Author David Halperin on How to Be Gay

November 2, 2013 | by the Office of Marketing and Communications

What did Joan Crawford have to do with being gay?

At one time, quite a bit, says David Halperin, a professor of the history and theory of sexuality at the University of Michigan and the author of How to Be Gay.

Halperin visited Elmhust College on October 30 to present Long Live the Queen! The Persistence of Gay Culture. Prior to the evening lecture, Halperin made an appearance on WBEZ’s Morning Shift.

In How to Be Gay, Halperin explored why Crawford, Broadway musicals and Judy Garland came to matter so much to many gay men. Do those icons, as well as more recent ones like Lady Gaga, still matter at a time when the “official discourse” says gay people are “absolutely the same” as everyone else and to say anything else is to be a stereotyping homophobe? What about the “unofficial discourse,” in which gay men still prefer RuPaul’s Drag Race to Queer as Folk?

Halperin is the W.H. Auden Distinguished University Professor of the History and Theory of Sexuality at the University of Michigan. How To Be Gay was drawn from a controversial course with the same title that Halperin taught at Michigan. The class drew media attention in 2000, and led a group of right-wing Michigan lawmakers to propose a bill that would allow the Legislature to veto course offerings at the state’s public universities. The bill failed.

The author or editor of 10 books, Halperin also teaches English language and literature, women’s studies, comparative literature, and classical studies. He also is a co-founder of GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies.

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