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September 27, 1991 - Image 6

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1991-09-27
Note:
This is a tabloid page

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OuT
Imagine yourself in a world
where everybody is kissing and
hugging someone of the same sex.
Imagine that wherever you go
you are confronted with images
of same-sex couples holding hands
and displaying their affection for
one another.
This world may be difficult
for heterosexuals on a
predominantly heterosexual
campus to envision, but it is
analagous to the world that gay
men and lesbian women say they
are forced to accept every day.
In spite of the fact that a
significant percentage of the
University's population is a gay
male or lesbian woman - the
Lesbian/Gay Male Programming
Office (LGMPO) estimates 10
percent - homosexuality is an
issue many students don't want
to deal with.
"I don't see why homosexuals
have to be so flagrant about their
sexuality," said one student who
wished to remain anonymous. "I
don't mind if they do it in private,
but when they flaunt it then I
don't think I should be forced to
see it."
Others cite religion to justify
their negative perceptions of
homosexuality.
"My religious views don't
condone their lifestyle, but I do
recognize that it is not my
business to interfere with them,"
explained a member of a
Christian organization.
Choice vs. Control
RC sophomore Brian
Spolarich said being gay isn't
something that he chose to do;
rather, it is a natural part of him.
"If I hadn't come to the
University, I probably would
have killed myself," he said. "I
couldn't be heterosexual. I'm gay
and I know that's what I am."
Jerry Galea, a Resident
Director in West Quad, said that
there is a decision involved in
being gay - but it is one which
many men and women don't
understand.
"There is a choice," he
explained. "You choose whether
or not to act on it, but that
doesn't mean you can restrain the
desire. Flip the question around
and ask heterosexual people
whether they can control being
attracted to the opposite sex."
Billie Edwards, the co-
coordinator of the LGMPO
compared being gay to being
Black.
"If our sexual orientation was
something we could not hide, if it
was something like being Black,
then the heterosexual community
around us could accept us for

OF THE CLOSET,

ONTO THE CAMPU

what we are," she said.
Edwards added that the idea
that gay men and lesbians need
people of the same sex to fulfill
themselves emotionally,
physically and spiritually is
frightening to heterosexuals.
"Men especially seem to be
threatened by the idea that we
view our partners as more than
love objects," she said. "We
connect by choice, rather than
sexual need. I'm a female before
I'm a lesbian, but my entire life
has been treated as a lesbian, not
as a woman."
Sex and Gaydar
LSA senior Jayson Curry hates
it when heterosexuals think all he
wants to do is sleep with them.
"It makes me want to react
violently, but I won't do that. I
won't destroy a sect or
organization because they are
different from me," Curry said. "I
wouldn't give them the
satisfaction."~
Spolarich has similar
difficulties with some straight
people.
"Straight people think all I
want to do is sleep with them. I'm
sorry, but I don't want to have
sex with every man I meet," he
said.
Spolarich also said some
heterosexuals think he will
become straight if he meets the
right woman.
"I'm sorry, but there is no
right woman for me."
While the "nothing-on-their-
minds-but-sex" stereotype is off
the mark, many gays and lesbians
do claim to have an unofficial
"gaydar" that they use to decide
who is gay and who is not.
"Gays can recognize other
gays," said Matt Alexander, a
Linguistics professor. "It is an
untouchable hypothesis. There is
a notion of a gaydar which every
gay person believes in. I met this
guy one time, he is a faculty
member, too. We both later said
we had the same feeling that the
other one was gay, but both
repressed it. Later on we found
out we were right."
Galea explained that gaydar is
more than just casually assuming
strangers are gay or straight. "I
don't know how I can tell, but I
usually can," he said. "You have
this sense or perception about
someone. It's not based on
stereotypes, it has to do with
talking to someone and knowing
them on more than just a casual
basis."
On the other hand, LSA
sophomore Adam Henderson,
who lived with a gay roommate
last year, claims that gaydar is a

double standard.
"When straight people talk
about it they are being
stereotypical, but when gay
people talk about it they are just
being themselves," Henderson
said.
"There are straight people who
are in your face about their
sexuality, and that just happens
to be more accepted than gay

Cover story by Stefanie Vines

Prof. Matt Alexander
people who are up front about
being gay," he said. "But people
are people, it doesn't matter about
their sexual orientation."
Love the Sinner,
Hate the Sin
"My basic philosophy is to
love the sinner, but hate the sin.
As far as not condoning their
lifestyle, that is what I think
God's opinion is. The Bible is
God's words and I think the Bible
forbids homosexuality," said a
Christian student who wished to
remain anonymous. "I say that I
don't condone their lifestyle
because that is what my religious
views are, but I also believe it is
not my purpose or my right to
judge other people's lives."
But Henderson sees a
contradiction in the idea of loving
the sinner, but hating the sin.
"If you are telling someone not
to be a homosexual, you are
condemning them as a person, not
the act itself. It implies it is a sin,
but it isn't. Homosexuality hurts
no one," Henderson said.
"I have Christian colleagues,
some who are opposed to
homosexuality and some who are
not," Alexander said. "It's very
funny when someone says all
homosexuals are going to hell, but
you're not... People think of
homosexuals as a group, but
when they meet an individual and
get to know them, their opinion
changes."
Tracy Ore, a TA as well as a
doctoral candidate in sociology,
said that being raised as a
Christian presented a problem for
her when she first came out.

"I was raised to be a good
Christian woman and that's
what I thought I wanted to be. I
went to college to find a husband,
not an education," Ore said. "But
people don't go to college now to
do that, they go to get an
education."
Butch/Dyke vs.
Being a Woman
"People perceive me as being
this castrating bitch. It is a
combination of me being an
activist and being a lesbian," Ore
said. "It makes me angry that
people think this.
"The myth is that lesbians are
asexual and that we are all
women dressed in leather who
want to be like men. Women are
invisible as it is, but when you
put two women together in a
lesbian relationship, they are even
more invisible," Ore said.
Edwards said there is no set
way lesbians like to look or dress.
"Women in 1991 are more in
tune with themselves than ever
before and the ways we clothe
ourselves are more varied than
ever before," Edwards said.
"There is no one look for
lesbians."
The problem with the way
lesbians are perceived, she said,
stems from men s insecurities
about their own sexuality.
"As a woman, I don't need a
male for my emotional, sexual
and spiritual fulfillment and that
is threatening to men. I think men
are really afraid when they hear
that women are self-sufficient on
any level, but especially on a
romantic one," Edwards said.
Jim Toy, a co-coordinator
with Edwards at the LGMPO,
said that many men feel sexually
inadequate when they meet
lesbian women.
Deborah Orlowski, an
Affirmative Action
representative in gender and
sexual orientation issues, said
homophobia is usually rooted in
people s own insecurities about
their sexuality.
"Despite what our society says
about sexuality, we are
uncomfortable with it. Most of
heterosexual society thinks
homosexuality is bad," Orlowski
said. "As a result, people are
homophobic and don't want to
deal with others who have sex
with (people of) the same gender."
Ore said many heterosexuals
think she is imitating a straight
lifestyle through her
monogamous relationship with

her partner.
"There is a big ego on the part
of heterosexuals who think that
we are modelling ourselves after
them," Ore said. "People tend to
look at lesbian relationships with
disgust, they are happy when
relationships end.
"But why should
heterosexuals have all the fun?"
Ore asked. "My partner and I will
hold hands and part of it is
because we want to and part of it
is because we are making a
statement."
Discrimination
at the University
According to Orlowski, there
are several examples of
mainstream homophobia on
campus. She cited the Reserve
Officer Training Corps (ROTC),
which abides by a Department of
Defense policy banning
homosexuals, and regental bylaw
14.06, which prevents
discrimination based on several
factors such as race and sex, but
not sexual orientation.
"What we are dealing with is
symbolism. The University is
making a statement by accepting
the discriminatory policy of the
ROTC in not admitting gay men
and lesbian women and in
excluding students based on
sexual orientation in bylaw
14.06," Orlowski said. "The
University has a reputation for
having a great hothouse of
liberalism, but when you are
inside it is not like that."
LSA senior Anitra Nolte, the
Cadet Lieutenant Battalion
Commander for the ROTC on
campus, said gay men and lesbian
women can participate in ROTC
classes and activities, but can't
wear the ROTC uniform.
"A homosexual student can
participate in our program, they
could enroll in the classes and do
everything else cadets do," Nolte
said. "However, in order to wear
the uniform they must meet all
the requirements set out by the
Defense Department and right
now homosexuals don't meet the
requirements."
LSA senior Tim Gilhool, a
Cadet Major in the ROTC, agreed
with the Defense Department's
policy regarding gay men and
lesbian women.
"The idea of responsibility is
privacy; we are responsible for
everything we do. As a soldier you
have no private life: that is why
we have the policy regarding
homosexuals," Gilhool said.

But Spolarich said the
ROTC's policy regarding gay
men and lesbian women is
ludicrous.
"The government hassaid that
in most cases it is not that big a
deal. There are so many fags in the
service it is unbelievable,"
Spolarich said. "The concept that
we are less qualified to serve
simply because we are gay is
ridiculous."
LSA senior Matt Commers,
the president of the
Interfraternity Council, said
there is some homophobia
everywhere on campus.
"Certainly there is some
homophobia in the Greek system,
but Greek members are parts of
other groups on campus and
people are surprised by that,"
Commers said.
Commers said there is also
homophobia toward gay rushees.
"I would suspect that it is
rooted in the idea that men are
living very closely together and
that creates homophobia," he
said. "If you have a living
situation that is all-male,
homophobia can be intensified."
John Follmer, an LSA junior
at Michigan State University, co-
founded a gay fraternity because
he felt the Greek system at MSU
discriminated against gay men
and lesbian women.
"I did it on a whim and so far it
is working out really well,"
recounted Follmer. "We have 12-
14 pledges for our rush, and all of
them are gay.-

AIDS
Galea said the popular
association of the gay
community with AIDS emerged
because gay activists were the
ones bringing it to the attention
of the media when the disease first
came to the United States.
"It has been the gay
population that has taken a stand
against AIDS and for safer sex,"
he said. "But it's a stereotype that
AIDS is just a gay disease. If
anyone knows the statistics, they
will know that the number one
transmitters of AIDS are
pregnant women."
According to Orlowski, one
positive component in the fight
against AIDS has been the
solidification of the gay
community.
"Gay people immediately
reacted to the crisis. It really
helped to unify the gay
community in such a way that
now everyone associates it as
being a gay issue," Orlowski said.
Edwards said part of the
misconception stems from the
most significant phobia humans
have - the fear of death.
"Human beings are afraid to
die. If I can say 'it's just them,'
the 'them' being homosexuals
that are affected by the disease,
than I don't have to deal with my
own fears about death," she said.
Indeed, as Orlowski pointed
out, the "them" is not always
homosexuals. "It's only in this
country that AIDS is associated
as being a gay disease," she said.
"But in most other countries,
AIDS is a heterosexual disease.'
Curry said that people who
think AIDS is solely a gay disease
should rectify their viewpoint
before it is too late.
"The idea of AIDS being a
plague for gay people is purely
evil. I think straight people who
won't deal with AIDS as a
straight disease should wake up or
they'll be in the hospital," Curry
said.
"AIDS frightens me,
Spolarich said. "I don't want to
die and certainly not that way. I
don't sleep with strangers and I
practice safer sex. If I were to get
AIDS from what I've done, then
anyone can. It's not just a gay
disease. All people die from
AIDS."
Gay Activism
A misconception held by
many people is that all gay men
and lesbian women are activists
who only want to further their
political agenda. Groups such as
the AIDS Coalition to Unleash
Power (ACT-UP), New Queer
Agenda and Queer Nation help to

convey this view.
Galea bases his activism on his
political beliefs, not on his sexual
orientation.
"If there is a cause I believe in
then I am out there protesting,

'The University has a reputation for having a great
hothouse of liberalism, but when you are inside it is
not like that'
- Deborah Orlowski
Affirmative Action representative

actively protesting or being
flamboyant.
"You can't show up and teach
in drag. There's a lot of pressure to
conform to the straight world.
I've thought at times my life

regardless of whether or not it is a
gay issue," he said.
"People have different ways of
protesting. Some people say when
we have a kiss-in on the Diag it is
all sex, but I think that kind of
action is good," Ore said.
Alexander said his job as a
professor prevents him from

would be much easier if I were
more flamboyant and an activist.
Then people would just assume I
was gay," he said.
Spolarich uses his
flamboyancy as a means of
shielding himself from
homophobic people.
"It's a self-defense

Tension in the Gay Con

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A tension within the gay
community between lesbians, gay
men and bisexuals has existed for
some time and, according to some,
it is growing. In addition to
disputes over political agendas,
questions about sexual identity
have sparked heated debates
among group leaders.
According to Jerry Galea, a
Resident Director in West Quad,
part of the tension comes from the
fact that, despite the common
misperception that all gay men are.
open-minded and free of sexism or
racism, these problems are as
prevalent in the gay community as
elsewhere.
"Just because you are a gay man
does not mean you can't be sexist,"
Galea said. "Because you belong to.
one minority does not mean you
are less racist. I know a lot of gay,
men who rip on women, and it is
because they are women."
Tracy Ore, a Sociology TA and
doctoral candidate, said it is a myth
that all gay people feel the same
just because they are all
discriminated against in one way or
another.
"People think that because both
lesbian women and homosexual
men are gay, they experience the
same oppression," Ore said. "But
that just isn't true. Many gay men
are very sexist toward women,
including lesbians."
Ore added that lesbians and gay
men need distance from each other
to protest and fight for their causes
successfully.
"I think it is important for us to
have our space. You can only do so
much together," she said.
Billie Edwards, the co-

coordinator of the Lesbian/Gay
Male Programming Office, said
bisexuals are most threatened by
the gay community.
"It's only been in the last few
years that lesbians and gay men
have made peace with bisexuals,
and even now there is still a lot of
tension," she said.
Edwards said part of the tension
results from fear about becoming
involved with a bisexual.
"If a bisexual woman can be
involved with a man while she is
also involved with a lesbian woman
what does that say to the lesbian?"
she asked. "We get scared about
becoming involved with people
who can have relationships with
the opposite sex."
LSA senior Jayson Curry said
the problem stems from a few
lesbian activists who are.
completely anti-male -even gay
males.
'There's too much focus on the
tension between us. There's a lot
of things we can stand together on.,
There are things we can do to
improve our fight as a whole," he
said.
Curry is aware of how some gay
men's sexism perpetuates the rift.
"I realize there are some fucked-up
things that gay, white men do. But
we've got to stick together, or we
won't get anything accomplished."
He also agreed with Edwards
about bisexuals having the
toughest time fitting into the gay
community.
"Bisexuals are stuck between a
rock and a hard place," he said.
"They're in kind of this midplace
where it is hard for them to
socialize in a gay or straight world.

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Tracy Ore
Follmer said no concrete plans
have been made to start a gay
fraternity in Ann Arbor, but that
it is a possibility in the future.
Commers said a gay fraternity
would be held to the same
requirements as the others.
"We encourage expansion and
that includes everyone,"
Commers said.
Spolarich said there are several
gay men in fraternities who are
closeted.
"There is a lot of homophobia
in the gay community because it
is a very traditional view in the
way they think," he said.

September 27, 1991

WEEKEND

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WEEKEND

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