Queer SF banner


Spring 2018
Dr. Sumi Colligan
3 Credits
Cost: $2,350 (subject to change)
Actual travel dates: March 10-17, 2018
Prerequisites: Sophomore, Junior, or Senior Status and Permission of the Instructor. Can take up to 10 students. 

Travel Leader

Dr. Sumi Colligan is an anthropologist who also has a Masters in Public Health. Her courses often incorporate queer content and she is currently co-advisor to the Queer Student Union. She grew up in San Francisco, spending her formative years there, and has a passion for the city. Last year she offered this course for the first time with great success.

Student Reflections on Course

“The history of queer people is often erased or ignored. San Francisco is a place where some very important historic moments in the queer community have been preserved.”

“As a sociology major who critically analyzes the world’s issues day in and day out, it can become really easy to become discouraged that things are never going to change. This trip revitalized my spirit and showed me just how great an impact one person with the motivation, drive, and passion for change can have.”

"The trip served as a cohesive, interdisciplinary, and participatory learning experience. I spent every minute engaged in discussion or reflecting on what I was learning or seeing. Traveling to San Francisco provided us with knowledge and experience that we would never have received just being in the classroom. In a literal and figurative sense, this trip was an exploratory learning experience. Participant observation is the heart of anthropological research, and this trip was exactly that.”

Course Summary and Background

As this is a three-credit course, the class will meet weekly throughout the semester. Memorial The course analyzes queer San Francisco through the lenses of anthropology, history, queer studies, sociology, and urban studies. It examines ways in which constructs of gender, race, nation, sexuality, and body fitness have contributed to the development and transformation of queer spaces and identities in the city. It identifies how the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s galvanized grassroots community responses. It explores contemporary queer identities, subcultures, and activism. It evaluates the implications of queer San Francisco’s transition to a tourist site.

San Francisco provides a fascinating site to study queer spaces and subcultures due to its unique and colorful past. California’s history of goldmining and San Francisco’s history as a military and port city and an immigrant haven, as well as a site of once famed (or infamous) vaudeville entertainment, bar cultures, and homophile organizations, all contributed to an urban environment in which people have experimented with new selves and gender and sexual variant expressions.

The Compton Cafeteria riots of 1966, involving transgender resistance to police harassment, took place before Stonewall. The Castro District became an important magnet for the migration of gay men in the 1970s. Harvey Milk, a gay San Francisco politician and migrant to the Castro was assassinated while in office in 1978. Since surviving the AIDS crisis of the 1980s, the LGBTQ communities in the San Francisco Bay Area have continued to diversify. Along with this trend, however, recent years have given rise to many LGBTQ members being displaced due to gentrification, the expansion of Silicon Valley high-tech industry into the city, and the skyrocketing cost of living. San Francisco’s attraction of tourists to queer spaces is, nonetheless, ongoing, even as these spaces become more commodified and commercialized. 

Learning Outcomes

At the end of the semester, students will be able to:

  1. Harvey MilkDraw upon and apply interdisciplinary perspectives to make sense of urban queer spaces;
  2. Evaluate ways in which intersecting constructs, statuses, and identities (based on gender, race, nation, sexuality, and disability) influence historical shifts in urban make-up and sensibilities, the emergence and evolution of neighborhoods and cultural spaces, and diverse forms of activism;
  3. Identify the types of community spaces and organizations that help foster the well-being of queer urban communities and subcultures;
  4. Assess the politics of representation as queer San Francisco evolves into a tourist site and articulate the broader forces that have contributed to this transformation; and 
  5. Utilize ethnographic methods and library research to capture some aspect of queer urban life.

Grading and Evaluation

Class attendance and attendance at all organized travel events, overall participation and active engagement, completion of required reading, leading a reading discussion, short written assignments, a travel journal, and individual or group projects based on individual interests.

Highlights of Travel Component

  • Walking tours of queer or formerly queer neighborhoods
  • A visit to the GLBT Museum 
  • A visit to a hospice that played a key role in the AIDS epidemic
  • Visits to community organizations and groups that have played key roles in the lives of LGBTQ residents such as the AIDS Foundation, the Transgender Law Center, and the LYRIC Center for LGBTQ youth or a youth center in Berkeley
  • A facilitated conversation with LGBTQ seniors under the aegis of Open House, an organization that does outreach to this population 
  • A tour of the James C. Hornell Gay and Lesbian Center archives at the SF Public Library or the GLBT archives
  • A lecture/discussion with a transgender individual who conducts trainings on cultural competency with local health clinics and health workers
  • A lecture/discussion with queer disabled activists who have been involved in both the queer and disability right movements
  • A lecture/discussion from someone who has taught LGBT People of Color history
  • A free lesson in square dancing from a queer square dancing group
  • A performance of “Beach Blanket Babylon” in North Beach, a campy and very San Francisco theatrical event

Payment schedule for $2,350:

October 6 - $400.00 nonrefundable
November 6 - $1,000.00
January 24 - $950.00

The $2,350 covers

  • DanceRound-trip airfare from Albany-San Francisco
  • Airport transportation
  • Seven nights in a motel near the Castro District, two people to a room, private bathroom
  • $40 per day for food
  • A 7-day city bus pass and transportation on the subway to Oakland and Berkeley as necessary
  • Entrance fees to museums, costs of tour guides, cost of speakers, cost of performances

You are responsible for the cost of food that exceeds the daily allotment, souvenirs, and anything you choose to do outside of organized events and excursions.


See the following link for possible scholarships:

Travel Course Scholarship Information 

Contact Information or 413-662-5472