Conservatives have always worried about homosexual agendas and recruiting youth. While many liberals might hope that the era of fearing gays and lesbians is over as a result of things like gay marriage, what’s going on in South Carolina right now shows just how far we have not come despite all of the gay and lesbian movement’s efforts to prove that gays and lesbians are normal, responsible good citizens. At the center of this recent controversy is not only gay rights, but broader questions of economic uncertainty, academic freedom and censorship.
This year, both the University of South Carolina, Upstate and the College of Charleston, two publicly-funded institutions, assigned gay-themed books for their university wide book program, a program increasingly common at colleges and universities nationwide. Charleston assigned Alison Bechdel’s award winning graphic novel, Fun Home and Upstate assigned Out Loud: The Best of Rainbow Radio, a collection of personal narratives that originally appeared on Rainbow Radio, “South Carolina’s first gay and lesbian radio show.” In February Republican state Representative Garry Smith proposed punitive cuts to both schools budgets as a result of assigning such materials. The proposals didn’t stop there. Upstate’s Bodies of Knowledge Symposium which was held earlier this month was scheduled to host a comedic performance titled, “How to Be a Lesbian in Ten Days or Less.” Under pressure, this performance was canceled. And the state legislature went as far as attempt to ban the performance of the off-Broadway production of Fun Home, which was to visit College of Charleston on Monday night. Students, faculty, staff and supporters hosted a big rally in support of the performance on Monday afternoon.
On Wednesday, April 23rd our host Karma Chavez spoke with Merri Lisa Johnson Director of Women’s & Gender Studies at USC Upstate and Alison Piepmeier associate professor of English and Director of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at College of Charleston to discuss censoring LGBT materials and the right-wing South Carolina state legislature.