Queer evolution instructor reflects on Pride Parade

By Dan O'Brien
June 12, 2014

As scores of Bostonians gear up for the Boston Pride Parade this Saturday, June 14, faculty member Jason Roush ’97 says it’s important for students to remember the history behind the event.

“There’s been a very interesting shift,” said Roush, who teaches a course called the Evolution of Queer Identity in the Institute for Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies, and attends the parade every year. “It’s mostly a young crowd.”

Roush

Jason Roush '97, a part-time faculty member whose Evolution of Queer Theory course was voted 4th best LGBT course in the country by the website RateMyProfessors.com. (Courtesy Photo)

Roush’s course was ranked the #4 best LGBTQ course in the country this month by the website RateMyProfessors.com.

Roush, who has taught the course since 2001, said some of the middle-aged and older people in the LGBTQ community have stopped going to the parade, and that makes it harder for the younger generation to understand the history behind the event.

Pride Parade float

A float in the 2013 Boston Pride Parade. (Photo from BostonPride.org)

“A lot of people settle into families and relationships, and stop going,” Roush said. “There does need to be more of a connection between the older and younger generations of queer people. It’s hard to forge for various reasons, and that’s something I’m sad about.”

Roush hopes his course, which examines queer culture through literature from 1870— when homosexuality was first named by psychologists—to the present day, provides students with better historical context of the event, which is part of national Pride Month. Among the texts students read are Orlando by Virginia Woolf (1928) and The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890) by Oscar Wilde.

Roush said he has seen understanding of LGBTQ history among incoming students fade since he began teaching the course—making his lessons even more important.

“When we cover the HIV/AIDS epidemic of the 1980s…back in 2001, students definitely had the notion that this was related to gay men,” Roush said. “Students now, if they have that understanding, it’s very remote.

“On the one hand, that’s good, because you don’t want gay men and AIDS paired together all the time,” he said. “But the students are starting to lose that history from 30 years ago…when there were war-like numbers of lives lost. As a gay man myself, it’s my obligation to make sure they know that.”

Roush said one of his most satisfying experiences teaching the course came when a heterosexual student wrote a final exam about losing his brother, who was several years older than him, to AIDS.

“He had no idea what his brother’s life was like until he took this course,” Roush said. “He wrote that he was able to begin a dialogue with his family about his brother, and it was the first time they ever talked about it.”

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