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March 27, 1987 - Image 22

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1987-03-27
Note:
This is a tabloid page

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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Daily under a pseudonyms or with first names only. Others,
who said they were willing to risk abuse in the hope of
advancing gay rights, spoke openly.
Barbara's blue eyes squint against the afternoon sun as she
sits on the steps of Rackham, smiling, her thin legs
outstretched.
"I knew I was different from the time I was four years
old," she confides. "I kept having these crushes on girls, and
then they'd move away and break my heart.
"In junior high, I really wanted people to like me, so I'd
have boyfriends, like all the other girls. But the boys were
boring - it was my girlfriends I really cared about. I wanted
so much just to hold them, to show some affection.
"Well, I knew I wasn't supposed to feel that way, and it
caused me a lot of frustration. I joined the track team and I
ran, ran hard, sometimes until I dropped, and then I'd drag
myself home. I would do anything just to keep busy, not to
think about it."
Now an LSA junior, Barbara felt very isolated during her
first months at the University.
"My first week in the dorm was miserable," she
remembers. "Everyone was into make-up and jewelry and
talking about nothing but men, so I tried it too. I wanted to
fit in really badly, but I was uncomfortable. It didn't feel like
me.
"When you first get here, I think, you grab onto the first
friends you can make, and I thought, 'This is horrible. It's a
straight world and I don't fit in.' "
Eventually, Barbara found a support group and tied herself
into a small lesbian community of friends. Now, she is open
with them and with herself.
This process of letting people know about one's lifestyle
is known among gays as "coming out of the closet," or
simply "coming out." Most often, it is a long and painful
ordeal during which many gay men and lesbians risk the loss
of friends, family, and jobs. But most say they also gain a
feeling of liberation.
"Coming out for me was great. For the first time, I felt
that people actually knew me. And I finally understood
myself. I understood why I was so confused all my life, why
I never fit in," said Barbara.
"I'd never be heterosexual. It just wouldn't be me."
VER SIX FEET TALL and broad-shouldered,
O Matt is a big man. Like many husky men, Matt
thought himself safe from attack - until last
January.
Matt left a friend's house one night at about
one a.m., and walked alone near South University. Slowly,
he became aware of a group of men behind him, following
him. He walked faster, and they walked faster. He ran, and
they ran.
They caught Matt and threw him into the street. Shouting
"Faggot!" "Queer!" and "AIDS bag!", five men kicked Matt's
back and sides for a full minute.
Two months later, Matt has bruises and back problems.
He never reported the incident to campus security. He's
gay, and he doesn't want his real name connected with the
incident. He feels his parents aren't ready for the news, and
he's afraid they may find out before he can tell them.
Today, sitting in the Union and telling his story, Matt is
angry.
"I feel hatred from all sides," he says, his voice strained
with emotion. "People feel so offended by a small, miniscule
part of my lifestyle, they feel they have to assault me. It's
taken me so long to deal with this."
Even now, Matt does not know who the men were. He
believes one may have lived on his dorm floor last year, but
he's not sure.
"After it happened I was afraid to walk around alone. Now
that I can think clearly," his voice breaks, "I'm humiliated,
upset, and angry."
racism at the Fleming Administration build-
ing last Thursday, Mark wanted to show his
support. He went with a pink "Gay Rights
Now" T-shirt and a paper bag on his head.
"There was no way I wasn't gonna stand up and be
counted in the movement," Mark said later. "But honestly,
without that bag, I would have been fired."
Mark, among many other activites, is a part-time teacher

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in a local school where he says he is highly respected.
"The kids love me, the administrators love me, but that
would change dramatically if they knew I was gay. It's funny
how such a little part of your personality can so blatantly
affectthe way people look at you."
A dark-haired LSA senior, Mark has had to hide his
sexuality for many years. "When I was a child, I knew I was
somehow different, but I thought it might go away. Slowly,
I realized it wasn't gonna go away, and it made me hate
myself."
During his sophomore year at the University, the
situation became a crisis. "I thought I had no alternative. My
gayness wasn't going away, and I often wanted just to crawl
in bed with some sleeping pills and get it over with."
After some introspection, however, Mark decided to try to
find a way to live with himself. He read some books on the
subject and tried out the idea with some close friends.
"I got some positive support and I tried to work on the
attitude that I might be okay after all."
When he felt ready, Mark went to his first meeting of a
campus gay male support group, the Michigan Gay Union.
Expecting to see some rather strange folks, Mark was
shocked at what he discovered.
"I was standing there, and who's the first person who
walks in? My roommate! We had been friends for two years
and I didn't have a clue that he might be gay.
"I said, 'You too?' He said, 'Surprise!' "
Mark was surprised by the rest of the evening, too. "I
found out that real people can be real gay and it can be real
fun," he said. "For the first time in my life, my feet didn't
touch the ground. I felt so free, so alive."
With his new freedom came restrictions, too, as Mark
soon realized. "There are a lot of little freedoms that non-gays
take for granted. When a guy meets a girl on the Diag for a
dinner date, he can greet her with a hug and a kiss. When I
meet the person I love after a long hard day, I can only nod
and say 'Hi.'"
In his social life, Mark also feels limited. "I never really
understood what it was like for women to be afraid to walk
alone on campus. But with some of the recent attacks on gay
men, I can see how they feel. When I go to a local bar on
gay night, I'm scared to leave alone. On the street, I feel
terrified, vulnerable."
Still, Mark is satisfied with his lifestyle. "I didn't choose
to be physically and emotionally attracted to men. I just
decided to deal with it."
S THE LIGHTS WENT DOWN in Rackham
ampitheater, a small woman in a glittered purple
blouse addressed the crowd.
"Can you see me?" she shouted.
"No!" was the overwhelming reply.
Obligingly, the speaker climbed on top the wide semi-
circular podium and struted around. The crowd cheered.
It was a lecture on lesbian sex and the auditorium was
packed beyond capacity.
One week ago, 350 women of all ages and colors gathered
to hear a nationally known speaker and author share her
views on intimacy, women, and life.
"You know, you read the papers and see how every group
is banding together against homosexuals," said JoAnn
Loulan, author of Lesbian Sex and a licensed sex counselor.
"We take it all in and it affects us deeply." The crowd became
hushed and solemn.
"Many of us are getting tired of fighting." Loulan went on
to talk about the emotional battle lesbians face in everyday
life in a society which would like them to be different.
"Here we all are, at college or not, away from home,
trying to be ourselves, and everyone - your grandparents,
your friends, your siblings, the Supreme Court - they're all
telling you you're wrong. Why?
"I think it has to do with male supremacy. It's like if
you're not owned by someone, you need to be arrested," she
said. "What gets arrested is our need to be ourselves."
Later, when Loulan described the way many lesbians try
to hide their sexuality from their parents, the crowd laughed
in recognition.
"When our parents call us on the phone and ask about our
lives, many of us talk about our cats or exams or just
anything to keep from talking about what really matters to
us. No wonder everyone thinks we're so lonely!
See GAYS, Page 12

How gays cope with bigotry
By Susanne Skubik
Photos by Karen Handelman

4'
Patti Hopwood and Jackie Sauriol , shown above at the "PDA (Public Display of Affection) Picr
on the Diag, plan to wed in October. Below, they pose with friends at the outing. Bill Wehrle (c
embraces afriend at the picnic.

AVID IS STRIKINGLY HANDSOME,
with dark shining eyes and wide smile.
As he sits in Drake's sandwich shop
sipping a limeade, women in other
booths openly glance his way. In a
deep, soft voice, he relates to his
interviewer, a stranger, the pain of dis-
crimination and harassment.
This man is not black or Asian or handicapped. He is gay.
David doesn't want his real name printed. He worries that
he'd get abuse from other residents on his Bursley floor if
they were to discover his sexual orientation.
"I couldn't feel comfortable at Bursley if people knew I'm
gay. I knew one guy whose floor-mates urinated on his door
because they just thought he was gay," he said.
"There's a lot of ignorance all over campus, and I'm not
sure what people would do to me if they knew."
In his fear, David is typical of most gays on campus.
While recent incidents have brought to the attention of
students, administrators, and the national media the issue of
blacks' equality on campus, little notice is given to a less
visible but equally maligned group: the University's gay
students. In an atmosphere where racial jokes and graffiti are
met with large demonstrations and official condemnation,
open attacks on gay men and lesbians seem an accepted part
of campus life.

According to the staff of the University's Lesbian and Gay
Male Program Office, lesbian and gay students - or others
whom students suspect of homosexuality - are often
followed, harassed, and sometimes beaten on Ann Arbor
streets.
Fear of abuse is perhaps the only common characteristic
of lesbians and gay men at the University. Like college
students as a whole, homosexuals are a very diverse popu -
lation: black, Hispanic, white, handicapped, science-oriented,
artistic, politically active, or reserved.
Modern psychology now places homosexuality within the
realm of normal human behaviors. In 1974, the American
Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list
of psychological disorders. Accordingly, mental health
professionals no longer seek to "cure" homosexuality; it is
not considered a disease.
Experts on human sexuality estimate that ten percent of
the general population is homosexual. The University,
therefore, has perhaps 3,500 gay and lesbian students.
"That means if you count your brothers and your sisters
and your closest friends, one of them is probably gay," said
David. "And if you extend that, to the 30 or 40 people on
campus that you know pretty well, three or four of them are
gay.
Many gays, however, feel a need to hide their sexual
preference to avoid potential harassment and discrimination,
or worse. For this reason, many chose to speak with the

PAGE 6 WWEEKEND/MARCH 27, 1987

WEEKEND/MARCH 27, 1987

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