Interim staff

Second-year sociology students as Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario are being assigned to write a “coming out” letter as their first fall-term assignment.

“Coming out” is a term used by homosexuals to declare publicly their sexual orientation.

The second-year Sociology of Women course at Wilfrid Laurier University requires undergraduates to prepare a letter in which “you put yourself in the place of a lesbian or gay person.” For any gay or bisexual students in the program, the assignment is said to provide an opportunity to “revisit a process which you have already gone through, or prepare for a process which is yet to come.”

Students are encouraged to complete the 1,500-word assignment by “dressing and adapting the symbolic codes of the other gender for a day” or “volunteering to be ‘made up’ … as the opposite gender during class time, and to be taught how to do that gender by students who identify with and live the other gender which you are performing.”

Students are also encouraged to seek out a support team to offer instruction and moral support as they play out their assumed gender.

The assignment instruction sheet urges students not to “do gender as spectacle” by “stuffing your chest or your pants (or) imitating voices,” but to commit to learning the various behavioural patterns associated with the role they are taking on.

The coming out assignment constitutes 20 per cent of students’ fall-term grading.