Let’s talk about sexual diversity

At a time when same-sex marriage is still a hot-button topic in this country, Chico State University will offer a course of study that deals with the taboo issue of sexual diversity.

After years of planning and organizing, Chico State students will be able to declare a minor in sexual diversity studies beginning this semester. The university joins Humboldt State and San Francisco State (S.F. State also offers a master’s in human sexuality) as only the third campus in the CSU system to offer a minor in sexual diversity studies.

“Students are interested in this and we want to offer a scholarly perspective,” said Liahna Gordon, a sociology professor at Chico State. “The general public tends to get rehashed perspectives not grounded in science and research.”

The minor will cover LGBTQ issues (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning), but Gordon added that topics will also touch on sexual diversity issues based on race, class and religion as well as the sexual practices of heterosexuals that may not be considered part of the norm.

“My goal is not to say ‘this is OK or this is not OK,'” Gordon said. “It’s to get [students] to learn why they have these responses and why others may have different responses.”

The 24-unit minor is made up of courses already offered in departments of sociology, women’s studies and multi-cultural gender studies. There are also some new courses under development including Sex and Religion and Survey of LGBTQ Psychology.

The idea of a sexual diversity studies minor started three years ago. As with the addition any new curriculum, Gordon said the minor had to pass through a number of committees and that it was met with optimism. The minor was approved unanimously by the Academic Senate in May of this year and will be added to the university catalog by the end of the semester.

Sara Cooper, a professor of foreign languages and literature at Chico State, said the subject matter is relevant politically and socially and that students sometimes find it difficult to interpret what’s happening in the news.

Cooper, who also teaches courses in multi-cultural and gender studies, said the concept is nothing new and that there are several universities throughout the nation that have already adopted courses of study on sexual diversity.

“For CSUs we feel we’re in the vanguard,” Cooper said. “As a nation, we’re in the middle.”

Cooper, Gordon and multicultural and gender studies professor Elizabeth Renfro became the major players in keeping the process moving forward at Chico State.

Gordon said she believes the concept of having specific courses of study and even entire degrees devoted to sexual diversity studies will continue to grow throughout the country—and benefit a culture still hung up on same-sex marriage.

“Knowing and being comfortable in discussing sexual diversity will make [students] better workers, better family members and better community members.”