Campus supports ‘Gay? Fine By Me’ demonstration
Maddie Hanna | Friday, November 19, 2004
The color orange, spotted yesterday on students sporting “Gay? Fine by Me” T-shirts and on a large spray-painted closet in front of South Dining Hall, helped promote awareness of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered and queer issues at Notre Dame Wednesday.
Students were welcomed to “come out of the closet,” which did not necessarily mean as a gay or lesbian. For example, one girl came out as “one hungry anal-retentive accounting major.”
“This isn’t about a particular issue, but showing this campus is not homophobic, a safe space for people who live alternative lifestyles,” Anna Gomberg, graduate student and co-coordinator of the unrecognized student group AllianceND, said.
She said this is the second year the orange T-shirt demonstration has occurred. Sponsored by the Notre Dame department of sociology, the Graduate Student Union and other student groups, yesterday’s events had no official connection to AllianceND.
Although Gomberg said there had been some negative feedback to the events, overall, she was very pleased with the reaction and the “positive energy” she had witnessed.
“I think Notre Dame has a long ways to go in terms of becoming a comfortable place for people of all sexual orientations, but I think that it has come very far,” she said.
Gomberg also said that around 500 shirts had been sold already this year.
Students choose the date for the demonstrations and events to coincide with the opening of the play “Angels in America” in Washington Hall.
Freshman Scott Dilts expressed regret that these events were even necessary.
“It’s sad that we need to have a day like this. There shouldn’t be any question that homosexuals deserve our respect, or that any other group of people does,” Dilts said.
However, Dilts also said he didn’t think the shirts would be effective in changing people’s opinions.
“You wear it if you support gays and don’t wear it if you don’t. It’s just a declaration of the position you already hold,” he said.
Eugene Walls, graduate student, fully supported yesterday’s events, saying,
“It’s a good way to keep the dialogue going. We feel that on campus, it’s really a monologue,” he said.
According to Walls, the campus culture is ready to support a Gay Straight Alliance.
“Six hundred plus people wearing this shirt is probably the largest show of solidarity on this campus. The administration, that’s the only culture here that’s not ready,” Walls said.
Sophomore Monica Nanda said also considered the day’s events very effective.
“I think this is awesome. It’s a bigger success than last year, which is saying a lot,” she said.
However, some students commented negatively on the shirts and closet.
“It’s pretty anti-Catholic,” freshman Blake Jones said. “It seems to me that we can be accepting without wearing shirts and putting closets on the quad and trying to force our opinions on people.”
Jones said that he thought the shirt demonstration was unnecessary.
“If you’re going to be gay, that’s fine, but you don’t need to broadcast it to everyone. Besides, there’s plenty of other things people get excluded for that nobody parades around,” he said.
Like Jones, sophomore Tommy Forr criticized the shirts and closet, saying both events went too far as pubic demonstrations.
“The closet’s a little overboard,” Forr said. “[The shirt] is just too ambiguous for me to wear. I think we need to accept them [gays and lesbians] as people, but the shirts imply we should accept a lifestyle, and I’m not going to do that.”
Senior Chris Christensen organized a counter demonstration for students to dress up instead of wearing the orange shirts.
“First, it does not insult. But, it gives us the opportunity to explain what we really think about the gay and lesbian issue – that we don’t hate gays and lesbians, but we simply disagree with their choices and see those choices, not the individuals, as objectively immoral, like we see stealing or lying,” Christensen said.
He said that dressing up could even show respect for gay students.
“At the prompting of a friend, I think it’s a very good idea for us to dress up as a show of respect and even honor for those who struggle with homosexual tendencies,” he said.
Senior Monica Kolf also dressed up for the occasion.
“It’s not that we’re focusing on homosexuality, but on marriage,” she said.
Even with the presence of these negative opinions, some thought the Princeton Review’s ranking of Notre Dame as number one for “Alternative Lifestyles not an Alternative” was largely inaccurate.
“I don’t think we deserve the number one ranking on Princeton Review at all. I think students in general are pretty accepting – it’s more of the administration not accepting AllianceND,” Stagl said.
Sister Mary Louise Gude, advisor to the Standing Committee on Gay and Lesbian Student Needs, said that she did not consider the stereotype perpetuated by the Princeton Review to be valid.
“I don’t think it’s the case, and I don’t think the gay and lesbian students would say that either. If you’re out on this campus, you’re well treated – that’s what the gay and lesbian students would say,” she said.