by Jessica Dial
A large group of students gathered last Friday in front of Blanchard to discuss incidents of homophobic bias. The purpose of the event was to facilitate dialogue between students on the issues of intolerance and sexuality.
The controversy stemmed from a series of confrontations that took place the previous week. At the end of the week, the Lesbian Bisexual Alliance, LBA, put up posters for a dance. The posters depicted a lesbian couple in an embrace.
The following Tuesday, a group calling itself the Heterosexual Alliance, HA, posted pictures of naked heterosexual couples in the college post office. Accompaning [sic] the photos was a statement that read, "You've expressed your sexuality, now we'll express ours."
The next day some women posted a response to the HA's posters that thanked the HA for demonstrating the reason the LBA existed. They signed the poster and wrote their extensions. This move was meant to discourage anonymous postings. At that point, the Women's Sexuality Discussion Group (a group that is not associated with the LBA) decided that something needed to be done about this conflict, and the best solution was to hold an open forum.
An open microphone was then set up Friday on the steps of Blanchard. The meeting was then advertised around campus. The organizers hoped that people of all opinions would show up so that the conflict could be aired.
Earlier Friday morning homophobic chalk slogans were discovered at the post office entrance to Blanchard. Most of it was wiped away quickly, but one phrase was overlooked in the initial cleanup. "Dykes leave," it said.
The discussion opened at noon with Evelyn Wright, '94, the main coordinator of the event, explaining that the microphone was to provide an open forum where any opinion could be expressed. Wright said the students "need to have more discussions between people, not being so worried about offending anyone." She also announced that more meetings will be held soon to address these issues. They are being coordinated with the office of the Dean of Studies.
The open meeting started slowly, but once it got going the microphone did not remain silent for long. The first issue raised was the sexual explicitness of the lesbian couple on the LGA posters.
Those who addressed this issue stated that they were not upset by the sex of the two lovers, but the way in which the lovers were shown, in a "pornographic, inappropriate manner." Many said that they would have felt the same way if it had been a heterosexual cople [sic] on the dance posters. Some of the same students said they felt the same aversion when the HA posters and pictures were put up. Many claimed the LGA's dance posters alienated some women. Members of the LBA responded, "We didn't mean to alienate anyone."
The next issue that arose was why the HA should exist., [sic] Many students questioned the need for such a group. Many of the women who identified themselves as heterosexual expressed dismay at the actions of the group, and resented the fact that they used the name "Heterosexual Alliance."
"They certainly don't speak for all heterosexuals," said several women. Some felt that the HA was a parody of the LBA, and existed only to gay-bash. "If the Heterosexual Alliance isn't just a parody of the LBA, then they should be here," said one woman who wanted to hear the thoughts and beliefs that motivate the group. Some women stood up and said that a need for a support group for heterosexuals exists.
"Sexuality of any type isn't easy. Women should be able to get together and talk about their sexuality, whatever it may be," said one woman.
"There should be discussion groups if people believe they're necessary. Sometimes heterosexuals feel ostracized, or feel uncomfortable when their boyfriends are on campus," said another.
One speaker said "You can't say that heterosexuals can't have an alliance just because they're the majority on campus. If you can, then I claim victim status for the College Republicans, and say that there can be no College Democrats."
In contrast, several women, identifying themselves as heterosexual, stated, "I feel there is no need for a heterosexual alliance." Some cited the fact that the world is dominated by heterosexuals, and that heterosexuals don't face the constant abuse and discrimination to which homosexuals and bisexuals are continually subjected.
One point that many people emphasized the need to sign any posted material in order to be responsible for its content. "Anonymity is just another word for fear," said a junior.
Most of the speeches seemed to focus on the need for discussion, understanding and education. "The people here are not the people who need to be here," said one woman, "and those people are your friends and my friends and we have to find them."
Charmaine Wijeyesinghe, Dean of Students, emphasized that the faculty and staff of Mount Holyoke are also dealing with those issues of sexuality all the time, and can provide support to people regardless of sexual orientation. She asked that students use the Office of the Dean of Students and the Office of Public Safety as resources for further discussion.