Although gay, lesbian, and queer theory are related practices, the three terms delineate separate emphases marked by different assumptions about the relationship between gender and sexuality.
The Harlem Renaissance, an African-American literary movement of the 1920s and 1930s, included several important gay and lesbian writers.
Oscar Wilde is important both as an accomplished writer and as a symbolic figure who exemplified a way of being homosexual at a pivotal moment in the emergence of gay consciousness.
Langston Hughes, whose literary legacy is enormous and varied, was closeted, but homosexuality was an important influence on his literary imagination, and many of his poems may be read as gay texts.
Conflicted over his own sexuality, Tennessee Williams wrote directly about homosexuality only in his short stories, his poetry, and his late plays.
Erotic and pornographic works have been written in many cultures since ancient times and recently have flourished with the relaxation of censorship.
Feminist literary theory is a complex, dynamic area of study that draws from a wide range of critical theories.
James Baldwin, a pioneering figure in twentieth-century literature, wrote sustained and articulate challenges to American racism and mandatory heterosexuality.
Darnell "Dynasty" Young.
On August 31, 2012, attorneys for the National Center for Lesbian Rights announced that they have filed suit in federal court against Indianapolis Public Schools on behalf of Darnell "Dynasty" Young and his mother. In May 2012, Young, a student at Indianapolis's Arsenal Tech High School, faced disciplinary charges after he brought a stun gun to school in an effort to protect himself from the incessant bullying to which he was subjected since October 2011.
As I reported here, the very officials who failed to protect him at school recommended that he be expelled for violating a ban on weapons.
Young's classmates at Tech made his life miserable, taunting him with homophobic slurs, circulating false rumors about him performing sex acts, following him home, even throwing rocks at him. The bullying occurred every day. He lost weight. His grades slipped from As and Bs to Ds and Fs. It got so bad he contemplated suicide.
When Young and his mother, Chelisa Grimes, told school officials of the bullying, teachers and administrators seemed to blame Young for being openly gay. His behavior and the way he dressed called attention to himself, they said.
"They said that the problem was he was too flamboyant, with his bags and his purses and his rings," Grimes explained.
Young and his mother reported more than ten separate instances of bullying, but the school launched only one formal investigation. In that instance, a student who taunted Young during class was taken to the dean's office and punished.
Fearful for her son's safety, and frustrated with the school's failure to protect her son, Grimes gave him a stun gun to carry, just in case. "I had to do something," she said. "They throw bottles and rocks at him."
She said she did not want to give him a gun or a knife, but something that would scare people if they tried to attack him. She settled on a stun gun because it did not seem as dangerous.
Grimes said she thought Young could use the stun gun to scare off bullies without shocking them. Firing the stun gun into the air makes a loud clicking sound, which can be intimidating.
Young carried the stun gun in his backpack for a few weeks without using it. But on April 16, as he walked between class buildings, six students surrounded him. They called him names, cursed, and threatened to beat him up, Young said.
He pulled out the stun gun, pointed it in the air and fired it so it would make the noise. He said the students backed off, and he went to his next class.
Minutes later, however, school police officers came into his class, cuffed him, and found the stun gun. He was suspended and recommended for expulsion.
After an expulsion hearing on May 2, 2012, Young was expelled until January 2013.
When attorneys for the NCLR intervened, the school district reduced the penalty so that Young, who had already missed one semester's worth of work, could begin the new school year in September, but said that he would have to go to an alternate school rather than return to Arsenal Tech.
The refusal of the school district to allow Young to complete his education at Arsenal Tech and to acknowledge their responsibility to protect him were the final straws for the NCLR.
In an August 31, 2012 press release announcing the lawsuit, NCLR senior staff attorney Christopher Stoll said, "All students should be able to get an education without fearing for their physical safety, and they should be able to rely on school administrators to protect them when abuse does occur."
"It is outrageous that school officials who were entrusted with their students' safety and education blamed Dynasty for the abuse he suffered, and eventually expelled him from school, instead of accepting their responsibility to protect him from harm."
The lawsuit asserts claims for violations of federal civil rights law and the U.S. Constitution based on IPS's deliberate indifference to the harassment and abuse Dynasty experienced and its discriminatory treatment of him based on his gender and sexual orientation.
The suit further alleges that IPS punished Dynasty and failed to address the harassment in part due to his failure to comply with Tech officials' demands that he change his appearance and style of dress, in violation of his rights to freedom of expression and liberty under the First Amendment and the federal Due Process Clause. The suit also challenges IPS's failure to consider Dynasty's appeal of his expulsion as required by its own internal procedures and the Constitution.
"I want to make sure no other student in the Indianapolis Public Schools ever has to go through the kind of abuse that I went through," said Young. "I am hoping this will get IPS to start treating kids like me with respect and really do something to protect their students."
His mother added: "It's important to get justice for Dynasty for the damage that IPS did to him, but it's even more important that IPS make some real changes in the way it deals with bullying and harassment. . . . My son is a wonderful, sweet, talented young man. He deserves a chance to attend school and learn without being terrorized by other students and told that the school will not protect him unless he changes who he is."
What remains striking about this story is the utter incompetence of the school officials. They are either unable or unwilling to protect bullied students. After disregarding repeated pleas for help and basically blaming the victim for being bullied, they swiftly moved to expel him for attempting to protect himself.
Instead of expelling the bullies, they expelled the victim.
Luckily, Dynasty Young is a resilient young man who has the support of his mother and brother and, now, the NCLR.
NCLR's complaint, which details a heartbreaking story of cruelty and indifference to cruelty, may be found here.
In the video below, Darnell Young and his mother Chelisa Grimes speak about the stun gun incident with Thomas Roberts.