When I moved to West Hollywood in 1985, I enrolled in the doctoral program in Comparative Literature at the University of Southern California. We had to select two historical periods to concentrate on, so I chose the Renaissance and the 19th century symbolist movement.
I was also teaching at Loyola Marymount University, editing for Joe Weider's Muscle and Fitness, and living in West Hollywood (which takes a lot of time), so it took three years to finish my coursework, language exams, and comprehensive exams. But in May of 1988, I was ready to write my prospectus, a 30-page paper that would be developed into my doctoral dissertation.
No, no, no! They cried. You must not write about "homosexuals"! Too controversial! No one will hire you!
Back to the drawing board. Maybe if I "hid" the gay people among other outsiders, such as Jews, Turks, and witches.
Juvenile programs were especially good at evoking that warm, safe feeling, so I watched The Adventures of Pete and Pete, Hey Dude (with David Lascher, top photo), Pee Wee's Playhouse, Saved by the Bell, You Can't Do That on Television, Degrassi High, Out of this World, Katts and Dog, and Tiny Toon Adventures, thus beginning a life-long interest in heterosexism and same-sex bonds in children's media.
In September 1988, I gave my committee a new prospectus on "The Image of the Other in Renaissance Drama," comparing the image of the Jew, the Turk, the witch, and the "homosexual" in Aretino, Christopher Marlowe, and Calderon de la Barca.
No, no, no! They cried. You compare the image of the Jew with the image of the "homosexual'! Too controversial! No one will hire you!
No, no, no! They cried. You claim that Thomas Mann, Andre Gide, and Kenneth Grahame were gay! Too controversial! No one will hire you!
Without another word, I walked out of the committee chambers, got into my car, and drove away from USC. I never went back. (Instead I got the Worst Job in the World.)
In 1997, I tried again, enrolling in a doctoral program in sociology at SUNY Long Island. This time my committee let me write on a gay topic, as long as the word "gay" wasn't in the title of my dissertation.