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Graffiti Singled Out Gay Members of TEP

In the ongoing flame circus over the vandalism of Tau Epsilon Phi's sidewalk, I feel I've been relegated to the status of a mere afterthought. Who am I? A gay TEP, of course.

Everyone knows the story by now: the break-in, the vandalism in the house, the paint on the sidewalk. It seems everyone is arguing about it, too: What is more important, the break-in or the graffiti? Was the phrase on the sidewalk a homophobic slur or a witty rhyme? And why all the fuss, anyway?

Here are my answers. On the morning of Nov. 12, it was all bad. I woke up to find my home violated and vandalized. Furthermore, I felt I was being personally singled out in big yellow letters, as I am the gay member of TEP who has been "out" the longest. No one aspect was worse than any other. The only difference now is that the material issues of the break-in and our graffiti on the Harvard Bridge have been settled between TEP and Lambda Chi Alpha.

It seems the issue now being publicly argued the most is the content of the graffiti in front of our house. Let me again slip back to that morning. At the time, I didn't even notice what rhymed with what. It didn't matter what synonym had been chosen, be it "queer," "faggot," "homosexual," or "gay." All I knew was that someone thought it appropriate to set me apart for ridicule and intimidation. I find it difficult to believe that people cannot imagine themselves in my position on that morning, all politics aside. No, I wasn't too damaged to get on with my life, but I was very angry and frustrated at how little respect someone seemed to have for me as a fellow human being.

It seems no one yet knows what the actual intent behind the phrase was except for those directly responsible for it. Even if they saw it as merely a clever imitation of the Smoot marks, for me and for many others it holds a much more vicious connotation. Unlike your average nerd, your average queer still has to worry about being harassed or even bashed for being seen coming out of the "wrong" club, or for holding the hand of his or her significant other in public. With such fears in mind, how else can I be expected to interpret foot-high letters blazed in front of my home?

I trust that members of the MIT community can see that such concerns go far deeper than just "victimization politics." My only agenda is to change things so that I do not have to put up with intimidation that any reasonable person would find intolerable. This is the point Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, and Friends at MIT has been trying to make as well, although many have obviously either missed it or ignored it entirely. I hope that this letter from someone most directly involved in the whole mess can bring some clarity and perspective to the issues being argued.

Thomas Lawrence '95