As some of you may know, during the first half of the 1980's, I was the Student Assistant for the professor who taught the Human Sexuality class at San Francisco State University. Some referred to me -- good-naturedly -- as the "sex tutor."
Now, as you can imagine, this class was very popular. Each semester, it had the largest enrollment of any class on campus -- often between 300 and 400 students. My job consisted mainly of administrative tasks, such as typing up exams, scoring them, keeping the grade book up-to-date, and helping to calculate final grades.
Once in a while, though, when the professor was out-of-town, I got to run the class. I delivered a couple of lectures. I took some heat for one of these lectures from a male student who took offense at my objection to the practice of female genital mutilation -- a practice that, tragically, still occurs in some parts of the world. I got a little bit afraid that day...
On a more positive note, each semester the professor would have a panel of lesbian, gay, and bisexual students come in to speak to the class. They would talk about their experiences of realizing their sexual orientations, of admitting to them (both to themselves and to others), and of coming to accept themselves as they were. They would also speak about their experiences in society as LGB individuals. The professor would moderate these discussions, as they involved a lot of questions and answers between the class and the guests. The idea was to promote understanding between people of good-will, and the discussions tended to be very upbeat. The LGB students were quite open and good-humored about all the questions asked of them.
One semester, the professor was unable to be there for this particular class, so I had the privilege of moderating it. It was a good experience for me. The panel consisted of a gay man, a lesbian woman, and a bisexual woman. I admired them. They were obviously opening themselves up for abuse, as who knows what kinds of questions would be fired at them. We didn't pre-screen the questions. I just went around with the microphone to anybody who raised their hand. And they were very kind and friendly to the obviously rather conservative girl who was in charge of the class that day.
Here is an example of their very tolerant attitude towards those of us who had really never known too many LGB people (at least LGB people who were "out"):
I was about 19 or 20 at the time. And I thought the gay man on the panel was kind of hot. Because he was. So, I asked him, "A lot of women might look at you and think, 'He's really attractive. What a waste!' How would you respond to that?" (What a total bone-headed question. Right??? When I think of how I asked that question, I sort of want to go hide in a cave.) Anyway, the hot gay man laughed REALLY hard and, with a mischievous gleam in his eye, replied, "Well, I could look at an attractive straight guy and say the same thing." And then I laughed REALLY hard. And so did the students. And I thought it was really nice of these people to come to this class in order to answer the bone-headed questions of people like me.
So, when I look at the "Culture War" raging all around me, I just think of these nice people who were willing to come and patiently answer questions about their personal lives for a bunch of strangers.
(P.S. -- Some of you may wonder why there were no trans people on the panel. I really don't know. You have to remember that this was a long time ago, and all of these things were just beginning to be discussed more openly. I'm sure that, today, there would be a trans person included in the discussion. I also hope I am using my terminology accurately. I apologize if I am not. Things are changing quickly, and I am having a hard time keeping up. But, I will strive to learn.)