Goldsmiths, University of London has launched the first ever MA Queer History this term, and it has proven to be extremely popular.
Joe Cryan recently returned to Goldsmiths to study the groundbreaking course, having graduated from the BMus Music programme in 2015.
I spoke to him at the start of the 2017 Autumn term, discussing what he hopes to gain from his studies and the importance of retelling and learning from stories of the Queer community's struggles throughout history.
CS: How did you come to apply for the MA Queer History?
JC: The university is one of the most creatively engaging environments I have had the pleasure to work in, and I have wanted to return since my graduation from the BMus Music course in 2015. Throughout my degree, I themed most of my essays around Queer Musicology (e.g. the correlation between counter tenors and sexuality; was Handel Gay?; exploring orientalism in Britten's operas). I have always wanted to further my studies but never found the right course. Unbelievably, the MA in Queer History is the first of its kind, and so when I saw it being publicised on Facebook, I applied immediately.
CS: Was it always your plan to return to Goldsmiths?
JC: Although not always a definite path, Goldsmiths has influenced so many aspects of my life and changed the way I work. The chance to immerse myself in furthering my studies at the institution was always something I considered, and I had hoped to return if the right opportunity arose. With the launch of the Queer History MA, it was very much a 'right place, right time' situation for me, and I am very glad to be back.
CS: What are you most looking forward to about studying the course?
JC: With 2017 coinciding with the anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales, this course is more relevant now than ever before. It is a continuing area of historical research and as a programme we are documenting forgotten histories of the wider Queer community. For me, this is one of the most exciting parts of the course. As a white homosexual male, I am also looking forward to developing my knowledge of all aspects of the LGBTQ+ experience, and unfortunately realise how far we still have to go for the heteronormative reality to be equal to a 'homonormative' ideal.
CS: Do you think the existence of programmes like this can help give a voice to those throughout history who have been denied one?
JC: Is it possible to give them a voice? We can highlight stories and expose forgotten truths, however it is impossible to deny and undo the persecution and injustice inflicted upon people of the past. The first stage of understanding is listening, and reviving stories from history are the initial steps towards giving the Queer community the acknowledgement they deserve. People's voices were not heard at the time of their lives, so uncovering their stories now is an important learning tool.
The MA in Queer History exposes these stories, and gives the opportunity for people to have a voice within our small community, and those who wish to follow our research. But can one course give a global voice to those denied them for centuries? I certainly hope so, and we will see what develops throughout the programme. However, by realising the struggle the Queer community has gone through we can hopefully culture an environment where voices will never be denied again.
CS: After completing the course, would you like to continue your studies or look for a career outside academia?
JC: I'm doing this MA part time, so am continuing to work alongside my studies. I am definitely considering continuing my studies in Queer Musicology, but in what capacity I am unsure. It would also be fantastic to use the course to spring board a career within the Queer community and within Queer culture. I've always been open to ideas and change, so I'm giving myself the chance to experience this course and see what challenges arise, and what opportunities are available to me. If you had told me this time last year I would be back at Goldsmiths doing an MA I wouldn't have believed you, so who knows what will have happened by my graduation in 2019!