Jun 15, 2014

Spring 2001: Are You Ever Mistaken for Gay?

In the spring of 2001, I was finishing my Ph.D. at Stony Brook University, in Sociology with a concentration in Gender/Sexuality (read: Gay Studies) and a dissertation on gay community strength (but my committee insisted that I excise the word "gay" from the title).  And I set out looking for an academic job in Gay Studies.

Problem: There weren't any.

Well, there was one, but it went to a Lesbian of Color who was doing research on Transnational Feminisms.

What about Gender?

Lots of those.  I sent out about 30 application portfolios --  but the jobs all went to women, preferably Women of Color who were doing research on Transnational Feminisms.  I toyed with the idea of changing my name to "Denise Davis" and going to interviews in drag. 
 By the end of January, when Gender jobs are usually filled, I hadn't had a single interview.

What about my minor field, Deviance/Criminology?

Lots of  jobs there, too.  I sent out my portfolio to about 30 colleges and got 10 interviews.

But deviance scholars and criminologists tend to dislike gay people.  Even at prestigious, liberal colleges.

Academic interviews usually last for two days, giving them many opportunities to find out if I was, in fact, gay.  Or else they made the heterosexist assumption that I must be heterosexual, which I found even more aggravating:

"Will your wife be moving with you?"
"How many kids do you have?"
"This area has lots of beautiful women, doesn't it?"
"Our department secretary is single.  Another perk if you come here, right?"
"Aren't you worried that, spending so much time around gays, it might rub off on you?"
"Researching gay topics, are you ever mistaken for gay?"

March, April, and May passed, with no offers.  Finally in desperation I applied for a criminology job at a college in a horrible town in Montana.  The nearest gay neighborhood was in Calgary, a 6-hour drive.

I got the offer, but I really, really didn't want to move to a horrible town six hours from the nearest gay neighborhood.

Then my friend Yuri, who helped me look for the World's Biggest Penis two summers ago, said.  "Why do you want to be a college professor, anyway?  It's dumb!"

This from a guy who finished his dissertation in 2000 and fell right into a cushy tenure-track position in Climate Science at Florida Atlantic University.

"Come down to Florida and live with me!" he offered.  "I live right next door to a lot of gay bars, and near to the beach.  More hot guys than you know what to do with!  And have you heard of Spring Break? Wow!"

"What about a job?"

"There are lots of jobs here.  Maybe you will teach as an adjunct when you're not on the beach, looking at hot guys."

So I turned down the Montana job, sent 20 boxes of books via UPS, packed up a rental car with everything else, and drove south on I-95 for three days.  It felt very much like my move to West Hollywood in 1985.

On the way I met an Amish boy in red bikini underwear.