I am a professor of English and Classics at Cal State-Northridge, where I began teaching in 2008 after earning my doctorate in English and MA in Classics from SUNY. I specialize in American literature and published a scholarly study of American writers and conservatism in 2011.
On August 6, 2012, I published an essay in Public Discourse, entitled “Growing Up with Two Moms.” It described my life growing up with a lesbian mother and her partner. Discussion of same-sex parenting until that point generally treated the children of gay parents as extensions of gay adults. Whatever was good for gay adults was presumed to benefit children they raised. No serious consideration was given to divergence between the children’s interests and the interests of gay adults who wanted and loved them. My point was this:
Quite simply, growing up with gay parents was very difficult, and not because of prejudice from neighbors. People in our community didn’t really know what was going on in the house. To most outside observers, I was a well-raised, high-achieving child, finishing high school with straight A’s.
Inside, however, I was confused.
There were loving things about my childhood, but it was hard. That is all I wanted to say. I didn’t argue anything about gay marriage or even gay adoption. Eventually I did come to voice support for traditional marriage laws, but here I only spoke out of my own experience.
The same day, I received an email from someone named Scott “Rose” Rosenzweig, the first of more than a dozen. His message went to my Cal State account and was copied to colleagues and administrators, saying among other things,
Recently, CSUN’s Lopez published a gay-bashing essay about the Regnerus study, on the website of the Witherspoon Institute, which funded the Regnerus study; for reference, Lopez’s politicized gay-bashing is here: http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2012/08/6065
Because Lopez very substantially misrepresents what the published Regnerus study says, it is especially disturbing that he was in communication with Regneruswho did not follow American Sociological Association Code of Ethics guidelines for communicating with the public about sociology. It is especially disturbing to note that as per Lopez’s admission, Regnerus ***first*** contacted Lopez, having seen some of his gay-bashing comments online.
Note how this distorts my essay from personal reminiscence to “gay-bashing,” an inflammatory charge on a college campus, the first in a relentless twenty-six months of harassment.
Though he was then working with the New Civil Rights Movement, Rosenzweig provided links to a webpage featuring work from other LGBT activists linked to GLAAD, particularly Jeremy Hooper.
Journalist Jeremy Hooper investigated Robert Oscar Lopez, and found that he has built up a history of “tweets” very severely defamatory of gay people. You can see some of the record of Lopez’s gay-bashing tweets here: http://www.goodasyou.org/good_as_you/2012/08/about...
Why is Lopez so obsessed with LGBTers and so determined to make baseless attacks against them?
Soon I was getting hit by writers all across the web. A piece on August 9, 2012, in Frontiers LA affixed my photograph and began with the line, “Perhaps you know Cal State Northridge bisexual professor Robert Oscar Lopezand hence might understand why he wants to cozy up to the antigay National Organization for Marriage.”
At that time I had no connection to the National Organization for Marriage, yet as late as September 2014, the Human Rights Campaign would still claim that I spoke at NOM “March for Marriage” rallies. All of this would be jarring news for NOM, since I support gay civil unions and foster care eligibility for gay couples.
Against these charges, I tried to explain myself, even writing a three-thousand-word rebuttal in Frontiers LA, but the misrepresentations continued.
On August 14, 2012, the campaign reached my workplace in a whole new way when my dean informed me that I would have to turn over all emails from January 2009 onward that had anything to do with Mark Regnerus and his research team, Witherspoon Institute, Bradley Foundation, NOM, U.S. elected officials, the Romney campaign, Republican National Committee, and University of Texas officials.
A team of IT workers and student employees were allowed to access emails and turn them over to my off-campus accusers.
For a year, the provost’s office, dean’s office, and president’s office at Northridge were barraged with angry emails denouncing me and demanding that the university take action.
In August 2012, I spoke to the woman who was then the Associate Vice Provost, to explain my concerns about the fact that a student registered in my American Literature class was interning at the public relations office at California State University-Northridge, and thereby privy to all the hateful emails to university officials. I communicated with my chair about my concern that colleagues who were going to be reviewing me for tenure were receiving these emails as well. I spoke to campus police and asked for help.
My provost, dean, and chair did, in fact, protect me from the severest repercussions from such off-campus provocations, and I thank them for respecting academic freedom. But it was hard for me to see the good work they were doing as I dealt with daily enfilades from people at and outside the university.
In the American Literature class, friends of the bisexual female student who was working for public affairs filed a complaint against me with the Equity and Diversity Office, claiming I was a homophobe. They even alleged I had erections while teaching. The accusations were thrown out, but not before I had to hire a lawyer for an investigative hearing with the university attorneys.
A colleague who had received emails told me that he believed in the Freedom of Information Act and sided with my accusers; he ended up serving on my tenure review panel and interrogating me about my “personal revelations.”
The grants officer of the College of Humanities tried to block me from accessing grant money that had been given to me by outside donors. The Associate Vice Provost tried to block me from bringing Mickey Rooney to campus. In one phone call the following March, after receiving an email forwarded to her by a secretary who happens to be a lesbian mother, she ranted at me for my alleged unscrupulousness and dishonesty.
After I visited the European Union in Brussels with leaders of the French family movement, Manif pour Tous, the organizers of a gender studies conference at Lille University I was to attend told me the university administration did not want me on campus. More disinvitations followed. Three other universities had invited me to speak, but canceled over the concerns of administrators over hate speech.
GLAAD placed me on their “Commentator Accountability Project.” The Human Rights Campaign classified me as an “exporter of hate.” Days after GLAAD added me to their CAP list, my brother was approached at a dinner party and heckled over my status as a gay-hater.
After a year of my being banned from speaking on college campuses, courageous students at Notre Dame and Stanford succeeded in bringing me to campus over the objections of LGBT student groups. The police had to patrol the April 3 event at Notre Dame, while the Stanford event on April 5 transpired in a firestorm of controversy. Both groups that brought me to campus were banished from the student activities boards after I left.
The HRC’s “Exporters of Hate” report in September 2014 included a one-minute video and a “Wanted” poster with a caption saying I was being placed “on notice.” The YouTube page included my work location, email, and phone number. Though my friends and I have flagged and reported this comment as harassment, YouTube has still not taken it down.
The HRC then sent an email from Ty Cobb to all the group’s members on October 5-6, claiming that I delivered anti-gay comments at a World Congress of Families event. I do not belong to the World Congress of Families, have never attended a World Congress of Families event, and the quotation they attributed to me had nothing to do with my job at CSU Northridge (it came, actually, from my blog, and was mangled by Cobb.)
On the morning of October 6, I was greeted with a flurry of angry emails calling me a “bigot” and a “right-wing asshole,” plus voice mail messages calling me a “bag of shit” and telling me to perform a sexual act on myself. These emails were sent to the president, provost, and chair. I spent two days in meetings with the provost, the campus police, and my students to explain what was going on. Finally I had to resort to legal measures and had my lawyer send a letter to Chad Griffin, head of the HRC.
I doubt if anything will come of my efforts to make it stop. My appeal to the American Association of University Professors on grounds of academic freedom was dismissed with a curt note. My letter to the Modern Language Association was never acknowledged.
Robert Oscar Lopez is associate professor of English at California State-Northridge University.