Class visits New York City to learn about LGBTQ culture and diversity

Penn State Berks students enrolled in the college?s LGBTQ Identity, Culture and Communication course, part of both the Women?s Studies and the Communication Arts and Sciences curriculum, visited New York City October 4-5, 2014, to participate in various educational activities associated with LGBTQ culture, history and activist, with a special emphasis on how LGBTQ culture is reflected in the arts.

Twenty-one students and two faculty/staff members participated in this excursion. Dr. Cheryl Nicholas, Associate Professor of Communication Arts and Sciences, teaches the course and led the student trip and was accompanied by Karen Kihurani, Multicultural / International Counselor. Nicholas explains why the trip was significant by saying, ?In the United States, New York City is the second most prominent city, after San Francisco, for LGBTQ culture and lifestyle. In particular, it is where LGBTQ activism emerged around the 1969 Stonewall Riots and when groups like ACT UP responded to the apathy around the AID/HIV crisis in the 1980s. The trip also gave students an opportunity to grapple with LGBTQ issues through performance and the arts.?

During the trip, students visited the Stonewall Inn and the Christopher Park neighborhood, which is the site of the 1969 riots. They also took a guided tour of the LGBT Community Center, where history-making organizations such as ACT UP, GLAAD and Queer Nation took root. The LGBT Center is also the home of the National Archive of LGBTQ history. The guided tour and class session was facilitated by Robert Woodworth, Director of Capital Projects, Meeting and Conference Services at The Center.

Students also experienced LGBTQ culture through theatrical/cultural performances. They went to see Hedwig & the Angry Inch, a rock-musical about a fictional East German transgender singer. The highly acclaimed Broadway production deals with gender identity, interpersonal relationships and glam rock, and it was honored with four Tony awards in 2014. In addition they went to see a drag show at DIVA ROYALE to explore themes around gender identity, camp and subversive performativity.

Funding for this trip was made possible by the Elsa L. and John W. Bowman Curriculum Endowment and the Mrs. Harold McI. Grout and Mrs. C. Glenn Kauffman Endowment for the Arts, as well as Penn State Berks and the division of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences diversity grants.

For more information about the course or the student trip, contact Nicholas at 610-396-6168 or via e-mail at [email protected].