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Putting Pride Back in the Closet

I’m happy to say that Penn State is time and time again regarded as one of the most gay-friendly colleges you can find, and this week if you find yourself walking through the HUB you might get a glimpse as to why. Packed with rainbow balloons and proud gay, lesbian, trans, and assorted allies, we celebrate yet another year where we can say we live in a time and place that being LBGTA can be celebrated by a community of students who are proud enough to do so.

However, there are those who do not think it is a cause worth celebration. After a look through of one of my past pieces — a post entitled “Gay Valley” — it is simple to see which side of the fence I’m on in regard to this issue. But I feel an imbalance. Why is it that we get a week to celebrate our worldview, and those who oppose this week are not recognized, hiding like we had to once upon a time?

Let me refer first to a fellow gay writer who put an article in the Collegian entitled “Too much Gay Pride? Emphasizing differences doesn’t achieve equality” by Cody Beaver. It is a rather short article, but it did a good job in completely baffling me. He does so in lines like:

“True equality doesn’t come from forced commingling, but rather from tearing down the walls that separate us into gay, straight, black, and white.”

“I’m proud to be gay, but shoving my sexuality in everybody’s faces because gay pride is important does nothing but hinder the slow crawl of societal progression.

One day, we won’t need an LGBT community because there won’t be such differences between any of us. But capitalizing on our differences is not the way to gain the equality we need.”

Cody, I would like to first refer you to two men, Martin Luther King Jr. and Harvey Milk, who are surely rolling in their graves in light of you downplaying their approach of making visibility and voice their greatest asset in what you would call “social progression.” What we are doing now with African American groups and the LGBTA community is no different and no less necessary now than it was in the past. Both groups continue to fight for true equality.

I would recommend you further educate yourself in what it takes to “tear down walls” before you perpetuate such ideas. Make no mistake about it, we will be needing an LGBT community for a very long time, or at least as long as anyone feels the burden of being different — which they will because your fantasy land where there “won’t be such differences between us” does. not. exist. You are of course entitled to your opinion.

As a writer for this site, I see a lot of differing opinions. When Onward State puts out a picture on Twitter stating that there were to be “gay hugs” in the HUB on Monday of this week, some people chose to politely decline and move on because that kind of confrontation makes them uncomfortable. However some more actively spoken members decided to speak out and relay their discomfort via Twitter.

@onwardstate who would want to hug a gay person?

— Big game bronson(@Bronbron88) March 18, 2013


@onwardstate gay hugs ? What the fuck has this place come to?

— Marcin (@MarcinKonefal) March 18, 2013

Gentleman, don’t think your questions have fallen on deaf ears here at Onward State. I understand your dismay, even your shock. However, I think it is rather progressive of yourselves to ask “who WOULD want to hug a gay person?” People interested in discrediting theories that homosexuality is contagious, or that we carry a rare form of airborne AIDS, or perhaps even to see if they don’t feel a stirring in their loins themselves (it does always seem to be the most outspoken homophobes, just throwing it out there). Also, there is the possibility that the reason someone would want to hug a homosexual is because they consider that person a friend, lover, parent, or the person in question is just an individual otherwise inclined to hug the homosexual in question because they support LGBT affiliation, spontaneous acts of kindness, or just like hugs in general. The possibilities are truly endless, Big Game Bronson.

Asking yourself “What has this place come to?” is also a completely natural question, Marcin Konefal. You see, homosexual tolerance really took off in Penn State with the start of Homophiles which began in 1965, if you can believe that. Homophiles was a resource for homosexuals, which for its time was pretty progressive. It is because of these gay-friendly staples in our history that we have come to a point where our school’s community feels we can have something as innocent and proud as “free gay hugs,” even if some people find it rather uncomfortable. However, some people really love “gay hugs.” So I guess “what this place has come to” is a safe haven where people feel comfortable enough to do something, well, silly.

As for how far we have come in getting here, lets look at Rene Portland, a former coach of Penn State’s woman’s basketball team who all those years ago was a proud homophobe. She threatened to expose her players and cut them from the team if they uttered something lesbian-esque. So to answer “what this place has come to,” the answer is that it has come to what I would believe is a much better place.

Such blatant discrimination would not be tolerated due to the increased visibility of a the LGBTA community that there has been since, make no mistake about that (I’m looking at you, Cody Beaver).

The fact of the matter is that for some people it is not about understanding and visibility leading to acceptance. For some, it is just something they know in their heart to be wrong for whatever reason and will not be convinced otherwise no matter what anyone has to say–some might call this bullheadedness. For instance, Onward State featured another picture a while back of two men kissing, and we found one reader was very clear about his beliefs — despite everyone’s attempts to…er…sway him (click the link for the full thread).

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I know some of you are potentially revolted by these comments, however, I do not want to be the “media trying to sway your opinion.” This guy has every right to say what he believes, and I am happy I live in a place where he is allowed to do his thing and I am allowed to do mine. However, I think we can all agree that “beating the gay” out of somebody is a fruitless, brutish tactic, and the bit about making sure his brother brushes his teeth was rather tasteless.

Unlike this reader, sometimes it’s a matter of religion that makes a person un-persuadable in accepting the LGBTA community. While some people follow the bible lightly (abandoning ideas that a woman doesn’t have to be a virgin before marriage, that religious people can still eat shellfish, and that homosexuals aren’t abominations), others take to heart that if their God says it’s a no-no, then it’s a no-no. For these people, I just like to focus on the fact that they just want to get to heaven, and to their very core they want to see us there too. In that way it’s kind of nice, as long as they aren’t holding signs like the one you’ll find on the cover of this article, aggressively and publicly harassing LGBT members, condemning us to hell and calling us mean names.

The point is this: Pride week is necessary for the LGBTA community. This is due to the fact that we have this whole idea that we want to be treated as well as the next guy, and we aren’t there yet. We are following the powerful movement started by people like Harvey Milk to be as visible as possible because it is important that people know that we are not going anywhere. And, in doing so, we reassure ourselves that we won’t be discriminated by a coach, or by peers, or by bullies who otherwise want to make us feel anything less than proud to be who we are. When you step under the arch of rainbow balloons, understand that it is so much more than balloons to us; it’s a frame in which we can look through to see the world that could be. A world in which we feel at home.

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