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Touching Down in the Land of Cornhuskers

25 Oct Posted by in Jewelle Gomez | Comments Off on Touching Down in the Land of Cornhuskers
Touching Down in the Land of Cornhuskers

I just returned from a 3 three day visit to the University of Nebraska in Lincoln.  My first touch down in the land of cornhuskers.  I think of myself as a corn goddess so I was eager.  I like visiting college campuses and working with students, it’s a little window into worlds that I wouldn’t ordinarily see.  It’s also a reminder of the past and how things have changed since I was in school.  Northeastern U. Class of ’71.

The Chicana Director (change #1) of Ethnic studies (#2) invited me in collaboration with the LGBTQA Resource Center (#3) with the sponsorship of campus offices such as the Office of the Chancellor (#4)  & community groups including PFlag (#4) and the Methodist Church (#5) and a mayoral candidate (#6).

In addition to giving the keynote at the LGBTQA annual banquet (#7) I spoke about my plays in the Queer Drama class (#8), about my essays in the Women’s Literature class (#9); about my life in the Gay Lit class (#10) and about my lesbian vampire novel in the Intro to Ethnic Studies class (#11).

Aside from one verbal tussle with a fresh(man) girl who wanted to dispute which infractions required death by stoning according to the Bible it was a lovefest.  Although I’m sure she represented other conservative students who wouldn’t speak up.

All these changes—and I’m sure I’ve missed some—did not prevent the recent suicides of the three young men…the three we know about.  I thought about them a lot as I talked with the students, many of them openly gay.  Future dramatists, scientists, writers, lawyers, teachers fueled by the power of their dreams.

I stretched out my antenna to those who didn’t talk, wondering if they were the ones who needed more than just a visiting writer to survive.  But I was there for less than a week and I’m no miracle worker.  The queer and queer friendly staff seemed pretty involved and supportive; the students had held a well attended vigil to mourn the deaths.  And they spontaneously decided to do a video of as many people as they could grab who were willing to tell stories of how things did ‘get better’ for them.

As I flew out of the tiny Lincoln, Nebraska airport the ghosts of the kids who died drifted in and out of my mind. It was unsettling. I wondered what would happen to the vibrant gay kids I’d met; where would they be ten years from now. And what of those who hadn’t come out yet but would later? I wanted to make them all friend me on Facebook and promise to tell me what was going on just to be sure they were okay!  I resisted.

All of the changes since I was in college are both huge and small incremental steps.  This trip was a peek at a generation that seemed like it would keep up the momentum for change.  It made me optimistic…something that Che said was the best weapon of a revolutionary.

Jewelle Gomez is the author of 7 books including the lesbian vampire classic novel, The Gilda Stories.  Her new play about James Baldwin will be produced in September 2011. Follow her on Twitter: VampyreVamp.  Or her website:

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