A Look Inside My Introduction to Queer Studies Classes: Poetry and Identity

Today my wonderful students in both sections of Introduction to GLBT Studies (or Queer Studies) at the University of Houston explored various aspects of identity! 

We started off by listening to and discussing a variety of performance poems: “Until We Could,” “Lost Voices,” and “For Anyone Who’s Been Told it’s ‘Just a Phase’.”

Then we wrote a poem as a class. I started it by typing “Growing up it was always expected” and then let the students run with it. One of them in each class typed everything. The only rule was every thing said went into the poem! I “tricked” people a few times! Both classes did an excellent job! Lucky for you, they gave me permission to share these with you. They are below.

Then we listened to Lee Mokobe’s poem about being transgender.

Next, I gave students the following prompt (stolen from my friend and colleague Dr. Trevor Boffone – who is the other professor at the University of Houston who teaches sections of this class):

There are numerous ways to identify who we are. Who are you? How do you identify yourself to others? Who are you to your friends, to your family, to strangers? Who are you at school, work, or other locations such as church or the gym? What about race, class, gender, sexuality, religion, ableness? Are any of these categories important to how you view yourself? If so, which ones and why? If not, why not? Think about your identity. How would you describe yourself? What does this description say about you? What is the history of your identity? Have you changed? Have you always been the same? Answer one, all, or none of the above questions.

In response, some students wrote individual poems, some drew sketches and portraits, some made lists, some wrote beautiful essays – the results were all unique and wonderful. Students had an opportunity to read some of or all of what they wrote. They are all so supportive of each other!

Then we listened to and discussed Audre Lorde’s “There is No Hierarchy of Oppression” and looked at her self-care questionnaire.

Finally, we listened to “Son of a Preacher Man” while wrapping up the class.

During the last few minutes I asked students to write any final thoughts or questions about identity or the day and to turn something in for an assignment grade – for which they all got full credit!

And now I present the stream of consciousness poems to you written as an entire class.

The first one, as decided by the students, is titled, 2:30 Expectations 

Growing up it was always expected
To be a woman
What is a woman
Still figuring it out
Ooo fun
Behave
Oh my gosh
Fragile and sensitive
Pink not blue
Smart
Have to wear dresses
Reserved
Growing up it was expected
Play sports
To go to dance class
Don’t go outside the fence
To be a bad driver
To go to college
Never being good enough
Follow the curfew
Be home before the street lights come on
A right
But he’s a boy, he’ll be ok
As long as he marries a woman
Be independent
To know who I am before I know who I am
To do things as told
To be strong
Have grandkids
Do well in school
Stay close to your brother
Find a man with a good job
Don’t be too friendly
It’s your fault if anything happens
Be safe
Be careful
Never show your fears
Never let them see you sweat
Never try to be someone you’re not
Be a leader not a follower
Be perfect
What is perfect
No one is perfect
Don’t talk to strangers, but don’t be mean to strangers
Don’t let them see you cry else you’ll look weak
How can I be everything they expect me to be?
Give him a fake number so he’ll go away
Have faith that you’ll find your way
Too many demands
Believe in something
Hold on, it’ll get better
I forgot the original sentence
Follow your dreams
Be reasonable
Be successful
Be responsible
Be an adult
Grow the hell up
Pick a gender already
Get married already
I don’t wanna
When are you going to have kids?
Never
Do you think that will attract a man?
I am not trying to attract a man
Who needs a man?
No one needs a man
No offense
Full offense
I like this as an ending
Damn it
That’s good
Is the goal like three pages or something
Shhhhh
The end

The second class named their poem SHIT POST:

Growing up it was always expected
To be normal
To follow the rules
To be straight
To have goals
To go to school
Africans don’t play
No no no…..
Anything we say
Growing up it was always expected
To be like your siblings
To be better than your siblings
Who needs siblings?
They’re annoying
Yea yea yea
To make good grades
I don’t know
To be better than the rest
To be independent
To be outgoing
To fit in
To be the man
To not be weak
Be responsible
To have a boyfriend
Who needs men?
No
To be a doctor
What are we doing?
Okay
It’s alright
Huh?
Get a career then you can get pregnant
Social norms
To fix your brothers and dads plates
I’m sorry… I don’t know why I’m doing it
I have nothing
Whats the point of this ?
Reflecting on expectations
To dress like your friends
To have friends
To have nice things
Never give up
But don’t be a copy cat
To fit in
To be understood
Yea I said like four things
To eat healthy
Hmmmm…. No
To play sports
To give up your career for your family
To be a ballerina
To not be a football player
To be a football player
To be extremely wealthy
To not be shy
To be kind
Accepting of others
No to judge people
Love your family
To wanna kill your family
Had dark teenage years
Okay that’s going on the record… okay
To graduate high school
To be beautiful
To be handsome
To be able to immediately go into college
To be skinny
To be perfect
Does this person even exist?
Maybe with Photoshop
To be ashamed of my culture
To embrace your culture
The masculine man
The feminine woman
To shave your arm pits
Oh yea… you should do it
That’s sexist
That’s racist
That’s homophobic
What…
The End

It was a fun, full class! Teaching is the best!

Dr. Andrew Joseph Pegoda

 

 



Categories: Thoughts and Perspectives

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

13 replies

  1. When the country is bogged down with chaotic news constantly it’s nice to read something with a little hope. In the end we are just human beings. Deal with it, embrace it, acknowledge the differences. Life is way too short to do anything but. A good read, Doc. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. When I was college age, most students, whether or not LGBT, would have had a very hard time even talking about the experience. But young women would have been able to talk in class about the expectations their family had for them as women and your poems describe that very well. It is interesting how much of each poem covers LGBT experience, too. However, given the sexual repressiveness here in Texas (see next paragraph), I suspect there were several in your class who would have had a hard time speaking at all about expectations they suffered from, regardless of their status as LGBT or otherwise. But, just as I say that if you get your students talking biology, they learn biology, the same applies to gender studies as well and opens up much suppressed speech. Kudos to you for achieving opening the door a crack on the first day.

    Speaking of sex. The new report about the state of sex education in Texas is a case supporting what you said about the stranglehold of the SBOE in Texas on speech of quite a few types. See the pdf of Conspiracy of Silence: Sexuality Education in Texas Public Schools in 2015-16 (Full Report)
    http://a.tfn.org/sex-ed/tfn-sex-ed-report-2016-web.pdf
    Executive Summary
    http://a.tfn.org/sex-ed/executive-summary-web.pdf
    Press Release
    http://tfn.org/new-tfn-education-fund-study-texas-is-failing-on-sex-education
    and a previoius report
    Just Say Don’t Know: Sexuality Education in Texas Public Schools (2009)
    http://tfn.org/cms/assets/uploads/2015/11/SexEdRort09_web.pdf

    Liked by 1 person

    • This was our fifth week of meeting (something like that), so they’ve gotten more and more used to reading and talking about these topics. Even on day one, though, they were very open, ready, and even eager to talk about all kinds of different feelings. My students again and again say they don’t get any information about sexuality or sexual health or LGBT peoples in public school. It’s tragic, really. Many of them say my course should be required of all students! We get to cover so many topics that aren’t covered anywhere else.

      Liked by 2 people

    • What a fun course! I guess it is the first taste of adult life for them because they have been so protected as chldren.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Tomorrow we deconstruct the “born this way” philosophy! And then Thursday we talk about how gay White men are both oppressors and oppressed! It really is a fun class to teach 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Outstanding post! What a class! What a teacher!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sounds really interesting! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

Trackbacks

  1. More Queer Studies Class Poems – Without Ritual, Autonomous Negotiations

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