This year there were no protesters, there were no small children holding signs bearing anti-gay messages and the Michigan Peace Team members did not have to intervene in any potentially violent or dangerous situations.
While not as riotous as last year”s Kiss-In when members of the anti-gay Reverand Fred Phelps” congregation came to protest against the demonstration, peace team member Sheri Wander said the annual Queer Visibility Rally and Kiss-in gave participants a chance to voice their views without any sentiments of fear.
“We weren”t asked to intervene in any confrontational situations as opposed to last year when we had to intervene in a dozen or so,” Wander said. “I think it was really important that this year people felt they could speak out and be visible with less immediate risk.”
The Kiss-In concluded Queer Visibility Week and addressed awareness and activism as well as changes speakers said should be made with regard to the treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues.
Rally speaker Dave Garcia acknowledged what he said were many positive initiatives taking place with regard to the LGBT community on campus, but said he has “had enough of the wait-and-see mentality” on certain issues.
“We will not accept this University”s support of the United Way campaign. This administration has a responsibility to adequately fund the LGBT Affairs Office, to drop the Boy Scouts of America to drop support of the United Way campaign,” he said.
The University donates funds to the Washtenaw County United Way, which supports the Boy Scouts of America, an organization that does not allow homosexual scout leaders.
Garcia addressed this and other discriminations facing homosexuals in today”s society. “Until I can hold the hand of a young person and it not be assumed that I am anything more than a friend and a role model, I will not be satisfied,” he said.
LSA senior Jennifer Gallinat said she skipped biology class to attend the event and show her support.
“This is worth skipping a lot of things for because gay rights are not special rights, they”re human rights,” Gallinat said. “If one group of people can lose their freedom and their right to life then it”s only a short step before all of us lose our freedom and right to life.”
She added that it was important “to show the rest of the world that we will not be silent and that we are here among you.”
“Every single day of the year is heterosexual visibility,” she said.
Defend Affirmative Action Party representative Agnes Aleobua, who also spoke at the event, said despite potential controversy, it is essential for members of the LGBT community to be strong in their beliefs and opinions.
“History has taught us that in order to make change in society we have to stand up and fight. There can be no successful movement in our society that is not prepared to stand up against the oppression,” Aleobua said.
She emphasized the connection between sexism, racism and homophobia and asked that others “demand real social equality in all aspects of society.”
She also urged those attending the rally to “send a message to the University community we”re going to be out, we”re going to be loud and we”re going to be proud.”
Following the rally on the Diag, 25 students protested outside the Fleming Administration Building to show their disfavor with the University”s continued involvement with the Washtenaw County United Way and to get the University Board of Regents” attention, LSA senior Pierce Beckham said.
After finding out the regents were not in the building, five protesters went up to the president”s office where they engaged in an hour-long discussion with interim President B. Joseph White.
Beckham said they discussed issues such as campus safety for LGBT students, the inability of the Office of LGBT affairs to function properly and support students due to funding issues and the University”s involvement with the United Way.
“President White was receptive to our comments,” Beckham said.
“He seemed to understand the various dynamics of the issue and I feel that he”s working on it to the best of his ability. My own personal feeling is that if he had his way, change would come relatively quickly.”
Beckham said he considered the day to be success. “I think we accomplished more than the goals we set out for the day,” he said.