Dislike of queer theory is not preference for self-help group

To the Editor:

Though, at least to my knowledge, she is not formally trained in psychology, Jennifer Row found it fit to insinuate last week that I am somehow in need of “self-help” (“Far from marginalizing, queer theory is all inclusive,” 10/12). This is all due to my belief that the Larry Kramer Initiative for Gay and Lesbian Studies should divorce itself from the propagation of queer “theory” and instead focus on issues of actual relevance to gay people, a position, ironically enough, more or less in line with that of the Initiative’s namesake.

After a stinging rebuke of my column from two weeks past, (Michael Jackson is not the right focus for LKI,” 9/28) in which I am the only individual named as being in contention with queer “theory” and the direction of LKI programming over the past two years, Row writes that, “For those seeking gay support and discussion groups, there are other organizations on campus that can tend to their needs, such as the LGBT Co-op, GaYalies and Queer People of Faith. LKI has a vital academic function on campus, and to reduce it to a self-help discussion series would seriously cripple its power and potential.”

Row insinuates that because I believe LKI should host speakers who discuss issues like, “the social effects of gay marriage, gay child rearing, or gays in the military,” rather than, say, last week’s discussion on “Siamese Performative Genders and Thai Perverse Desires: Putting Transgenderism Back into the History of Homosexuality,” that I wish to transform LKI into a “self-help” group to “tend to [my] needs.” Row will be pleased to know there are many others on campus eager to join me in watching Dr. Phil or reading, “Chicken Soup for the Tortured Homosexual Soul,” seeing as nearly every gay person I have spoken with here is as equally disturbed as I am by the direction that LKI has taken.

Perhaps Row’s defense of queer “theory” and the attendant concern of LKI’s obsession with social marginalization and radical politics merits further critique, perhaps not. But any attempt at civil discussion is lost when one side resorts to personal smears.

James Kirchick ’06

Oct. 17, 2004

The writer is a columnist for the Yale Daily News.

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