Some People Are ___. ___ People Are Not Tokens.

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The UK group Stonewall developed the simple and powerful ad at left  for their “Education for All” campaign that addresses homophobia and  bullying in secondary schools.   (Stonewall makes the poster available for download here.)  

Stonewall has undertaken an important project.   It is one that law schools would do well to support, too.   Homophobia exists everywhere, even at higher educational institutions that have a reputation for being “liberal” or “diverse” or both.    

Some schools will not permit the formation of LGBT student groups.

At schools where there is an LGBT student group, some students don’t want to be on the group’s email list for fear of being harassed by classmates.

At schools where LGBT students are active, there may be no openly gay faculty members.

At schools where there are openly gay faculty members, one may hear comments mumbled in hallways  that LGBT faculty candidates aren’t “diversity” candidates because “we already have [one of] [two of] [three of] those professors here.”

This last comment confuses me.   On the one hand, if we took seriously the mandate, “Some people are gay.   Get over it!” then it should not matter whether a faculty candidate is lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, heterosexual, white, black, Asian, Native American, Latino, mixed-race, male, female, liberal, conservative,  working class, a product of privilege, feminist, not-feminist  or [adjective of choice].   On the other hand, I am not sure that we should be so eager to say that these self-identifications and socially-imposed identifications are entirely irrelevant.  

A conundrum lies here:  If saying “we already have enough” of  X type of professor  is tokenism, then why is saying “we don’t have  enough” of  X type of professor  open-minded?   Are both questions forms of tokenism that expect a faculty candidate or faculty member who identifies (or is identified) as X to have or represent certain viewpoints and experiences that he or she may (or may not) have?

-Bridget Crawford


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0 Responses to Some People Are ___. ___ People Are Not Tokens.

  1. Ralph M. Stein says:

    Other than religion-affiliated law schools, I can’t imagine any today that would oppose, in any manner, the formation of a LGBT student group. The real issue is the comfort of students in being visibly part of such a group (which usually includes straight supporters).

    As to faculty diversity, a gay or lesbian applicant either signals that orientation in a resume or maintains privacy about his/her personal life. In the former case the fact that an applicant is “out” is a positive in the sense that such candidates are role models for students who really need them. And some of those students are heterosexuals who should see gays in the same light as they do their faculty in general. They will practice in a diverse world.

    But just as there is, or shouldn’t be, any concept of “we have enough litigators” or “we already have two who practiced criminal defense” the sexual orientation of the applicant should not be linked to his/her desirability as a candidate. Potential for excellence in teaching, scholarship and serious professional and collegial service are the factors.

    At my school it has made a difference that several former and present colleagues are openly gay. They also were or are outstanding teachers with a strong following having zero relation to sexuality. It’s a fact, though, that our LAMBDA chapter has been much more active with an advisor who is gay.

    Homophobia is a reflection of many things, not the least of which is a deficient self-image. It’s endemic and often rooted in religious training too. It’s not going away in law school or anywhere else. Its malignity can be tempered by the kind of heuristic advocacy that Prof. Crawford’s highlighted poster represents.