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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

How to be Gay 101

Aired August 19, 2003 - 19:43   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Yep, you heard it here. Some of the kids going back to school this fall at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, will be able to take a course called "How to be Gay: Male Homosexuality and Initiation."
Gary Glen has been fighting the course for years. He is president of the American Family Association in Michigan. Now he's trying to get to public pressure, to pressure state officials to kill the course.

He is with us tonight from Southfield, Michigan.

In Detroit, we have Jeffrey Montgomery. he is executive director of the gay rights group called the Triangle Foundation.

Gentlemen, good evening. Thanks for being with us.

GRAY GLENN, PRES., MICH. AFFILIATE, AMERICAN FAMILY ASSN., Hi, Daryn.

JEFF MONTGOMERY, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, TRIANGLE FOUNDATION: Good evening, Daryn.

KAGAN: Jeff, I'll start with you. You need a course? who knew?

MONTGOMERY: That's a good question. Apparently we all do, because we even have television programs now which will redesign our lives by gay people.

But seriously, it's not a course really, in how to be gay in the sense that this is some sort of lesson that's being given. It's a very important course, and a very instructive course and a very interesting course which looks into all sorts of elements of what, you know, gay culture is made of, and what it isn't made of. And it really does a great deal of work to look into common stereotypes, common thoughts, and really, there's a lot of questioning that goes on in this course. It's a very important offering.

KAGAN: So you're saying good course, catchy title, that's what's getting people's attention there.

Gary, let's bring you in here. You have courses where you have black studies. You have women studies. Why not gay studies? GLENN: Well, Daryn, I guess we can put one aspect of the homosexual debate to rest. As you opened up with, if you have to take a course from the University of Michigan, to learn how to be gay, I guess that resolves the question of whether or not it's learned behavior or a behavioral choice.

But I've done talk radio for the last 48 hours in a dozen cities across America from Philadelphia to Denver. People across this country are laughing at the University of Michigan. And here in Michigan, taxpayers are outraged that their tax dollars are being used to teach young teenage males in class how to be gay.

The course curriculum actually say -- quote -- "just because you happen to be a gay man doesn't mean you don't have to learn how to become one The course will examine the general topic of the role that initiation plays in the formation of gay identity, and the course itself will constitute an experiment in the very process of initiation it hopes to understand."

Taxpayers are outraged in this state that their tax dollars are being used to experiment in the lives of young teenage college students in the process of initiating them into a lifestyle of homosexual behavior. We think that's wrong.

KAGAN: Let me just jump in here just for a second, because we do want to say that we contacted the University of Michigan. They kind of are tired of talking about it. So they have released a statement and I want to share that with our viewers.

They insist, and this is from one of the associate deans, they say, "This course is not about encouraging people to become gay, but how individuals in our society create meaning and beliefs about gay culture from literature and the arts," which Jeff seems to be where you were going with this, saying looking at gay culture.

But on the other hand, there is an argument perhaps that is legitimate course. But should taxpayers pay for that?

MONTGOMERY: Well, Daryn, if I can just say, I think that if any of us who are taxpayers in Michigan -- and let me correct a misconception. Taxpayers in Michigan are not outraged at this in any large number. I'm sure there are five or six that Mr. Glen has talked to that are upset by it...

KAGAN: Jeff, do you really think that you can speak for all taxpayers in Michigan? I don't know if that's exactly the case. So let's skip to the argument of should taxpayers be paying for it?

MONTGOMERY: I think that if any taxpayer went through the entire University of Michigan course catalog, any one of us might find courses that we might not sign up for and might question that are in there. But I think that the role of a public university is to provide venues and to provide places where we can have exchange of ideas, thinking -- free thinking, and interchange and intercourse between people on these kinds of very important subjects. And that's what is the university is about. And I don't understand, really, and it baffles me, why people like Mr. Glenn are so upset that there's actually thinking and an exchange of ideas and investigating and intellectual pursuit going on on a university campus.

KAGAN: Gary, let me just bring you in on that. There are probably, if I go through the course catalog, a lot of classes I wouldn't want to take at the University of Michigan. For instance, chemistry. That doesn't mean they shouldn't teach it. So under the premise, if you don't want to take it, don't sign up, why not just allow it to take place?

GLENN: Well, the people who have to pay the bill are upset about it.

Let me tell you how upset they are. When this first was -- class was first started, the Michigan House of Representatives came four votes short of actually cutting the university's budget by 10 percent because of this particular class. And you know no legislative body in America would take that kind of action if it wasn't getting heat from the people back home.

I just talked to a member of the Higher Education Subcommittee today who said he's going to introduce a constitutional amendment giving oversight authority to the elected officials in the legislature over the administration of our colleges and universities.

Let me tell you why people are so upset. The professor who teaches this class wrote in Australian publication, "Let there be no mistake about it, these studies, lesbian and gay studies, express an uncompromising political militancy. The fact is lesbian and gay studies is the academic wing of the lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender movement." Michigan taxpayers don't think they ought to be forced to pay to advance homosexual activists, militant political agenda. Those are the words of the professor, not ours.

KAGAN: And with that, I'm going to have to bring the discussion to a close. Of course, the professor not here to talk about what he wrote or didn't write. The course goes on.

Gentlemen, I want to thank you for discussing the topic this evening. Appreciate it. Thanks for your time.

GLENN: Thank you, Daryn.

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