It was the mid-1980’s when lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender studies was simply called “gay and lesbian studies.” Frank Nobiletti was a graduate student studying the controversial subject, and he wanted to know what the big fuss was about.
“Why are people so put out by people of a different sexual orientation?” Nobiletti asked.
Since then, Nobiletti worked toward tackling stigmas against the LGBT community.Hebelievesbreakingdown the barriers begins with education.
Nobiletti now teaches history and LGBT studies at San Diego State, the second university in the U.S. to offer a major for the program. He was integral in developing the program as well as establishing SDSU as a “safe zone,” characterizing the schools “LGBT friendly.”
But Nobiletti does not only teach. He is also a board member at the Lambda Archives of San Diego, where he and a team of archivists, volunteers and SDSU interns collect, preserve and teach San Diego’s LGBT history.
With a recent move to an area three times the size of its original space, San Diegans have access to one of the better-preserved LGBT archives in the country, according to Kelly Revak, head archivist at the Lambda Archives.
Revak said she and Nobiletti worked toward making the Lambda Archives the highest possible quality with minimal resources and a lot of help from the community.
Recently, the Lambda Archives “came out of the closet” and published its address on its website.
Nobiletti and Revak say it’s because San Diegans have become more tolerant of the LGBT community overall. They don’t worry as much about getting bombed or vandalized by homophobic extremists like they used to a couple of decades ago.
Student opinion about Nobiletti’s teaching style is polarized. According to RateMyProfessors.com some love his teaching, others “hate” it.
“I have a little ADD,” Nobiletti said. “I can be scattered. I try to organize the course very well, but sometimes I can put too much into it.”
However, Nobiletti is not interested in “presenting the facts and only the facts.” He says history is not a hard science.
“I’m going tell them what I think, but I wanna hear what they think,” Nobiletti said.
Gabriel Fontana, Nobiletti’s former student, calls Nobiletti’s critics “bitter students.” He says they’re looking for a set formula and when Nobiletti doesn’t teach according to the formula, they get upset or uncomfortable.
“That’s not what education is about,” Fontana, who volunteers at the archives, said.
“Learning is kind of a partnership,” something Nobiletti works to establish with his students, Fontana said.
Fontana credits Nobiletti as one of the reasons he decided to become a teacher. Fontana graduated from SDSU in May and is now a graduate student at the University of San Diego studying education and teaching.
Although he stepped down as president of the San Diego Lambda Archives in 2011, Nobiletti shows no signs of slowing down. He says he stepped down so he could focus exclusively on teaching, where his passion lies.