Mar. 12th, 2007

Well, I survived Vegas.

The endless neon. The overpriced food. The NASCAR fans. The drunken idiots (one of whom decided he should hang on myself and a graduate student from SUNYA for much too long). The dinging of slot machines. The horrendous coffee in the hotel. And so on and so forth.

It was good to get back yesterday. It was particularly exciting to get off the plane after 2.5 hours of the screaming baby chorus. There were half a dozen children under the age of 2 on the plane. I have no idea what they were all doing in Vegas. However, I do know what they were doing on the plane - crying. In synchronization with each other. At 9:00am after absolutely no sleep, it was not a pleasant experience.

I think I might have mentioned before that HRC gave graduate students (there were 5 of us) who were presenting papers on LGBT issues travel grants for the conference. They also took us out to dinner on Thursday night and gave us some HRC goodies (book, pin, notepad, coffee mug, and pen). The dinner was nice - got to meet some other graduate students who do work in the area, meet a few new faculty members, interact with one I've known for years now, and so on. The research director for HRC (I have serious job envy, I must admit) who organized the whole thing was super sweet and really great.

However, and I fear I will forever encounter a bit of this (unless my research area shifts) . . . there was something about the dinner that sort of bothered me for most of the evening. There was an underlying assumption that all of us at the table not only researched LGBT issues but identified with the LGBT community. Obviously, I don't particularly care how people identify, nor do I bother identifying myself as anything anymore. It was never explicitly said, but pieces of the conversation implied that it was there. Difficulties associated with being in various departments, one of the HRC guys started a conversation about bars to go to in Vegas, one of the professors even alluded to the fact that a colleague of hers who does work on LGBT issues did decent, but not great work. Highlighting that he was a straight man. I don't know. Perhaps it's partly my own, ongoing, struggle with this issue. (Not internally, but others' assumptions regarding my sexuality.) Everyone at the table was gay, with the exception (I'm fairly certain - he seemed uncomfortable at times and left early) of the guy sitting next to me and . . . well, do with me what you will.

I know some of the work from the individuals at the table. Some of it's good. Some of it is awful. Seriously poor academic research. And I hate, and will forever be aggravated by, the implicit linking of LGBT identity and LGBT academic research. This was, of course, not the first time I've encountered it. It was just the first time in a more intimate setting than a panel, for example. But, during nearly every LGBT oriented panel I've been on at a conference, at least one person 'comes out' to us. Whether it's an audience member or a panelist. If you want to call yourself a social scientist, then I don't particularly care about your experience at this lesbian bar or that gay club. Really, I don't. I may be interested in hearing about it at a reception later. I also don't care what gender you prefer to have sex with. Furthermore, I'd prefer that you not care who I sleep with either. I don't expect future hiring committees to ask me about my sexuality - it should be irrelevant. Just like white individuals can do great research on minority (racial, ethnic) politics, straight individuals are equally capable (and sometimes much more capable) of doing good research in LGBT politics.

/end rant
Oh, I got my MA diploma in the mail today. Woo! Now I have empirical evidence that I got something out of these last 4 years.

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