Monday, July 11, 2011

Definitions: Dykademic & Deseret


I am indebted to Bonnie J. Morris, a women's studies professor at George Washington University, for my use of the term dykademic. I ran across an article by Morris earlier this year during a rather lonely and depressing time for me and her powerful word gave me that unmatachable freedom and potential that comes from self-naming. Finally, I had a name for who/what I was. Although I had been well-aware of my same-sex attraction for a long time, I struggled with admitting it, living it, and naming it. I felt isolated, lonely, and without community. Moving west to continue graduate school only increased this sense of alienation and by late winter I was nearly inconsolable. And then I found Morris.

Morris wrote candidly and honestly about growing up lesbian and being a lesbian in academia:

"There is a peculiar assumption that the Goddess creates lesbian scholars, fully mature and ready to publish, in graduate school, that we had no childhoods or that our childhoods as readers and scribblers don't quite count as punched-in lesbian time" (91).

She highlighted the lonely isolation I felt was crushing my spirit both in the graduate seminars at my university and in the local religio-politics of my new home in the intermountain west, and she helped to realize that I wasn't the first to experience such desolate and heartwrenching solitude. However, most importantly, Morris offered me hope. She gave me a purpose that helped me to look beyond the bleak realities of my current situation and to see how I might use my experience to help another "different bookworm" reading somewhere in the isolation of silence. Morris asserts:

"It's a question of seeing the dykademic role model, which is rarely presented to us in youth, as the person who translates lesbian intelligence into quality work or historical research of value and meaning to a lesbian audience" (97).

I feel so lucky to have discovered Bonnie Morris as a dykademic role model, and I hope that through publicizing my own private experience as a lesbian academic I can not only help to give hope and direction to others, but might also begin to assuage my own despair and participate in the community that until now I have only dreamed about.


Before I moved west, I probably would have thought that Deseret was a misspelling of either dessert or desert. In fact, the provisional State of Deseret was proposed by LDS settlers in 1849. It existed for a little over two years, but was never recognized by the US government.

However, the legacy of Deseret, remains. I live in what might be called the "mormon belt." If you look at an LDS population map, I live in the dark, bloody center of that United States maxi-pad.

Let me be clear, I do not intend for this blog to be a location for mormon bashing or religious debate. I was not raised mormon, I knew very little about the LDS church before moving to their epicenter, and I don't really feel it is my place to judge their beliefs or practices. That said, I do feel that my location is inseperable from my experience. I think the world in which I live can be big through digital media and social networking, but it can also be small, like the nearby town that finally decided to allow an LGBT float in their parade, but only if they promised not to display any rainbows or other "gay paraphanalia." Small like my university neighborhood through which I have searched, fruitlessly, for an HRC or a rainbow flag so that I might feel some safety in solidarity and have the courage to hang my own. Small like the TV stations that "accidentally" censor anything to sexy or gay, like the opening number at this year's Tony Awards.

Living in this place has been a huge culture shock and I don't think that I could write honestly about my experience if I refused to pay attention to the fact that I'm living in the ghost-state of the most conservative major religious group in the U.S.

Works Cited
Morris, Bonnie J. "A Different Bookworm: Coming Out, Brainy-Girl Style." NWSA Journal 7.1 (1995) 91-97. Print.

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