Gender Identity/Expression and Sexual Orientation Resource Center

Dr. Linda Heidenreich is Associate Professor in the Department of Critical Culture, Gender and Race Studies at Washington State University in Pullman, WA. Originally from Napa, California, Dr. Heidenreich received a Ph.D. at the University of California, San Diego and has been teaching at WSU for 14 years. In addition to teaching, Dr. Heidenreich is also Book Review Editor for the Journal of Chicana/Latina Studies . Some of her many inspirations include Antonia Castaneda, a U.S. Chicana historian who examines sex, gender and power, Lucha Corpi, a poet and Chicana detective novelist, and Gloria Anzaldua, a pioneering Chicana Queer Feminist scholar.

“It shifts. It really does. For me, the big hurdle to get over in the social space that I grew up in, was realizing that I found some women sexually attractive because that was a big no-no. I really didn’t find a healthy way to deal with that until the San Francisco earthquake of ’89. And when I realized I could be dead tomorrow I thought, “Why am I trying to be someone else? It’s not worth it.” And after I was able to really let go of that fear, then I was able to get comfortable in my gender. And that took longer. I think it’s because there’s a difference between sexual orientation and gender expression. With sexual orientation you can be in the closet. Gender expression is not in the closet. There’s a lot of push back to that.”

“I was comfortable taking my time, sorting things out. I don’t know where I’ll be 20 years from now quite frankly in terms of gender and that’s ok.”

“Queer Scouts was a lot of fun but a lot of work! This is back when the BSA (Boy Scouts of America) wasn’t letting gay kids in. Some of us on campus, me and some undergrads thought, “Wouldn’t it be fun to have an alternative for specifically queer young people college students?” We made up a group called Queer Scouts and incorporated it. We had uniforms and badges. We didn’t have an oath. Some of our guidelines included: We wear spiffy uniforms; we hike; we earn merit badges; we don’t appropriate indigenous cultures; we do recycle especially uniforms and we are much better than the sons of patriarchy also known as Boy Scouts of America!”

“It’s important for young people to know that there are many ways to be queer. Places that they thought of as homes that they might think can’t be homes anymore, might be the best places to be home. I walked away from my faith community for many years thinking it couldn’t be home because of all the horrible rhetoric that Roman Catholic bishops spew about queer folks and queer families. Then I got home sick and went back. And I found a very gay friendly parish, a very queer friendly parish, and realized I can work for justice in my own faith community and I have allies within my own faith community. I can bring these parts together- my spirituality, my faith and my queer self. There’s a book that a friend gave me, A Spiritual director actually gave me, called Living with Contradiction. The argument the author made was that these great cathedrals that we see are supported through contradiction. If not for the buttresses that push up against the walls, it would collapse. So embrace your contradictions. Don’t assume that you have to let go parts of yourself that are important to you. That’s what I would say.”

“Don’t worry it will happen and hang out in spaces that give you the freedom to try to sort it out. The most important thing is to just feel confident in your person, in who you are. Your sex and your gender might not be the most important things to you. Your family might be more important. Your religion might be more important. Your job might be more important. So it’s just part of the mix and give yourself some leeway in how and where you sort it out.”

“Hold on to your own values and know what your values are. We read, even though it was published years and years ago, we always read Gilded Stories, which is a black lesbian vampire story in one of my classes. One of the reasons why I can’t let go of the novel is that her voice is really saying know what your core values are! I don’t care what your core values are, but have them. I think that’s a real important lesson moving through college. This is a time to think about what your values are. What makes you most alive? And nurture that. Because after this, there’s not going to be a lot of time to think about them. Know your values and hold on to your values.”