6. University of Michigan – How to be Gay: Male Homosexuality and Initiation
Ah, the finest public education taxpayer money can buy now comes complete with lessons on how to be gay.
Before someone cries, “Homophobe!” let me make clear that I’m not interested in stoking the culture war over gay rights, and I’m not suggesting the professor, David Halperin, is evangelizing gayness to otherwise straight-as-an-arrow kids. My guess is that he’s simply a provocateur looking to rile up social conservatives. But really? Is a crash course in how to conform to existing gay stereotypes a legitimate academic pursuit?
Just because you happen to be a gay man doesn’t mean that you don’t have to learn how to become one. Gay men do some of that learning on their own, but often we learn how to be gay from others, either because we look to them for instruction or because they simply tell us what they think we need to know, whether we ask for their advice or not.
This course will examine the general topic of the role that initiation plays in the formation of gay male identity. We will approach it from three angles: (1) as a sub-cultural practice — subtle, complex, and difficult to theorize — which a small but significant body of work in queer studies has begun to explore; (2) as a theme in gay male writing; and (3) as a class project, since the course itself will constitute an experiment in the very process of initiation that it hopes to understand.
Even Perez Hilton was taken aback by this one. His site classified the course as “wacky, tacky & true.”