Did Cross-Dressing Cost Adjunct His Job?

A sociologist sues Georgetown College, charging that his wardrobe led to his non-renewal.
June 6, 2005

Jeremy D. Kerr is a sociologist who uses cross-dressing to make points about gender and society.

But Kerr, an adjunct who teaches at the University of Kentucky and who used to teach at Georgetown College, has been told by his department chair at Kentucky to stop cross-dressing in class, and Kerr has sued Georgetown, charging that he lost an adjunct position because of his cross-dressing in area restaurants.

Kerr was not available for comment.

In an interview on Sunday, James Hougland, the acting chair of sociology at Kentucky, called Kerr "a good instructor." Kerr finished his Ph.D. at Kentucky in the spring and has been working there as an adjunct and is expected to teach again in the fall.

While Hougland praised Kerr's work as an instructor, the chair said that he had asked Kerr "to wear gender-appropriate clothing in his UK classes and to my knowledge he  has complied with that request."

Hougland said that Kerr taught courses that covered, among other subjects, deviance, and that cross-dressing was "a legitimate topic" for such courses. But Hougland said that, based on feedback from students, Kerr's periodic cross-dressing "appeared to be a distraction and I felt he could convey the material more effectively without that distraction."

Kerr has also taken his cross-dressing to area restaurants and reportedly has been thrown out of some of them for appearing in women's clothing. Kerr's lawsuit against Georgetown College says that these incidents led the college not to renew his contract there, even though he had never cross-dressed at the college, according to an article in The Lexington Herald-Leader.

Hougland said that he had never asked Kerr to curtail his cross-dressing outside of the classroom. "My personal philosophy is that I'm not in the  business of giving fashion advice when instructors are not in the work place," he said.

The Herald-Leader article quoted Kerr as saying that he used cross-dressing to illustrate shifts in gender in which women dress in some clothing (such as jeans) that was once considered male, but that men do not enjoy the same options to dress in clothing that was considered female. "I'm turning it around. What's good for the girls is good for the guys," he said.

His lawsuit against Georgetown charges it with sex discrimination for not renewing his contract. Georgetown officials did not respond to e-mail messages over the weekend seeking comment, but the Herald-Leader reported that court filings from the college said that the decision not to keep Kerr was based on "legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons unrelated to his sex."

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