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Homophobia Talk, Discussion Opens Line of Communication

By Daniel C. Stevenson
Associate News Editor

A discussion Monday night following a talk by author and gay activist Warren J. Blumenfeld about homophobia was "the kind of communication that is needed to make any progress on the issue," said Interfraternity Council Vice President Bryan D. Dye '96.

Blumenfeld's talk, entitled Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price, was sponsored by Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, Transgenders, and Friends at MIT, the IFC, and Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity.

The talk was "a step in the right direction," said GAMIT general coordinator Kristen K. Nummerdor '94. "Progress was definitely made" in regards to homophobia at MIT, said Dye. "We're finally talking in an open and honest way."

Those who attended the talk "advanced one step in the understanding and supporting of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people," Blumenfeld said. "I was overwhelmed at how positive I felt it went," he said. "It exceeded expectations."

Safe forum for discussion

"I feel generally people aren't afforded the opportunity to discuss issues of homophobia and sexual orientation," Blumenfeld said, but "MIT provided a forum for people to discuss the issues." The forum took the form of a lengthy discussion following the talk.

The discussion environment created "enough safety for people to be frank, and honest, and open," Blumenfeld said. "People had the safety to discuss issues that they were probably feeling for a while now."

Many issues that were taboo or people were afraid to bring up were brought up during the discussion, Dye said. "A lot of good, honest, viewpoints came out," he said.

"Both sides understanding each other is really going to be the key to ending this homophobia," Dye said. Homophobia is the result of "a fear of something you don't understand. If you can get to understand it you're not afraid of it, and it's not a problem."

"For the first time, it wasn't just rumors or hearsay passing back and forth, it was people from both communities sitting down together," said IFC President Prashant B. Doshi '95. "Once you start to communicate, you can start to eliminate some of the stereotypes and some of the false notions."

"Progress was made simply because this discussion opened lines of communication between GAMIT and the campus at large," Nummerdor said. "I hope that because of this program, GAMIT will be able to be involved in outreach with living groups, offices, and student groups who want to learn more about combatting homophobia."

"That kind of communication needs to happen on a regular basis," Doshi said. "We broke the ice here, and we need to continue in the future."

In his talk, Blumenfeld discussed issues related to homophobia and its effects on society. "Warren did a good job of pointing out the ways that homophobia and heterosexism are common in our everyday lives," Nummerdor said.

"His presentation was good at helping people notice heterosexism which they are usually blind to, such as heterosexist representations in the media, or the heterosexist expectations we carry around with us daily," Nummerdor said.

"There was good representation from both the greek system and from GAMIT," Blumenfeld said. Blumenfeld was pleased "that some of the members of the greek system went up and shook the hands of GAMIT members."

"I was pleased at the turnout for the event; there were a lot of faces there that I don't usually see at BGLAD events," Nummerdor said. Several MIT staff members and administrators also attended.

BGLAD continued

Monday's talk was part of Bisexual, Gay, and Lesbian Awareness Days, a week-long series of events. BGLAD "is a time when the lesbigay community celebrates itself and reaches out to share aspects of our community with others," Nummerdor said. "BGLAD is a time when we choose to open up our community to others in hopes of reaching greater understanding and less bigotry and hatred."

"Another goal of BGLAD is to make the atmosphere on the MIT campus more queer-positive," Nummerdor said. BGLAD is one of the many things GAMIT does to try to end homophobia, she added.

BGLAD events included a coming out support group on Tuesday and a transsexuality discussion on Wednesday. "People have a lot to learn about transgender oppression," Nummerdor said, "and I hope that GAMIT can play a major role in helping to put those issues on the table for discussion."