoy queer demography, and thinking about how people make decisions in relation to their sexuality. “I ran out of people to date here so I am moving…” This is an actual quote from someone I know. I find this to be very interesting. I will keep it lay and it will be stream of thought. I am also interested in issues of queer spaces, stereotypes, and identities. For example, I consider my self a country person and I sometimes feel very out of place in “the city”—or maybe its really just in traffic and around concrete that bothers me—but there seems to be a theme in my life where people are surprised that I like the outdoors and rural communities, and the idea of one day being a farmer/moose rancher. Now I realize that you cant tell completely whether I am joking or not…but that is not the point. The point is that I find it very interesting that this is so surprising to people primarily because I am queer. Yet it makes perfect sense to me.
I also think a lot about being out in the classroom. As a professor, I really have to be comfortable in front of the class otherwise I can not do a good job. Yet, there is also a stigma (another topic I love to talk about) to being queer in most places and spaces. On top of that I look young, and I am a woman. Some of my students also think I look like Ellen, although I tell them it is really just the sweater vest and sneakers. My students also often expect me to be a black man. On all fronts it becomes an interesting mix as to what issues come up and how I feel about my classroom interactions. Another reason for this blog (beyond that of being cathartic and fun) is I think it is important for students and graduate students who want to one day become a professor to have an idea of what it is like and can be like, especially if they are queer. While I know they will not have my exact experiences. I often had to look long and hard to find queer mentors. In fact, really I only had a couple. My primary academic mentors were not queer at all, but they were completely supportive and often I never felt queer and as such I think I lucked out in that I didn’t obsess on how I should be or if it would be ok. I just always thought: WWJorDD? In some ways my ignorance/naivete saved me. More and more, I believe this is a very important topic that rarely gets addressed if you don’t feel completely comfortable with your mentors or know other queer academics. I mainly feel this way because at most every conference I attend, queer grad students come up to talk to me under the guise of my work…but in the end it really is “how do I do what you are doing and be so comfortable with it?” Well the truth is, I don’t always feel comfortable and I may have some answers for you, but I am still trying to figure it out myself. Perhaps, with more discussions and experiences we can figure something(s) out. That is the point of this blog.
This will not always be about queer things, or academic things, and yes I don’t always use apostrophes when I should but unless the software auto-corrects me, its likely it will stay that way.