English Prof. David Halperin said the controversy surrounding his English course, “How to be Gay: Male Homosexuality and Initiation,” is old news.
The class, English 317, has been offered on and off at the University for seven years now. While the class sparked a controversy at first, with some conservatives arguing that the class was meant to indoctrinate students into gay lifestyles, the storm surrounding the class has largely faded over time.
But last week, gossip and media blogger Perez Hilton rediscovered the class and posted a description of it on his website, inciting a new round of controversy on the Internet.
The posts about “How to be Gay” spread from Hilton’s website, perezhilton.com, to other popular blogs, like townhall.com and gawker.com.
Hilton’s post said the class is being taught at the University this semester. It isn’t. Halperin is teaching two classes this term, including English 313, a course on homosexuality in Ancient Greek literature.
Halperin said none of the bloggers contacted him to get a course description or for comment.
From the time “How to be Gay” was first offered, the course’s evocative title has elicited strong reactions.
It angered conservative groups across Michigan and was reviewed by the University Board of Regents in 2002.
By 2003, word of the course reached Michigan’s legislature. State Rep. Jack Hoogendyk (R–Kalamazoo) told The Michigan Daily in a 2003 interview that he thought the course shouldn’t be taught to encourage a lifestyle that taxpayers do not support.
“There is a difference between studying a culture or lifestyle, but it is not the same as an indoctrination class,” Hoogendyk said.
That year, Hoogendyk introduced a bill that would have given the legislature the right to review public schools within the state and alter their course curricula. The bill failed to pass.
According to the course description, which Halperin said he altered slightly last year, the class “examines the role that the acquisition of cultural knowledge plays in learning how to be gay.” Halperin said he has never encouraged students to be gay.
Halperin said he probably won’t ever teach the course again, not because of the controversy, but because he is ready to write a book about his research on the topic.
Halperin said he’s tired of dealing with the course’s fallout.
“My attitude is that this is not news,” Halperin said. “If you want to take a trip down memory lane, that’s fine with me, but this is not news.”