Mount Holyoke News 1996-1997

November 21, 1996

Rally against Homophobia

300 rally against homophobia
by Kelly Emminger '99

Members of the Mount Holyoke community spoke out against homophobia at last Thursday's Rally Against Homophobia despite the cold weather. The rally included a candlelight vigil around the flagpole, speeches on the steps of Blanchard, and ended with a march to Mary Lyon's grave where different colored carnations were placed.

Vicki Kucia FP, one of the organizers of the rally, estimated about 300 people attended the rally. Speakers included eight members of Mount Holyoke's faculty, two community members and a large number of students.

"Intolerance has no place on this campus," College President Joanne Creighton said. Mount Holyoke should be "a community that works in a world full of communities that don't work," Creighton said.

SGA President Chandra Dunn identified the rally as a "consciousness raising" event and a "celebration of our differences, diversity, and personhood."

Karen Jacobus, Health Education Coordinator, talked about "the need to educate, not retaliate" against homophobic people.

Dean of Faculty and Provost Peter Berek said he was "honored to be standing under the arch," referring to the rainbow arch made of multicolored balloons built by Kristen Bub '97 which floated over the steps of Blanchard during the rally. "Mount Holyoke is a wonderful place for men and women - straight, gay, and lesbian - to work together and become friends," Berek said.

Andrea Ayvazian, Protestant Chaplain, attended the rally with her eight-year-old son, Sasha. Ayvazian told those in attendance of her and Sasha's father's decision to defer their marriage until same-sex marriages are legalized in the U.S. "We stand with you in solidarity ... to achieve civil rights and civil liberties for all."

Amherst Unitarian Universalist minister Bonnie Devlin talked about the struggle against homophobia in America's religious centers. She called for churches "to end the hypocrisy behind our stained glass walls" and to "let our sanctuaries be true sanctuaries."

Rally organizer Alicia Curlew '98 discussed her experiences as a lesbian student on campus and the need for a homophobia rally on campus. She said that when she asked an administrator to speak at the rally, he said, "It's not my responsibility to fight for your political causes."

Curlew identified the homophobia represented in this statement. "When I have to be afraid to go into the office of someone at my College, that's homophobia." Curlew refrained from revealing the administrator's name, remarking that she did not believe the individual was important.

An open microphone session followed the scheduled speeches. Several students read poems, talked about their experiences with homophobia, and "came out" for the first time in public. Several Smith College students announced their support for Mount Holyoke's lesbian/bisexual women.

The rally concluded with a walk to Mary Lyon's burial site in which each of the rally participants laid a carnation on the grave.

Two days prior to the rally, organizers distributed 3,000 handmade rainbow pins through campus mail to students and faculty. "We picked hundreds out of the garbage cans," Kucia said. "That tells me we have a lot of work to do. Homophobia is alive and well on this campus."

Kucia said she was "immensely pleased" with the rally, although it was "unfortunate that the people who needed to be there, weren't." She said the presence of the administration at the rally was appreciated. "Lesbian and bisexual students needed to hear that they are honored and respected ... They heard that from the faculty," Kucia said.

Rally participant Chavvah Penner '97 said, "it was great that we had UMass, Smith, and Amherst students present."

"The turnout and retention was a testament to the seriousness of the issue. [The rally] was a wonderful example of the collectiveness of support in the Mount Holyoke community," said Kelley Page '99.

The rally was necessary to make people aware that homophobia is everywhere," Nathalie Degenhardt '99 said. "People think that Mount Holyoke is this great, liberal place - and it usually is - but we still have problems."

The rally was organized by a group of Mount Holyoke women concerned with combating homophobia. It was financially sponsored by several student organizations, including the Ways and Means Committee of the Student Government Association, the Frances Perkins Scholars Association, Spectrum and the Lesbian Bisexual Alliance.


Somewhere under the rainbow 
by Leena Palmer '97

I'm trying to stay positive after the wonderful speakers and representatives attending the rally against homophobia last Thursday. One image keeps plaguing me, however. It is that of the lit, occupied dorm rooms around the green as the rally was in progress. If one was occupied by you, why did you stay away? Burying yourself in schoolwork becomes damaging when you block out events and changes in your world.

The Mount Holyoke community made a valiant effort on Thursday to support our lesbian and bisexual sisters. We cheered, laughed, shivered, huddled, hugged, and smiled; and we carried these feelings to our founder's grave and showered her with flowers of the rainbow.

The rally was refreshing. Our community is always chock full of tired, sallow and stressed faces. This was a time for us to come together and celebrate in being diverse and loving each other (an act much more fulfilling than pouring over the writing of a dead white man).

It is important, however, not to detract from the significance of those who did show support at the rally. Protestant Chaplain Andrea Ayvazian was one of the many speakers inspiring the crowd, but her personal commitment to equal rights for gay and lesbian couples left me in awe. She firmly stated her priority for this society to institute equal civil rights for gay and lesbian couples choosing to marry before she and her "husband" will make their commitment legal.

Ayvazian's strength of character should be an inspiration to us all not only to become more aware of oppression in our laws, but to be aware of our own privileges in relation to those who are oppressed.

If you missed this rally you missed an important part of the real education occurring on this campus. Next time, close your books, turn off your computers and join in the progress of our community.

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