1997: Coming Out Day Chalkings

By Helen Muth, published October 17, 1997

For those who don't look at their feet while walking to and from class, last week was National Coming Out Week. The Gay Lesbian Bisexual Alliance (GLBA) had a series of events starting on Wednesday, October 8 and culminating with National Coming Out Day on Saturday, October 11.

National Coming Out Day is for "visibility—I think a lot of people don't actually realize that there are gay people on campus," said Valerie Molyneaux, a junior English and philosophy double major and president of GLBA.

The week of events included discussions on "being out" and how to be an ally for homosexuals. The week ended with a dance party in the Rough Rider Room in Carlton Commons.

"I think it was great," said Molyneaux. "I felt very positive about the week."

However, the week was somewhat marred by the defacement of the GLBA chalkings. GLBA members chalked on Friday night from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. all around campus. Messages included "Homophobia is a social disease" and "CWRU—if you won't tolerate racism, please don't tolerate homophobia. Share the vision." Within the next twelve hours, over 60 chalkings had appeared commenting on the GLBA messages.

Messages included "HIV: God's critique of indiscriminate sex.", "Stay in, we'll respect you better." and "To be judged by character, do not reveal your dark desires. Don't tell me, and I'll accept you."

"In past years, chalkings have been along the lines of derogatory comments and this year it seemed like someone wanted to start an intellectual fight," said Molyneaux.

"We are not suggesting that being gay is or should be the only kind of sexual identity. On the contrary, it is a recognition and affirmation of diversity and difference."

Molyneaux has reported the incidents to the Office of Student Affairs, and USG is planning on discussing the chalkings in the Diverse Relations Ad Hoc committee.

"Chalking is fine," said Colleen Young, a freshman computer science major, "but such a debate as was opened up shouldn't be conducted through anonymous, faceless chalkings."

GLBA is a Undergraduate Student Government (USG) sponsored group with 25 to 30 active members. On Wednesday, October 22, from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. GLBA will be co-sponsoring a discussion with various religious groups in Guilford Parlor. Featured panelists include David O'Malley, the Substance Abuse Prevention and Peer Education Coordinator, who is affiliated with the United Church of Christ, Anne Butts, of Hallinan, Rabbi Carie Carter from Hillel, and Catherine Fuller, a member of P-FLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) who is working for social change within the General Conference of the United Methodist Church.

By E.M. Proper, published October 17, 1997

Despite all of the complaining many students do about chalking, most of the time it's not a problem on our campus. Generally, about the time it gets to be an eyesore (like at the end of fall rush), Cleveland's weather systems kick in, and all the chalk is washed away, along with feelings of annoyance at the prolific chalkers.

Once or twice a year, though, something is written on our sidewalks that remains with us long past the next rain. Such was the case earlier with the squirrel and monkey chalkings; whatever their intent, their result was an understandable fury among the CWRU community. And then, just a few weeks later, it happened again.

This time, no one can make a case that the chalkings were not directed against a specific group. The chalker(s) got very busy last Saturday night and managed to cover campus from one end to the other in antigay messages, specifically targeting the messages the Gay Lesbian Bisexual Alliance had written regarding National Coming Out Day (NCOD).

In years past there have been anti-gay chalkings in response to the NCOD ones, but this year's reaction was particularly brutal. First of all, the GLBA's messages were very positive and non-confrontational this time around. Secondly, the scope and anger of the reactionary chalkings far exceeded any done in previous years.

While few people are rushing to condone the anti-gay chalkings, I have seen among my peers an amazing reluctance to condemn them - not just among those who are admittedly anti-gay, but among those who consider themselves open-minded and nonhomophobic. It is these people, I think, who need to reconsider their frame of mind towards this incident.

What exactly is wrong with what was done? First, the chalkings were anonymous; second, they violated the general air of goodwill that permeates most chalkings; and finally, they weren't very relevant in their attacks.

Generally, when groups chalk on this campus, they sign their names (or that of their group). For example, messages beneath our feet have been encouraging us to vote for the homecoming candidates of Alpha Phi and Alpha Chi Omega for over a week now. While not every message in support of Julie Leach's candidacy was signed "ACW," we managed to deduce that the sisters of Alpha Chi Omega were the ones urging us to give Leach our votes. Similarly, many of the NCOD chalkings were signed "GLBA." Using our deductive reasoning skills, we once again managed to conclude that it was the GLBA was asking for support for NCOD.

But who was writing these anti-gay messages? The only conclusion I reached was that it was someone who was not overly gayfriendly. Despite all the chalkers' claims to "veracity" and "self-confidence," the very fact that they were reluctant to sign their names suggests that they are lacking at least the latter. Otherwise, why would they have been afraid to sign their names?

Besides their anonymity, the chalkers violated one other unspoken rule of the chalking world: politeness and good-will. I didn't see any chalkings suggesting that someone else's Homecoming candidate was actually a violent criminal or otherwise incompetent. Even during national elections, only a few cracks are made at the other party's candidate. And I would never expect to see one fraternity writing on another's message that they were all losers, weenies and drunks. Basic regard for others' feelings and respect for their positions is a ground rule, even if an unspoken one.

Finally, and certainly not least importantly, the anti-gay chalkers seemed to miss the entire point of the NCOD messages they railed on. Did they read something different than I did? The responses stressed sex, HIV and promiscuity. The originals discussed only the matter of sexual orientation. The respondents seemed to forget that one can be homosexual without having intercourse (yes! just like straight people!), that the fastest-growing population of AIDS patients is straight women and that homosexuals are no more or less promiscuous than the rest of us.

The most disturbing implication of their messages, though, was this: homosexuals should just stay in the closet because us straight people will be grossed out and, besides, us straight people don't go around announcing our heterosexuality. I can't speak for how refined anyone else's sensibilities may be, but I would like to assure the antigay chalkers that it would take a heck of a lot more than a revelation of homosexuality (or, for that matter, gay sex) to turn my stomach. Those of us who are straight go around announcing our sexual orientation every day without our gay friends and neighbors announcing a queasy feeling at the report of it.

Of course we go around announcing how straight we are. Every time we hold hands with someone of the opposite gender, every time we scope out cute men and women at a party, every time a woman complains that all men are scum, every time a man complains that CWRU chicks are ugly, we tell the entire world that we prefer our encounters straight. Our sexual preference is announced in almost everything we do.

And if we - or even some small fraction of our campus - isn't willing to allow homosexuals to do that for just one day a year, and in a rather impersonal manner, I'm ashamed to be a part of it.

Letter to the Editor: Chalkings in poor taste

Published October 17, 1997

I am writing about some potentially offensive chalkings that have been seen on campus sidewalks recently. They seem to be the products of degenerate, deviant minds which constantly think about sex and who have chosen to share their thoughts with everyone.

I am, of course, referring to the numerous chalkings of the number 69, which, I believe, the French call "soixante-neuf." I assume that this is the advocacy of a certain activity which is illegal - even between consenting, married adults-in certain parts of this country such as Utah.

I do point out that sodomy has been legal in the state of Ohio since 1974, so it is not the suggestion that people break the law wantonly. However, I question the taste behind this particular message.

While I suppose that it is commendable that this advocacy suggests the idea of mutual enjoyment between partners, as opposed to the patriarchal image of a woman on her knees, I still do not appreciate your "dark sexual desires" for "indiscriminate sex." Please leave me out of your "disgusting sex lives," whoever you may be.

Note for the humor-impaired: the preceding message is dripping with sarcasm.

Anthony de Jesus, Undergraduate Student

Letter to the Editor: Speak out against homophobia

Published October 17, 1997

While traveling across campus last Monday, I became appalled at the recent rash of anti-homosexual chalkings around Thwing and the Kelvin Smith Library. Apparently, some individual or group of individuals is trying to encourage homosexuals to stay in the closet, thus hiding their own sexuality and ensuring acceptance in society. These messages were also accompanied by other highly offensive and homophobic scribbling such as "Gays burn in Hell."

Certain members of the student body need to be enlightened.

First of all, being gay is not a choice, and it is not "wrong." It is as natural a preference as being straight. Whatever reason you have to believe that homosexuality is unnatural or immoral, the fact is that homosexuality is, and has been, present in our society - you cannot change that. It is the constitutions of those individuals who discriminate against homosexuals that need to be reformed. Gay individuals deserve the same basic human rights and acceptance as everyone else.

Many homophobes would say that being gay results in some kind of destructive force in our culture. It doesn't. On the other hand, ignorance, intolerance and the unwillingness of many individuals to accept others in spite of their differences are three very destructive and prevalent social cancers. One of the chalkings argued that if one tolerates homosexuality, then bigotry should be equally tolerated. This is preposterous. All are entitled to their opinions, but if your beliefs manifest themselves in discriminatory actions against those who you consider inferior, then you are taking away another individual's inherent rights. Proclaiming homosexuality does not infringe on the rights of anyone. It is for this reason that actions of bigotry should never be tolerated - it is the misdeeds of the intolerant and the narrow-minded which produce those negative consequences that need to be exterminated in our society.

The authors of these chalkings request that homosexuals keep their sexuality a secret, since only then will they garner acceptance. They figure if no one knows you are gay, you are; better off since you won't be discriminated against. Wrong. The solutions to the struggles of the gay community do not lie in encouraging ignorance of the issue but rest in the enlightenment of others to the notion that no matter what an individual's sexuality happens to be, they have the same rights to social acceptance and privilege as everyone else. No one should have to live or be expected to live with the burden of keeping their own sexuality hidden.

I have found that homophobia is very prevalent among college students, and as a heterosexual male, I often can't help feeling outnumbered by those of my ilk who harbor anti-homosexual attitudes. It is my hope that many other editorials that speak out against homophobia have accompanied my own.

Maxwell Lewis Neal, Undergraduate Student

Letter to the Editor: CWRU is not supportive for gays, lesbians

Published October 17, 1997

As a fifth-year student, I have grown tired of the annual attack on the way people love, in the form of vicious counter-chalkings reacting to National Coming Out Day (NCOD) messages. At many universities, NCOD is a time of celebration for lesbian, gay and bisexual students, staff and faculty. It is a unique time to make political statements, to acknowledge the variety of human love and to unite for support.

However, at CWRU, National Coming Out Week has become a time of controversial attack. Although many people are accepting of gay and lesbian people, there are always a few who anonymously chalk homophobic reactions to gay-friendly messages. The difference between the "coming out" markings and the reactions is simple: the first are proactive and affirming, the latter reactive and judgmental. This year's hate speech showed a considerable investment of time and energy. Its tone bordered on intellectual, hiding the ignorant slander in academic-looking words and broad concepts.

But rather than addressing homophobia, we expect and ignore these annual counterchalkings. Furthermore, recent attention to race and rape issues reinforces a paradox. We all, of varied races, genders and sexualities, live and work in a hostile environment, despite CWRU's claims of a safe and caring community.

The purpose of "coming out" is not about being in anyone's face with personal issues. The existence of gay and lesbian people is unavoidable: we are here and everywhere in the world. Queer politics of visibility and pride, demonstrated in symbols like rainbow flags and pink triangles, simply show our presence among human diversity. That diversity is real and here, like rain and sunshine; we all deal with it. Some people may feel uncomfortable and even aggressive about differences in sexual orientation. Therefore, part of "Coming Out Week" is to dispel myths about gay and lesbian people, so that the world can become more comfortable for everyone: lesbian, gay and straight.

Because there is little institutional support, it is difficult for people to "come out" at CWRU. There are many gay, lesbian, bisexual, curious and most importantly queerfriendly students, staff and faculty at this university. Unfortunately, we have never come together to take a stance against the reactive voices of homophobia present here, in our workplace, community and home.

I have been witnessing this pattern for years, and I am not only tired but angry. Why aren't there any preventative measures taken? Why isn't there a forum that acknowledges the importance of gender and sexuality politics? Why do we lack a sense of unity? Why do we attend here for four, often five, years only to perpetuate oppression and ignorance?

We are all fulfilling the demands of the homophobic undercurrent by staying quiet because complacency is compliancy. Queer politics emphasize that silence = death, so why does the CWRU environment feel like speech = death?

Olga Chwascinska, Undergraduate Student

Letter to the Editor: Chalkers, please identify yourselves

Published October 17, 1997

Walking to my room last Saturday, I observed another testament of the intolerance of a supposedly small but vocal group on campus: the gay bashers. In an effort to raise consciousness of National Coming Out Week, the campus GLBA had chalked around campus. Not far from advertisements outside Fribley were the reactions "HIV: God's critique of indiscriminate sex" and "Heterosexuality: blessed with procreation."

Pointing out the logical flaws of these arguments would be futile since the authors have already openly admitted their ignorance and arguably would not care about proof. Instead, I think the issue here is the voice of the speakers. While the GLBA have shown no hesitation to identify themselves in their expression, those who have reacted have done so in anonymity. Both the GLBA and those opposing it are entitled to their beliefs and my feeling on who is right is of no consequence. But anonymous attacks such as these chalkings are nothing short of cowardly. So I challenge these and other hate propagandists to identify and defend themselves. Your covert approach accomplishes nothing. No ideas are changed nor any attitudes swayed. It just creates a sentiment of ill-will that this campus would be better off without.

Patrick Niemeyer, Undergraduate Student

Letter to the Editor: Hate is not logical

Published October 17, 1997

This is a letter directed towards the author of the anti-gay chalkings which defiled our campus this weekend. You chose to share with us your opinions, now I share mine with you.

Hate speech occurs every year on this campus, but yours was different. You tried to make it sound tolerable by using logic, and that is the most offensive part of all. Hate is not logical, it is not rational, and it is not intelligent. However, there are flaws in your logic, as shown here.

"Don't oppress straight people by calling us homophobes!" First of all, how can you possibly presume to speak for the entire straight population? Most of my straight friends are staunch allies of gay people. And as for oppression, I've walked all over campus, and I didn't see one chalking that used the words `straight' and `homophobe' in connection at all.

"I know you hate me, but my veracity gives me the self-confidence you lack." If we are lacking in confidence because we publicly state our beliefs, how much confidence can you have if you do the same thing? And if you're so confident, why did you have to wait until all us `disgusting perverts' had finished chalking and gone home to write your manifestos? I walked from the Case Quad to north side at 11:30 p.m. on Friday, well after the GLBA was done, but I didn't find your epistles of morality until Saturday morning.

Lack of space keeps me from saying to you all that I desire. I would ask you to use the brains which got you into this school and consider your actions a little more carefully. I also urge you to contact me personally if you want to discuss this in depth. I know I do. Communication is the only way to break these barriers. Also, I will post the full version of this letter on cwru.gen for anyone interested.

Joshua Brown, Undergraduate Student

Letter to the Editor: We will not hide

Published October 17, 1997

The most dangerous hatred is not obscene language expressed in fits of bile and rage. Rather, it is self-assured righteousness which subverts truth and reason and endears closed minds.

Many of you saw the chalked responses to the sidewalk displays of GLBA, an alliance which includes heterosexuals who feel strongly enough to support our cause. What is that cause? It's not to create converts, nor to say we're better than others. It's to show we're proud of who we are. We will not sit quietly and hide in the shadows.

To the chalker in question, and to those who agree with the message: What are you afraid of? What worries you so much that you feel compelled to proclaim your anonymous bigotry to the world? Does my bisexuality threaten you? To what do your insecurities entitle you?

You think we can choose to conceal ourselves. And I say - you- have no right to demand that of us. Racial minorities and women have endured discrimination over the years, with no choice but to endure and protest the prejudice of others. Jews were told to hide, or face persecution and death; gays were no exception. Having once escaped eradication, we will not stand by and watch the lights go out once again.

To those who already know me - have I changed in your eyes? To those who do not - would you know the difference if I were straight? And to those who think they know me, and know what's best - your cowardice and hypocrisy attest to your own shortcomings. The truth, as always, shall prevail.

"Quick to judge, Quick to anger, Slow to understand - Ignorance and prejudice And fear go hand in hand." —Neil Peart

David Rodgers, Undergraduate Student

Letter to the Editor: Chalkers don't represent all Christians

Published October 17, 1997

I'd like to apologize to all members of the gay/lesbian/bisexual community at Case for the frighteningly misguided chalkings that have appeared across campus in response to Coming Out Week. I only guess that the individual who anonymously penned these sad, self-righteous remarks considers him/herself a representative of the Christian community (but then again maybe this person is as repelled by that idea as I am). Whatever the writer's intention, I and other Christians in our community are profoundly sickened by the sentiments expressed, if only because they appear to be fueled by an extremely distorted view of God's will rather than any understanding of Christ's love. Disagreeing with homosexuality as a moral choice does not necessitate reacting out of anger, fear or self-righteousness to individuals who are entirely deserving of love, respect, understanding and First Amendment rights. Christians don't have to be homophobes - Christ wasn't one.

Future sidewalk editorialists who so bravely share their unsolicited opinion ought to show enough courage to sign their names on what they scrawl. Show hate with pride and simplify lynching.

Alanna Lin, Undergraduate Student

Letter to the Editor: GLBA sends divisive message

Published October 17, 1997

Recently our school was defaced by a series of chalkings that were totally inappropriate. Where did these chalkings come from? The Gay Lesbian Bisexual Alliance (GLBA). Before I go any farther, I would just like to point out that I do not hate gay people. This is not an editorial attack on the GLBA, but rather on how they went about promoting their club.. I simply find that their methods for promoting their club were totally out of order. The GLB Alliance took their writings way too far and this was totally inappropriate.

The first chalking that I came upon was a series of "69s," which I would imagine were quite offensive to many people. They were all over, sometimes in series of threes and fours. One even was a message: "69 the right way!"

There were also a few rather large messages outside of Wade, Fribley and Thwing, promoting gay pride and the GLBA. These were more acceptable than the random acts of bashing found elsewhere on the campus. They also chalked messages about how they did not want to be oppressed and did not want to be punished and singled out by the heterosexual community. I feel the GLBA is really an alliance of hypocrites, out to anger the general public and stir up controversy rather than trying to blend into the campus. They do not want to be a part of the CWRU alliance, but it would seem to me that they would rather be their own alliance.

The GLBA needs to learn that they are a part of CWRU. They need to understand that to be a part of it, and to be a happy member, they don't need to attack others, but rather to educate them and encourage them to learn more. Instead of excluding heterosexuals from the GLBA, they need to invite them in. "Make friends not enemies," rather than start, a fight that was not there in the first place.

If the GLBA wants to attract members, then perhaps they should present an open hand rather than a closed fist. Their message seems to be saying that they are not different and that there are members all around. However, they come off saying that they ARE different and that they DO NOT belong together. If the GLBA wants to be a part of the CWRU campus, perhaps they should first let their members be a part of the student body.

Editor's note: GLBA president Valerie Molyneaux maintains that the "69" chalkings were not the work of anyone affiliated with the GLBA.

Noah E. Webster

Letter to the Editor: Religious leaders respond to chalkings

Published October 31, 1997

We are writing concerning recent events campus which have expressed a violent spirit, particularly some of the recent aimed at the GLBA "in the name of God." We condemn homophobia and suggest that violence in spirit against another person's dignity, integrity and human rights is never done "in the name of God."

The CWRU campus is one of great diversity, a fact which we embrace and celebrate. In the midst of such diversity, we aware that not all opinions will be the same. We respect this fact. However, we would encourage members of the campus community to find appropriate ways to excess their opinions in respectful and open forums rather than in anonymous chalkings. We believe that intolerance - be it racial, homophobic or religious - is simply wrong. It cannot benefit community in any way, especially one as diverse as our CWRU campus community. If it is necessary for individuals to hold a personal spirit of violence against another human being, we would at least request that those individuals not act on those feelings in a way which demeans or is disrespectful of another member of the campus community.

It is our belief that all people are created in the image of God and are entitled to respect for their dignity and personal integrity. Additionally, we believe that our diversity—when coupled with appreciation for each other—can be a blessing and a strength to our campus life.

Hal Bordy, The Cleveland Hillel Foundation
Marianne Brandon, United Protestant Campus Ministries
Marie de La Bruere, Newman Catholic Campus Ministry
Rabbi Carie Carter, The Cleveland Hillel Foundation
Kim A. Hauenstein, United Protestant Campus Ministries
Ben Helphand, The Cleveland Hillel Foundation
Amos Levi, The Cleveland Hillel Foundation
Anne Butts, Newman Catholic Campus Ministry

Letter to the Editor: We should feel pity for gays instead of hatred

Published October 31, 1997

This is a letter in response to all the fussin' and a feudin' that's goin' on about homosexuals. In it, I will simply explain my views on homosexuals. First off, I make no assumptions as to whether or not homosexuality is a genetic issue or a choice issue. In fact, I make provisions for either to be true. If a person is homosexual because of genetic reasons, then, from a strictly Darwinian viewpoint, homosexuality could be perceived as a genetic defect. Any genetic feature that prevents one from procreating, I think, could easily be considered a genetic defect. Even though homosexuals aren't incapable of procreation, if no natural attraction exists to members of the opposite sex, it could be difficult. If it is indeed a genetic defect, then no hate should he directed toward gay people. I hate gay people no more than I hate people with muscular dystrophy or other such debilitating illnesses. I do indeed feel sorry for gay people. It saddens me that they have to be gay. Now, let's say that homosexuality is a choice. In that case, I would ask what led up to that choice being made in the first place. Since hereditary reasons would kind of be impossible (i.e., gay people don't have kids, even though I know SOME do), only events from the environment make an impact on that choice. Then, what could have such a drastic impact on a person as to make them choose not to do what comes naturally to heterosexuals, namely have children. I would think that only something extremely traumatic could have that kind of impact, quite possibly in early childhood. Children are confused to begin with. If something happens which confuses them even more, then who knows what's going to happen to that tender little mind. So if the choice is because of childhood trauma I, again, would feel sorry for gay people.

Devon Smith, Undergraduate Student

Letter to the Editor: Homosexuality debate is flawed and irrelevant

Published October 31, 1997

I've had the sole honor of watching the debate between the anti-gay chalkers and last week's reacting editorialists; now it's my turn to demonstrate my arrogance in one of the dumbest debates of all time.

Face it folks, homosexuality is about as "natural" as walking on your hands. This doesn't say anything about right and wrong, but certainly homosexuality is a peculiar point to use to define individuality or use as a source of inner pride. I pity you if you can't find something better, like intelligence, strength, character or wit to use as your personal foundation.

"Show hate with pride and simplify lynching." Now there's a good way to open a successful conversation about tolerance and acceptance. This kind of closed-minded hypocrisy should answer any questions about why there isn't unity or dialogue on campus. Speech = Death?

There is nothing that should be less relevant to politics and government than sexuality. Just because we are smart enough to go to Case, or we feel our hearts are right, does not give us the right to "enlighten" everybody. The "refined intellectual nature" of CWRU only serves to remove us from the consequences and constraints of the real world, so we should leave it alone.

Silence is not complacency to a homophobic undercurrent, it is demonstration of the intelligence to stay out of the debate.

Charles Bear, Undergraduate Student