BGLAD sparks awareness at MIT
By Joanna Stone
Two weeks ago, posters and a booth in Lobby 10 informed the MIT community that it was Bisexual, Gay and Lesbian Awareness Days (BGLAD). This fact offended some, comforted others, and had the overall effect of making students more aware of the presence of homosexuals on the MIT campus.
"The whole point of the week was to be noticeable... to increase people's awareness that there are gays, lesbians, and bisexuals at MIT and that we are a sizeable portion of the student body," said Paula Ferguson '90, general coordinator of Gays At MIT.
At the booth in Lobby 10, GAMIT members handed out buttons with "MIT BGLAD '89" written over a pink triangle. The buttons symbolize the pink triangles that gays and lesbians were forced to wear in Nazi Germany. Today gays and lesbians have adopted the pink triangle as an emblem of pride and solidarity. BGLAD asked people to wear the buttons in support of GAMIT and all the gay people they knew.
According to Ferguson, the student turn-out was good. "We had lots of people stop by the booth -- talking to us -- and we got lots of people to wear the buttons." Ultimately, Ferguson said, it was "a very positive week."
However, not all reaction to the week was positive. Many GAMIT posters were ripped down through the course of the week, according to GAMIT Treasurer Rebecca Kaplan '92. "GAMIT posters are always ripped down. During BGLAD week, I actually caught someone shredding posters. Not just taking them off the wall, but maliciously tearing them apart," she said. When Kaplan questioned the shredder as to the reason behind his destructive behavior, he replied, "I don't like gay people."
"I could have no reaction, because there's no response for something like that," Kaplan explained.
Another negative incident occurred when a group calling itself DAMIT (Dudes at MIT) hung up various derogatory posters. Despite all of this, both Ferguson and Kaplan agreed that BGLAD was a success.
While the quality of life for homosexuals on the MIT campus is reportedly good, it does have its less favorable aspects, according to Jerry Luke '91, social coordinator for GAMIT. One such point, Luke said, is Reserve Officer Training Corps policy. "Basically, if you're gay and they find out, they kick you out and then you're liable for any tuition that they paid for you." Luke said that this is particularly bad "for those people who already were gay or came out while they were still in ROTC. They really have to keep their social lives very secret."
Another unfavorable aspect of life on campus, according to Luke, involves the fraternities. "It's a really difficult situation being in a fraternity and being closeted," said Luke, who at one time lived in a fraternity. "Because your social life revolves around the fraternity and all your friends are there and because the fraternities place a very negative emphasis on homosexuality -- many guys are trapped in the fraternities with no social outlet."
Although GAMIT has existed for the past 20 years, until recently its female involvement was nearly non-existent. This has changed drastically this year. The executive board now consists, for the first time, of an equal number of males and females. And more and more women are becoming strong participants in GAMIT. According to Luke, "In the past... women would come in one at a time and see that there were no women so wouldn't stay." But, he said, that is not at all the case this year.
Kaplan founded the women's group within GAMIT, and became self-appointed president. The relationship between men and women in GAMIT right now is excellent, according to Kaplan.
Ferguson is GAMIT's first female general coordinator, a position roughly equivalent to president. Ferguson became active in GAMIT at the beginning of this year, "in a drive to try to get more women involved in GAMIT."
Right now, according to Ferguson, GAMIT serves not only as a channel to increase gay and lesbian awareness but also as a social outlet. One of the most important functions of GAMIT is being there for those who are experiencing difficulties in coming out, Ferguson said. In an effort in this direction, GAMIT is reactivating the "Contact-Line."
According to Luke, Contact-Line is basically a peer-counselling line for those who may want to remain anonymous and who have questions about being homosexual or for those who are confused about their own sexuality. It is also there to answer any questions one might have about GAMIT, including questions about the group's social functions, according to Kaplan.