A new class, HI 369: Sexuality in U.S. History, was announced in late September, emphasizing the increased access for students to learn about LGBTQ history and culture in the United States.
Matt Champagne, a teaching assistant and graduate student in public history, will be instructing the new class, and they plan to focus on lesser known parts of queer and gendered history in places that go underlooked in popular narratives, such as the American South and the Midwest.
“There are sort of misconceptions about where LGBTQ+ history lives and exists,” Champagne said. “People most often look at the Eastern and West Coast. They look in major cities, and they look in cisgender communities of middle-class white men… I'm definitely going to be focusing our class on a broader timeline than most.”
Champagne reflected on their reasons for starting this class, and they wanted to make sure a student at NC State didn’t have to go through what they did in undergrad.
“For my undergrad, I was in New York City at a nonreligious-affiliated campus that sort of marketed itself as a progressive school for POC, LGBT and, just sort of like, for marginalized people generally,” Champagne said. “But yet, at my university, I was a history major and had to get special permission to take a class on LGBTQ+ experience because it was only reserved for students in the honors college. So that's why I'm so happy to be able to have the opportunity to curate a class that I was hungry to take when I was an undergrad, and now, I can make it available to anyone and everyone who desires to take it with no prerequisites barring them from pursuing their academic goals.”
Providing a class that focuses on gender and sexuality and can be accessed by most students reflects broader changes toward inclusivity at North Carolina State University. Andy DeRoin, assistant director of the GLBT Center at NC State, noted the process of including preferred pronouns within student and faculty ID databases on campus.
“So the process of getting a preferred name or a chosen name field in MyPack Portal was, like, five years in the making,” DeRoin said. “A chosen name kind of was the first round of being trans affirming.”
DeRoin explained the process the GLBT Center and other on-campus LGBTQ advocates had to go through in order to get this small victory. The GLBT Center petitioned the University for a change which would allow a preferred name and pronouns field to exist in MyPack Portal. The University then surveyed other universities and found they had similar fields and then chose to implement it about a year ago.
However, DeRoin said this was not just a victory for transgender and gender nonconforming students.
“It's not even about gender,” DeRoin said. “It’s like, what if you just go by your nickname or what have you? For international students who go by like an English-sounding name, this is still important for them.”
Champagne hopes their class will show some parts of history that are underrepresented and understudied, but wants to make it clear that LGBTQ history is not divorced from that of “mainstream” history.
“Even though LGBTQ+ history prides itself on sort of diverging from traditional historical narratives, it still somehow always tends to lean back into the general problems of history that we focus on in sort of elitist, normative, centric areas,” Champagne said.
HI 369: Sexuality in U.S. History will be a three credit hour class offered this spring and taking the course will fulfill a major’s U.S. Diversity GEP requirement.