Sexuality within the deaf and hard of hearing community has always been a fascinating subject. It is shown anecdotally that there is a proportionally larger population of LGBTQIA+ identifying deaf and hard of hearing people than among the hearing population. While not fully proven yet, this phenomenon shows the need for the deaf community to have an increased knowledge and sensitivity towards LGBTQIA+ issues and rights. It also proves the need for further research on LGBTQIA-identifying deaf and hard of hearing individuals, with the goal of disseminating information that supports and uplifts the needs of this marginalized population. 

David Barclay, G-’97

After almost four years of content discovery and curriculum development, a new Sexuality and Gender Studies program officially launched this fall semester. Helmed by David Barclay, G-’97, a professor in the Social Work program, the certificate program is available to all undergraduate, graduate, and professional development students. Applicable to majors ranging from international development to public health, this program will provide students the tools, context, and knowledge to appropriately support and understand the LGBTQIA+ community, no matter what field of work they are in.

Barclay, who identifies as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, shared his enthusiasm for the launch of this program. The need for this program has always been present, even when Barclay was a student at Gallaudet himself in the late 1990s. He explained that he recalled seeing several courses regarding the history of sexuality as well as the history of gay and lesbian sexuality, so he never thought anything of it. It was not until Barclay discovered that Dr. Barry Bergen, a professor in the History department, had retired. Bergen taught History of Sexuality, and History of Gay and Lesbian Sexuality, but now there was a void.

In 2018, Barclay then set up several Social Work courses on the topic of LGBTQIA+ studies, which were in high demand. Barclay even noticed a large number of students who identified as heterosexual were enrolling, citing their LGBTQIA+ friends and colleagues as their motivation to learn more about the community. A survey was then conducted, which had over 90 responses. The responses overwhelmingly solidified the need for consistent courses on this topic. 

When setting up the program, Barclay was deeply grateful to have the support of colleagues across various academic units, and followed the process of establishment of the newly formed Public Health major. When approaching Dean Gaurav Mathur about the concept of this program, Barclay was originally envisioning a program for graduate students only, but the Dean reinforced the concept of stackable education. Employers today are looking for qualified candidates with certifications, so Barclay pivoted to a certificate program that would allow undergraduate, graduate, and professional development students to take these courses. After long periods of intense planning, this past May of 2020, Barclay received approval to launch the Sexuality and Gender Studies certificate program.

In this new program, students are educated regarding cultural, historical, and societal issues in the LGBTQIA+ community, with particular attention to issues impacting the intersectional identities of deaf and hard of hearing LGBTQIA+ people, and to prepare graduates to be inclusive, socially responsible, global community members and leaders. Students will also be able to take three one-credit community engagement research seminars where faculty members will mentor students in the development, implementation, and documentation and dissemination of scholarly projects. Results from these internship projects and research studies will be developed into community presentations and submitted to journals when merit dictates to add to the existing body of scholarly research in this largely unexplored field.

Currently there are 6 students enrolled in the certificate program, a mix of graduate, undergraduate, and professional studies students. Faculty member Margaux Delotte-Bennett will teach the SGS 504 Intimate Relationships course during the second session of Fall 2021. Barclay will continue to teach SGS courses and is collaborating with Dr. Octavian Robinson on a Queer Theory course for Spring 2022.

For more information about the Sexuality and Gender Studies program, reach out to Contact. Congratulations on this incredible achievement and this new program bound to impact the lives of many future students!

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