Most people don’t think twice before kissing a loved one
in public, but many gays say society’s homophobia forces them
to keep their signs of affection hidden.

Mira Levitan
RC senior Erik Glenn speaks in front of more than 100 students on the Diag for the annual Kiss-In on Friday. (JOEL FRIEDMAN/Daily)

More than 100 students wore rainbow-colored ribbons and waved
rainbow-colored umbrellas against a cloudy sky as they gathered on
the Diag Friday to celebrate the lesbian, gay, bisexual and
transgender community and protest cuts to University services for
gay students.

The Kiss-In rally ended Queer Visibility Week, an annual event
that seeks to raise awareness about and acceptance of the LGBT
community.

Joel Weltman, an executive board member of the Michigan Student
Assembly’s LGBT Commission, said the rally is important
because it allows a group of people often ignored by society to
share public displays of affection.

“The kiss that we share with each other at the end of the
rally represents all of the oppression we face from people who
assume that everyone is a heterosexual,” said Weltman, an LSA
junior.

He said the rally is a chance to show affection in a visible but
protected environment.

“The rally makes people realize that this type of love is
real,” Weltman added.

LSA freshman Kim Shindel, an ally to the LGBT community, said
she saw the Kiss-In not as a sexual statement, but as a sign of
affirmation.

“It’s a sign that says, ‘We’re here and
we love and we deserve the same rights that you have,’
” she said.

Shindel added that the rally’s message of promoting
acceptance is relevant to the campus-wide community.

“Yes, this rally is about queer people specifically, but
it is also part of the civil rights movement in general. It’s
not just about the oppression of gender identity debate, but about
oppression of anyone who’s different from what society
considers normal, ” she said.

This year’s rally also included protests about proposed
changes to the Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender
Affairs.

RC senior Erik Glenn spoke at the rally as a representative of
All Fired Up, an alliance of students, faculty, staff, alumni and
community members protesting the University’s proposed
restructuring of the LGBT office. The changes would include
eliminating the Education Affairs Coordinator position, which some
fear could lead to the termination of the Speakers Bureau, which
brings speakers to campus.

Glenn criticized the University administration for its rejection
of proposals that could have possibly saved the education
coordinator.

“The fulfillment of these proposals would have cost the
Division of Student Affairs no extra money, but (Vice President of
Student Affairs E. Royster Harper) and the University can’t
see beyond the dollar signs,” he said.

Instead of more reports and taskforces, Glenn called for
“substantial action” on the part of the gay community
on campus.

University administrators have repeatedly said they must make
some cuts due to a decrease in state government funding. The
University was forced to make $37 million in cuts last year, and
may face a $20 million budget shortfall for next year.

Jeffrey Montgomery, executive director of the Triangle
Foundation, also encouraged his listeners to protest changes to the
LGBT office. He said the office is the oldest of its kind in the
nation and offers services not just to University students but also
to LGBT people everywhere.

Montgomery also said that the community should take advantage of
the recent publicity given by President Bush’s proposed
constitutional amendment, which effectively would ban gay
marriages.

“Bush wants to enshrine and ensure discrimination towards
queer people, and so it is incumbent on all of us to work for a
regime change,” he said.

At the same time, Montgomery said the gay community should not
demand rights solely for marriage, but instead should expand their
protest to include demanding rights to privacy, child custody and
equality in the workplace.

“A place at the table is no longer what we want. We want
to be at the table when the menu comes around and we want to tell
people what we will order, instead of them ordering for us,”
he said.

Other speakers at the rally included Stacy Agosto, co-chair of
MSA’s LGBT Commission, and Demetrius Dennis Taylor, a member
of the advisory council of Transgender Michigan.

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