Speaking of allies…

21Mar09

At my school each year there is an LGBT/Queer Symposium, student run, planned, organized, everything. This is accompanied by a party in the evening called the “Genderfuck” party which has, in recent years been vastly transformed to a party where the motto is: “Boys wear dresses, girls were less.” The party has, in the time I’ve been here, been an incredibly unsafe space for women, for queer people, for just about everyone who isn’t male and straight. For this reason, the planning committee for the symposium officially disassociated. There has been a recent backlash of queers arguing that it is the fault of the planning committee for not fully enough engaging with the issues and giving up on something without fighting to make it a safer space. It is an opinion that I fundamentally disagree with but can reasonably discuss.  

However a recent comment has really pissed me off. One woman said that:

I feel like I’m definitely in that cross-section of people that sager is abandoning by disconnecting themselves from genderfuck. I’m straight and white, so there is no appeal to me in the lecture topics this year. also, doesn’t the committee get that it can be uncomfortable to show up to a minority event as a member of the majority? how easy do they think it is for a straight white person to waltz into a discussion about multi-ethnic queers? it’s kind of a running theme at swarthmore: let’s see who can make the most specific minority group. next year’s sager theme will be southeast asian transgendered orphans.

These are the moments when I feel like all I can say is really?

Really?  Really you think that we should be catering to your comfort?  Really you think that your interests are of primary importance to the queer community?  Like we don’t have important shit to work out and instead spend hours dreaming up ways to entertain you… oh wait we already did, feel free to enjoy Will & Grace.  This is a different kind of symposium, and you’re right in noting it was not made with you in mind.  What a shock, like the entire world doesn’t already center around, focus on issues that are relevant to straight white people.  It is so important to you to have everything centered around your own identities that we can’t even have a symposium that addresses what we are interested in.  Really? YOU feel uncomfortable? welcome to my life, spaces were not designed with me in mind.  I don’t fit into things, people say racist things, say homophobic things and I am expected to endure a predominantly white college that only nominally invests in diversity.

This person went on to share this gem:

this is yet another example of swat’s queer community closing its doors to straight folks who don’t feel like going to a qsa meeting or gay rights lecture

Closing our doors?  Really?  Come right in, I’m sorry that we are not pandering for your happiness and excitement.  But let me tell you, as a queer person of color who has only a few times a year when this college invests in things that I care about, this is a time when I feel really comfortable.  And I’m sorry if you feel that you aren’t interested in, or don’t care to go to a “qsa meeting or a gay rights lecture,” me neither, but I wouldn’t suppose to ask them to change what they are doing when I have not attended.

 

That being said I would like to make a formal apology to everyone who will not get laid this year on the backs of people who worked hard to create a symposium that you don’t care to, or give a shit to attend.
And mostly a big FUCK YOU to everyone who can’t appreciate all the work that has gone to the trouble to build a beautiful symposium full of amazing people that speak to a wide intersection of people on this campus (queer people, people of color, (dis)abled folks, survivors and our allies)… but that’s just to name a few.

 

So I hope that people can make it to the symposium, fight through the discomfort, be queer, be an ally, be yourself, just don’t be disrespectful.

 

Sager Symposium will be March 26-28.

For a full schedule of events: http://www.sccs.swarthmore.edu/org/sager/?page_id=24

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6 Responses to “Speaking of allies…”

  1. 1 Marc

    I always thought it was the height of disrespect that people would willingly ignore the sager symposium and then come to the party in their ridiculously straight attire. It’s just amazing and disgusting how ignorant and narcissistic people can be at this school. They don’t want to learn anything. They don’t want to change anything. I used to be pretty involved in the Sager process and was it always the most comfortable thing in the world…no. But I learned so much and I met incredible, amazing, inspirational people. I don’t understand why people are so fucking close minded at this school. I mean it’s 2009 for crying out loud.

  2. 2 lisa

    amen.

  3. 3 dei

    very well said. i wish you could share the name of this person.

  4. 4 Yoel

    As the person who wrote the blog post that the unnamed individual was responding to, I think it’s (a) disrespectful that you quote her out of context, and (b) shortsighted of you to dismiss her objections as if they’re the objections exclusively of white, heterosexual individuals.

    First and foremost, Sager (if you learn its history) isn’t a symposium exclusively for the queer community — it’s a symposium designed to form connections between the queer community and the rest of Swarthmore. That’s what made it revolutionary. So, yes, I think it’s a completely reasonable objection to this year’s topics to say that Sager has lost sight of its goals (considering I was the one who penned that opinion in the first place) by only pandering to issues of “queer people, people of color, (dis)abled folks, survivors and our allies.”

    Moreover, as a member of the queer community at Swarthmore, I can’t help but feel like this year’s symposium is leaving me behind, too. Despite being engaged with queer activism (maybe not in the way you’d want me to be, but engaged nevertheless), I frankly don’t care about this year’s topics. So, if Sager is failing to meet its historical goals (fostering dialogue between the queer community and the rest of Swarthmore) as well as its nouveau-Sager goals (bringing the queer community together under some “beautiful” umbrella of activism or whatever), I can confidently report that Sager is now… good for approximately nothing.

    • 5 cmarque1

      I should not have quoted her out of context, fair enough (anyone who is interested can find the entire blog and comment in the previous comment). That being said, this years Sager appeals to (as you noted): queer people, people of color, (dis)abled folks, survivors, allies, and women. This is not a marginal community on this campus and comprise a large population that should be appealed to.

      I’m sorry that you feel left behind by this Symposium, I think that even a small investigation into this Symposium can draw connections with almost any identities. First of all, Caitlin Breedlove will be there, one of the most amazing anti-racist white folks ever, someone who should appeal to the white community at Swarthmore, Amber Hollibaugh, speaks to aging in the LGBT community, a topic relevant to everyone in the LGBT community. The rest of the speakers, I feel are equally fantastic, and really if your identity categories don’t obviously intersect doesn’t mean that they do not have relevance to you.

      If the rest of the community isn’t willing to show up, that’s fine. It’s unfortunate because I think it will be a great symposium. But why it is the responsibility of the Sager committee to maintain a party that is such a disaster for many people involved. The party isn’t a community space, it isn’t a place for dialogue, and it’s not a place to build ties across LGBT and straight communities. I am glad though that the disassociation has gotten people talking about the party and it’s merits and pitfalls. If a contingent of the queer/straight community wants to take on this party I would encourage them to do so. If they think that they can make this a community space which has the potential to build community… I’m not convinced it’s possible but if someone can I would encourage them do so.

  5. 6 x

    Do you people actually go to school and learn things?


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