Friday, May 01, 2009

Gay and Working Class

There is an intriguing new book on the market. The title is Resilience: Queer Professors from the Working Class and as its title suggests it is devoted to the stories of gay and working class people who have made into the exclusive world of academia. The editors and contributors are are Kenneth Oldfield and Richard Johnson.

It is an interesting combination and, as Ken Oldfield says, while the academic community is far more welcoming for gays than it once was, there is little indication that the same can be said for working class academics.

One of the themes of this blog has always been that class trumps all other factors. This is most obvious in the case of white professors but, as I have written before, it seems clear that African-Americans are in the same position. Academic positions appear to be open to African-Americans as long as they come from the "right" background or have been appropriately groomed. On the other hand, any obvious link to the actual real world life of African-Americans in the United States makes the elitists who control hiring nervous.

Almost certainly the same is true for gays. Law Schools clamor to hire gay professors in order to display their "liberal" leanings (even if the gay professors are conservative). My hunch is that they would draw the line at a gay applicant with even a whiff of a working class background or one who would actual admit to such a background. But, for me at least, this is uncharted territory. I have seen working class whites and African-Americans get snubbed but I am not sure I have even seen a gay applicant who had working class characteristics. Consequently, I cannot tell if the same discrimination occurs but my hunch is that it does. In fact, the fact that working class gay applicants to not emerge may itself be a sign of how severe the discrimination is.

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