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Performer addresses gay issues

Antonacci, Kate | Tuesday, March 1, 2005

To kick off Notre Dame’s first Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Questioning (GLBQ) Awareness week, local performer Bradley Bogaert spoke Monday about living as a gay man in South Bend.Bogaert, a 1979 graduate of Marian High School in South Bend who currently works at Truman’s Night Club as a drag queen, discussed coming out, gay bashing and drug and alcohol problems. He himself suffered from a drug and alcohol addiction from age 16 to 36. In 1996, he entered a six-month rehabilitation program, which led him to sobriety. “I was doing drugs and thought I was the best entertainer there was,” Bogaert said. “[But] I have never been happier being sober.”After discussing his personal struggles, Bogaert said he also had to deal with the many societal struggles that come with being gay.”They say being gay is a choice. I wish it was a choice,” Bogaert said. “I would choose to, and everyone’s going to hate me for saying this, be straight. There are times I love to be gay, but it really isn’t a choice.”Despite these difficulties, Bogaert said that gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender individuals today live in a far more welcoming society than that of his youth.”People today have so many opportunities that we didn’t have,” Bogaert said. “Still, I’m proud to be what I am. I love being gay.”According to event organizers, many University officials thought that it was important to have Bogaert speak on campus. “The administrators that I spoke with personally were fairly enthusiastic about his coming, as they realized he would be dealing with many taboo subjects that perhaps haven’t been discussed in a meaningful way,” said Chris Vierig, organizer of the week and member of the Senate Diversity Committee.”For example, it was very important for gay, lesbian and bisexual students to hear the story of a gay man who was addicted to drugs and alcohol but who overcame his circumstances to find his true identity,” Vierig said.Several audience members seemed offended by parts of his talk, such as discussions about drug and alcohol use, gay bashing, prostitution and pornography. Others questioned Bogaert’s choice to call on audience members to ask about their sexual orientation,”Personally, my support of GLBTQ rights has nothing at all to do with whether I am hetero or homosexual, it has to do with human rights and civil rights at large,” said Anna Gomberg, graduate student and co-coordinator of the unofficial student group AllianceND. “I think that student leaders working in this arena have a different responsibility to realize that this is a question that is really hard for someone who is questioning or closeted.”However, the audience responded positively to Bogaert’s often humorous speaking style, which made discussion of difficult topics easier. “His entertaining style is very candid and upfront, and his willingness to disclose his own orientation seemed to make that [sexual orientation] question a little more comfortable to me,” Gomberg said.GLBQ Week came about through efforts by the Senate Diversity Committee and student body president Adam Istvan, Vierig said.Though Bogaert was asked to speak on campus several weeks ago, official approval for the event was not granted until Thursday afternoon, said Gomberg, who asked Bogaert to give the talk.While Vierig said it was difficult to get the University to approve Bogaert to speak on campus, the event’s turnout was greater than expected. Although the planners expected a core group of gay, lesbian and bisexual students to come, they said they were pleased to see many straight students attend. “Overall, I think the University is, however, open to a multiplicity of opinions and welcomes numerous discussions of various discourses so that students may engage in a critical thought process of their own beliefs,” Vierig said. “This, I believe, is at the heart of any university education.”On Wednesday, other events for GLBQ Awareness Week will take place, including students wearing orange shirts to support gay, lesbian and bisexual students on campus and Theology on Tap discussing homosexuality within a Catholic context at Legends at 10 p.m.The film “In and Out” will be screened Thursday in the LaFortune Ballroom. Additionally, The Laramie Project, a play about the murder of gay college student Matthew Sheppard, will be performed today, Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in the DeBartolo Center for the Performing Arts.