Morehouse College offers new LGBT course

1:09 AM, Jan 17, 2013   |    comments
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ATLANTA -- There's a new course coming to Morehouse College.

Starting Thursday, the class "A Geneology of Black LGBT Culture and Politics" will meet twice a week for the rest of the semester.

The special topics course will be offered through the sociology department and is the first of its kind at Morehouse. Sophomore Marcus Lee said while he has enjoyed his 18 months on campus, he's long felt a need for such a course.

"It's an awkward feeling when you realize kind of that the brotherhood on campus is conditional," he said. "As long as we don't talk about gay stuff or differences in gender expression, everything's OK. But when those topics begin to come up, it gets really awkward and there's a certain tension in the room."

Lee, who serves on the board of the campus LGBT advocacy group SafeSpace, said he also noticed a void in classroom discussions.

"I think there was a certain curricular deficit," he said. "I would experience it in different classes where we would talk about masculinity or sexual identity, but we wouldn't really get into the understanding of non-normative sexuality or gender non-conformity, and those are things that are really relevant to my community."

So Lee reached out to Yale Professor Dr. Jafari Allen, who agreed to teach the course. Allen, a one-time Morehouse student himself, said the course will use familiar literature to frame the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender conversation around culture and politics.

"It brings Morehouse into the late 20th century," Allen said. "This class, for the heterosexual brothers, it allows them to think outside of the confines of their own bedrooms."

Allen, also gay, attended Morehouse from 1986 to 1990, but left the school before graduting, in part because he felt there was no one on campus with whom he could discuss his sexuality.

"I feel like a course like this would have kept me at Morehouse," Allen said.

It's no secret in the black community: the topic of homosexuality is often a difficult one to discuss. Even Morehouse has dealt with its isolated issues in the past; in 2003, a Morehouse student was convicted of beating another student with a baseball bat because he felt that student peered at him in a dormitory shower.

While some call the course a major step for Morehouse, even controversial, sociology department chair Dr. Michael Hodge said this is just the latest step in a list of university actions to spark LGBT dialogue.

"The course is not an attempt to make up for anything the college has not done in the past," said sociology department chair Dr. Michael Hodge. "It really is a course for the students to learn how to engage these difficult topics."

The course comes under the umbrella of the sociology department's "Faces of Manhood" program, funded by a grant from the Ford Foundation.

Follow Blayne on Twitter: @ReporterBlayne

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