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IDSEMUG 2083 - Coming Out Stories

In this course, we study “coming out” as a historical concept and interrogate what the practice now means given the increased acceptance that queer people in the United States have won in recent years. Gay-rights advocates celebrate coming out as a radical transformation of self-loathing into self-liberation, of shame into pride, of a private characteristic into a public political statement. In the 1970s, activists urged all lesbians and gay men to acknowledge their queer identities publicly. Coming out, they said, would provide role models for closeted people, naturalize a pariah identity, and generate a powerful social movement. When AIDS emerged in the 1980s, many queer people framed coming out as an overtly political act that would instigate action against the disease. More recently, many activists and scholars have argued that coming out and the accrual of civil rights exist symbiotically—the more queer people who come out, the more rights and benefits that queer people achieve. But was coming out ever really straightforward? How do race, religion, education, and gender presentation influence an individual’s decision to come out? Does coming out paradoxically represent a form of assimilation? Is it ever fair to out someone else? And what does it mean to come out today, when conceptions of gender and sexuality evolve rapidly and when even young children may feel supported in proclaiming themselves queer? Works we may encounter include Alison Bechdel’s “tragicomic” Fun Home, Audre Lorde’s autobiography Zami: A New Spelling of My Name, Michael Warner’s work of social theory Publics and Counterpublics, and Kenji Yoshino’s memoir-cum-legal analysis Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights. Class Notes: Open to sophomores only.FULFILLS GALLATIN DEGREE REQUIREMENT: HUMANITIES. Enrollment Requirements: Restr for IDSEM-UG Soph Only.
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