- Gay Activist and professor at the University of Michigan
- Created and teaches the course “How to be Gay: Male Homosexuality and Initiation”
- Stated in 2004 that under the Bush Administration, the U.S. was becoming a fascist nation
Gay professor David Halperin teaches “queer studies” at the University of Michigan (UM). He embraces the concept of “queer theory,” which rejects the view that sexuality is a universal human impulse, that sexual desire can exist apart from history and culture, and that any sexual inclination, including heterosexuality, is inherently “natural.” Says Professor Halperin, “Queer theory is in the process of becoming a game the whole family can play.”
Halperin’s self-identified professional interests include “the history and theory of homosexuality” and “gay men’s social practices and cultural identifications.” He has made it his mission to spread the message of “how to be gay” in the books and articles he has authored, and through the talks and conferences he has organized. Halperin has also taken his message straight to the undergraduate students at UM’s Ann Arbor campus, through a class he created in 2001 (and has taught each year since) titled “How to Be Gay: Male Homosexuality and Initiation.” The syllabus for this three-credit course states:
“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 identity. … Rather than attempting to promote one version of gay identity at the expense of others, this course will investigate the stakes in gay identifications and disidentifications, seeking ultimately to create the basis for a wider acceptance of the plurality of ways in which people determine how to be gay.”
Gary Glenn, head of the Michigan chapter of the American Family Association, characterized Halperin’s course as a taxpayer-funded vehicle for homosexual recruitment. Halperin denies the charge. “I keep waiting for someone to accuse me of possessing weapons of mass seduction,” he says. “… The course is about how people who are already gay learn to craft an identity for themselves. … 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.”
Decrying what he calls America’s “ceaseless hysteria over sex and its almost genocidal treatment of sexual dissidents,” Halperin uses the teaching of queer studies as a vehicle for trying to transform the social norms and mores of a nation he considers hostile to homosexuals. Writes Halperin: “Let there be no mistake about it: lesbian and gay studies, as it is currently [practiced] in the U.S., expresses an uncompromising political militancy. … Lesbian/gay studies has an oppositional design. It is informed by the social struggle for the sexual liberation, the personal freedom, dignity, equality, and human rights of lesbians, bisexuals, and gay men; it is also informed by resistance to homophobia and heterosexism — by political and cultural opposition to the ideological and institutional practices of heterosexual privilege.” The syllabus for “How to be Gay” notes that the class deals with “diva-worship, drag, muscle culture, taste, style, [and] political activism.”
In March 2003, Halperin co-organized an “international conference” on the topic of “Gay Shame” on the UM campus. The event featured a showcase by performance artist/musician Vaginal Crème Davis, a drag queen whose pseudonym is an homage to Angela Davis.
In an interview following George W. Bush’s victory in the 2004 U.S. presidential election, Professor Halperin remarked: “I think we are getting as close to fascism as we have been. I’m starting to understand what it would have felt like to be one of the so-called ‘good Germans,’ the ones who didn’t especially want the Holocaust to happen but didn’t know what to do to stop it from happening.”
Professor Halperin, who earned his Ph.D. at Stanford University in 1980, has authored and edited a number of books about homosexuality, including: How to Do the History of Homosexuality; Saint Foucault: Towards a Gay Hagiography; The Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader; and One Hundred Years of Homosexuality and Other Essays on Greek Love.