Students Celebrate “Gaypril” with Parade, Rally, Panel and Drag Show

This past Monday April 24, free sno-cones, popcorn, and t-shirts kicked off a queer-pride celebration on campus known as “Gaypril.” The week featured a variety of events both celebrating queer culture and acknowledging the human rights work and intolerance that must still be overcome. The week featured a wide variety of events ranging from a St. Mary’s Project presentation on gay marriage, a pride parade, a day of silence, and a Drag Show. Co-President of STARs and senior Tyson Morgan said, “A lot of recent events have divided the campus…this whole week is about unity and inclusion.”  Senior and STARS President-elect Wesley Watkins added, “We as a community are so strong.”

Many of the events were well-attended with enthusiastic participants, especially the Pride Parade on Monday night. Queer students and allies met on the circle by Dorchester Hall and marched from the Hill past the Public Safety Office, Waring Commons, Lewis Quad and Daughtery-Palmer Commons and all the way down the path to the Campus Center, cheering and waving rainbow gay pride flags. At the Campus Center, several students impersonated queer and queer ally celebrities such as Lady Gaga, Wanda Sykes and Harvey Milk to make speeches about the need for acceptance and pride in the queer community.

Students were impressed by the turn-out.  Sophomore Margaret Lillie said, “It was cool to see all these people, considering the lack of civility on this campus lately, I’m happy for the turnout.” Senior Nona Landis added that it, “exceeded my expectations […] [people] are often commited to this idea but when it comes to actually doing stuff that doesn’t always happen.”

Another event that took place was the “Meet the Queers” panel discussion on Wednesday, April 26, where faculty, staff, and students of different sexual orientations answered questions submitted by students in the previous week. Meghan Root, Sexual Assault/Wellness Advocate, Associate Professor of French Katie Gantz,  sophomore Joshua Santangelo, senior Rahkeena Banks, and senior Bryan Miller were all part of the panel answering questions.Questions ranged from “How do lesbians have sex?” to “How do you feel SMCM responds to being LGBTQ?” and “How did it feel to come out?” Many of the questions touched at least tangentially on issues of discrimination and intolerance or common myths about LGBTQ students and faculty.

While some students both in the audience and on the panel remarked that they or their queer friends did not feel safe on this campus, others offered a somewhat different perspective regarding intolerance at St. Mary’s. While acknowledging recent harassment issues, Root said, “St. Mary’s is the safest space I’ve worked in. It’s amazing to work in a place where there are faculty and staff that are ‘out’ and where there is support for instances of homophobia.”

Gantz echoed some of these sentiments when addressing the question “Would you be friends with a person who disagreed with gay marriage?” Given some recent instances of harassment directed towards queer students on this campus, the question is a relevant one for many students. The discussion around this question focused both on the trauma of not being considered deserving of basic human rights and the impatience for true acceptance, but also the need, as with other civil rights movements, to confront intolerance with an open mind and heart. Gantz said, “I am willing to keep the door open… if I can keep outing myself to students over the years and eventually even one person learns to get comfortable with knowing someone or working with someone who’s gay, that is a success in my mind.”

The climax of Gaypril was the “Dragstravaganza” where members of the student body, in an effort to demand ownership of their bodies and sexuality, dressed up in drag and performed routines; this event, much like the other events planned for Gaypril. The event started off with an opening act put together by the members of senior Helen Coy’s burlesque workshop, which titillated the audience and prepared those who attended for the wild ride that comprised the next hour and a half. The acts for the drag show were surprisingly varied, ranging from dance numbers to a comedic interlude where one student, sophomore Camila Rangel, dressed up like Freddy Mercury and sang Acapella. Rangel even went as far as saying, “I’ve been dead for some time, so don’t hate me if I forget some of the words.”

To make sure the event was extra spectacular, three drag queens from Washington, D.C. attended the event and performed for the crowd in between the student acts. The performers, who are all members of the cast of a new television pilot Drag City D.C., were one of the biggest highlights of the evening. After each of their respective performances, the ladies took a moment to address their love for all who attended, gay, straight or bi-sexual or whatever. One of the visiting drag queens, Shiqueela Lee, made it clear to everyone that they are beautiful and no one should tell them otherwise. “If you look at yourself in the mirror, and you like who you are on the inside, who gives a f**k what anyone else thinks.”

 

Chick-fil-A: “I Wants My Sammich!”

A few weeks ago, a “Boycott Chick-fil-A at the Daily Grind” event page was posted on Facebook to make students aware of Chick-fil-A’s funding of anti-gay marriage causes and groups, and to gain support for equality on this campus.

Chick-fil-A buyers on campus got wind of the possibility that their products would be removed, and their reactions were horrifying.

Students trivialized the whole cause, saying “I can’t support this cause because the sandwiches are yummy” and “This group is pretty stupid”, verbally attacking protest supporters for their “anger”, and approaching the comments of supporters from an “all or nothing” standpoint, telling protestors to protest all groups that support these negative causes, or do nothing.

One student received Facebook messages exclaiming, “Faggot”, multiple sandwiches were stuck on his window, and he was harassed at work.

A few students even refused to support the cause while still claiming they supported LGBTQ rights. It’s impossible to say, “I support same-sex marriage, but I’m going to keep buying Chick-fil-A. Sorry.”

It doesn’t make any sense. That’s like saying, “I support animal rights groups, but before I go to a protest, I need my fur coat out of the cleaners.”

Choosing a chicken sandwich over another human being’s rights is pretty selfish.

Believe me, I too have a list of food items at the Grind that I’d use my last two cents for: Lettieri’s delicious calzones, cheese muffins, and the 99-cent Arizona fruit punch juices that quench my thirst and go easy on my flex.

But if I found out that the Arizona juice company was funding sexiest, anti-woman campaigns, or that Mrs. Lettieri herself was slipping $100 bills under the table to the KKK or white supremacist groups, I’d sooner go on a date with Flavor Flav and pay the tab than spend my flex on any of those products again.

It’s startling that these hateful gestures were made at the possibility of the sandwiches being taken away.

I wonder how the campus would react if Chick-fil-A was to disappear from the Grind.

Would Chick-fil-A regulars start a Chick-fil-A gang, throwing sandwiches and nuggets at random people in the wee hours of the morning?

Or would that be a waste of the precious food that students so desperately need?

A lot of questions are being raised now: Can LBGTQ students rely on allies for support no matter what, or is the support guaranteed until lobbying and protesting “inconveniences” them?

Should LGBTQ students feel safe on this campus, or is the student body not as open and accepting as it appears?

What is support, in the eyes of the campus community?

As an LGBTQ student, I started to reevaluate my surroundings after all this began.

In my opinion this campus has changed negatively since I arrived here in 2007, and I hope that its student body will be welcoming to those prospective students looking for that open, accepting campus they hear so much about.