Queer Online Videos Transform Queer Literature Course

As a teacher always in search of new texts, You Tube has opened up a treasure trove of possibilities for my Queer Identities: LGBT Literature and Film course.

With my school’s requirement of homework blogs, has come the additional perk of assigning videos that allow my students to become acquainted with authors such as James Baldwin and Leslie Feinberg even before we begin reading their novels. In addition, students can also learn about gender via short educational films such as Transgender Basics by the Gender Identity Project.

Before teaching Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room, I ask students to watch a series of videos with educational psychologist Kenneth Clark interviewing him. No amount of well-written handouts could take the place of Baldwin recounting his childhood and education in Harlem:

Or his thoughts on the power dynamics of race relations:

Or his reflections on Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:

This week, as part of our study of Stone Butch Blues, students will be asked to watch a lecture by Leslie Feinberg given at Sonoma State University just days before the NYC undocumented worker rights rally in May 2008.  In the talk, Feinberg brilliantly links the history of the Civil Rights and Black Power movements, the Asian, Native American, and Young Lords movements, the women’s movement, the gay liberation and anti-war movements to today’s social struggles against war, anti-immigration, homophobia, transphobia, racism, classism, misogyny and sexism.  Given Stone Butch Blues‘ amazing historical trajectory through 1950’s butch-femme bars, the 60’s Civil Rights movement, the 1969 Stonewall riots, lesbian feminism, and the advent of HIV/AIDS in the 80’s, the talk is the perfect frame for the novel.

Furthermore, Feinberg’s intersectional analysis is inclusive of race, class, gender, and sexuality as well as ability and age. Feinberg’s sensitive, real-time revision of any ableist or ageist language during her talk provides students with further modeling of how ze stands in solidarity with all marginalized and silenced groups.

Finally, a new video titled Transgender Basics by the Gender Identity Project at the LGBT Center in NYC that I discovered through Feministing will make its debut in my class this week.  This 20 minute educational film includes interviews of trans and genderqueer people as well as easy-to-understand visuals that explain definitions of gender, gender roles, and gender identity.

Linking these videos to my homework blog and incorporating them into my larger course structure does more than allow students to watch important talks or educational films either at home or at school; it also allows for the printed texts I’m teaching to come alive in both historical and contemporary contexts, giving students the ability to make personal and intellectual connections to issues of race, class, gender and sexuality across time and place, heart and mind.

The post above can also be found on the teacher group blog Equality 101.

2 thoughts on “Queer Online Videos Transform Queer Literature Course

  1. Where were you when I was growing up? This is wonderful. I took a course my senior year of college, Same Sex Desire, in which we read through some literature from the late 1800’s into the turn of the century and discussed the effects of industry and social change and how it affected homosexuals at the time.
    One of the most beautiful and haunting works that we read and then watched the movie with Hugh Grant, was E.M. Forster’s – Maurice.

    Another film that strikes at the heart of the gay rights movement following Stonewall is Boys in the Band. It is a dark film, but gets to the heart of what many people were feeling at the time before AIDS swept the community and took so many of these activists away.

    I will be coming back to your site for more, these interviews were powerful. Good luck with the class.

    I would also like to recommend an interview series of professional women in online journalism for you.
    It was conducted by the University of Iowa Gender and Mass Media Class this past fall and offers wonderful insight into the future of online journalism.

    • Maurice and Boys in the Band are favorites of mine too. I remember watching them as part of my early coming out years. Thank you also for your kind words, they mean a great deal. Perhaps an upcoming post will be the feature films I use in the class. More to come!

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