Although lesbian, gay, and bisexual studies has only recently found a place in university curricula, the field actually represents the intersection of two traditions that have existed for thousands of years. The better known is the learned tradition, which, at least since the end of the ancient world, has been overwhelmingly hostile. Medieval theology condemned the sodomite, nineteenth-century medicine pathologized the invert, and until very recently psychiatry felt called on to "cure" the homosexual. For at least as long, however, women and men attracted to others of their own sex have kept alive another affirmative tradition, a knowledge of their past that sustained them, often in the face of overwhelming official hostility. The guests at Plato's Symposium looked back to Achilles and Patroclus; women-loving-women of the nineteenth century remembered Sappho; an inmate of a New York prison interviewed in the early 1920s was able to recite a long list of famous lesbians and gay men.
After the birth of the modern gay liberation movement in 1969, this underground knowledge came out of the closet and found a public voice sufficiently strong to mount a sustained challenge to the official teachings concerning minority sexualities. This challenge led to a dramatic increase in research on same-sex desire, most of it the work of scholars without academic affiliations. Inspired by these accomplishments, students and faculty at colleges and universities eventually mustered the courage to address similar topics, thereby transforming -- partly by assimilation, partly by contestation -- the previously hostile learned tradition. This originally rather disparate work gradually coalesced into lesbian, gay, and bisexual studies, which, over the last decade, has developed into an academic discipline of remarkable breadth and vitality. The field embraces work in genetics and cultural studies, literature and anthropology, the health sciences, history, and the visual arts. It ranges from archival research to the elaboration of queer theory, from the analysis of constitutional law to questions of public health, from the study of identical twins to the study of popular culture.
Although the initial focus in lesbian, gay, and bisexual studies is usually on minority sexualities, it is impossible to study minority sexualities in any meaningful way without raising questions about sexuality in general. And questions about sexuality cannot be responsibly answered without considering gender, class, race, ethnicity, history, political economy, and the construction of scientific knowledge. Thus lesbian, gay, and bisexual studies, which may at first seem to concern the private practices of a small number of people, inevitably leads to the much larger study of sexuality and culture. It represents an important vantage point from which to investigate the social construction of gender and sexual identity, social control of behavior, changing definitions of the family, and the place of sexual expression in the public and private spheres. Because of the kinds of questions asked, lesbian, gay, and bisexual studies is the site of some of the most exciting work being done today on the relation of culture and sexuality.
First offered in Fall Quarter 1997, UCLA's minor in lesbian, gay, and bisexual studies provides the opportunity to study sexuality from a variety of interdisciplinary perspectives. Interdisciplinarity is assured by requiring students to take at least one course each in the life sciences, social sciences, and humanities. In addition, seniors in the minor are expected to do an internship in a community organization, thereby acquiring a kind of knowledge not usually available in the classroom. After completing the minor, students should be familiar with the theoretical tools that different disciplines employ to study sexuality. They should be acquainted with some of the many different ways sexuality has been organized in the past and is organized in different cultures in the present and should have an enhanced understanding and appreciation both of the sexual diversity of the world in which they live and of the complex ways in which sexuality intersects with other categories of identity and practice.