"I teach the largest gay and lesbian history class in the country."Historians in the News
tags: gay history, LGBT
"I teach the largest gay and lesbian history class in the country," said Gender & Sexuality Studies Professor Lane Fenrich. "Not that size matters."
That sense of humor makes the 6'2" yoga instructor and dean of the Weinberg College of Arts & Sciences one of the most popular professors at Northwestern University. Before his rise to teaching fame, however, he was a first-generation college student who had yet to move away from his hometown or question his own sexual identity.
Growing up in Tacoma, Washington, he moved fewer than 10 miles from home to enroll in Pacific Lutheran University. For graduate school, he migrated much farther, coming to Northwestern University to study the history of genocide.
He likened his transition to graduate school to high-achieving college students who come from being top of their high schools to mediocre at a competitive university. He'd never had to study much, but slacking off was no longer acceptable.
But academics were only half the battle: at the same time, he was beginning to come to terms with his sexuality. Coincidentally, his graduate adviser had just started teaching the first ever class at Northwestern on gay and lesbian history. He signed up on a whim. Maybe in learning more about what being gay meant in a historical context, he could learn more about himself. Maybe he'd meet someone.
Both his love life and process of self-discovery benefitted from the class, but it also had an unexpected perk: it helped his career. Today, his course, "U.S. Gay and Lesbian History," brings in more than 100 students each spring quarter. ...
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