11 May 2006


Toot the Horn? How Loudly?

Say you were a faculty member, recently tenured (one year ago), at a medium-sized institution with a focus on aerospace/aviation. The faculty and student body there are somewhat conservative, what with the aerospace/aviation overlap with the military, etc. Of course, the military is not necessarily as conservative as many would imagine, since it attracts folks from all walks of our lives, but the perception, not necessarily the reality, is that it is a conservative institution.

Say you were an "out" faculty member. That is, you were gay, and you didn't try to hide that. You were or had been the faculty advisor for the LBG student group. You and your partner partook of most University social functions, and had since you started working there. Maybe you had written the University's domestic-partner policy and seen it successfully adopted.

Suppose you had made being out in that "In fact, I'm not married, but I do have a life and a love, thank you. I'm gay, and, believe it or not, we're pretty damned happy and have been, with the usual ups and downs, for going on twelve years now, longer than the marriages of some of our sibblings," part of how you conducted your professional life. Not arguing with people about homosexuality, but refusing to pretend that there was something wrong with it, tying to find the right line between activism in some forms and conformity. Not acting like your life was inferior to your straight counterparts, and insisting that they acknowledge your life, the one you loved, that you were just as much a couple as your straight peers who had married, had (or not had) childred, etc.

Now say you were elected Vice-Speaker of the campus faculty Senate. How loudly would you crow about it? How big a deal is it, considering that you're gay and the somewhat, in some folks' minds, conservative bent of your campus?

I figure it's a testimony to the mature sensibility of my peers that they wouldn't hold the fact that I'm gay against me, even as I could imagine that they might have choosen to do so, but I don't think it's groundbreaking or anything extraordinary. I think it speaks well for my institution, even if it is conservative in some ways. Trying to deliver the best education for the folks who pay us to help them develop professionally and personally is not an attribute of conservatism. Nor is hard work, care for others, and doing one's best to support one's family, communities, insitutions, and nation. Even to try to be a good citizen of the planet. That's not conservative, even if it is rooted in longer-term values than many might not respect today.

The folks I will get to work with are great people. I hope I do a good job.

I think it's both a testimony to the mature sensibility of your peers and the talent you possess to have been selected by such a mature and sensible group! I'm sure the visible and excellent job you will do in the position will have the indirect effect of tooting the horn very, very loudly.


Toot louder! I wish I had your courage. I think that it's great that you can do what you do.
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