What do we say about Walt?

Walt_Whitman_older.jpg   Way back in a previous life – when I taught high school English – I used to spend extra time on Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass.  Whitman lived a significant part of his life – and died – right down the road from me in Camden, New Jersey.  That added relevance to what I was teaching. 

I also used to mention that Whitman was gay.

Why not?  It certainly had relevance.  Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote Sonnets From the Portuguese because she was truly, madly, deeply in love in love with Robert Browning.  It kind of helps students of that work to understand that.  It informs their understanding of the work.  It gives them the whole picture.

So why object to stating the facts about gay or lesbian authors in English class?  Or gay or lesbian anybody in any class?  What are the opponents of this afraid of?  That gay or lesbian students may see that people like themselves can not only exist, but function and maybe even contribute to the making of art or history?  Is that it?



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