For the past four and a half years, Hofstra University has offered students courses in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies – the only academic program of its kind in the metropolitan area. In January 2011, the program will take students to Paris to discover another facet of LGBT studies: what does it mean to be gay elsewhere than in the United States?
Being gay is the only minority that does not entail preparation and instruction within the family culture: one does not learn how to live one’s homosexuality at home but in the subculture which finds its place, after a fashion, in the larger culture. Being gay in the U.S. is not the same as being gay elsewhere, as the majority culture dictates the context in which gays live.
The goal of the Paris LGBT program is to study and observe a different gay experience, offering students the opportunity to witness French culture as it shapes gay culture. At once a cultural experience and a study of “queer” sensibilities, the course “Queer Paris” challenges students to confront the concept of universalism central to the French Republic, which in turn influences the construction of the gay experience in France.
In addition to classroom study, students tour the gay districts of Paris and witness first-hand the components of French gay culture that differ from the American experience. Besides gay aspects of Paris, students also benefit from their visit to explore the City of Lights: sightseeing tour on the Seine, visit of the Louvre and the Orsay museums, and Versailles as well as traditional and ethnic restaurant meals and walking tours through various neighborhoods. After-Christmas sales offer interesting shopping excursions (on your own); and one can hardly ignore the ever-present delights of French cuisine and wines.
David A. Powell, Ph.D.
Professor of French, Director, LGBT Studies Program