February 25, 2010

Defending Filthy/Gorgeous

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Through Filthy/Gorgeous — an annual party organized by the Cornell University Gay-Straight Alliance benefitting a New York homeless shelter — the Alliance attempts to provide a fun, exciting social and cultural outlet for both LGBTQ students and their straight allies on this campus. This is not just a safe space for us and our allies to dance and relax but it is a celebration of the parts of our identities that are most stigmatized — our sexual and gender expressions.

Identifying as LGBTQ at Cornell can be very difficult. We typically think of this with respect to people who are struggling with their coming out to themselves and others. However, for those of us who are out and comfortable with our sexual orientations and gender identities it can be difficult as well. We cannot show the simple signs of affection our heterosexual friends do without risk of repercussion. The simple act of a woman embracing or kissing another woman warrants an article in The Sun, as evidenced by the coverage of DASH’s Valentine’s Day Kiss-In. For many of us, living under this oppressive stigma never fades into the background; it is always there coloring everyday of our lives.

What Filthy/Gorgeous does is it throws off the chains of this stigma and says we do not and should not need to hide our sexuality to be accepted and treated equally. We do not need to be the sex-less comic relief, the gay shopping buddy or the token lesbian friend. We can just be people. Human beings that have sex, that have relationships which are mostly like our heterosexual counterparts, but a bit different too. Filthy/Gorgeous is a celebration of positive and healthy sex and sexuality.

Christopher Hendrix’s perspective, as articulated in his Feb. 24 guest column, “Self-Defeating Awareness,” is so stunningly myopic that he seems incapable of labeling queer sexual expression as anything other than “deviant.” Nonetheless, we can understand why the sex-positivity of Filthy/Gorgeous may disturb Mr. Hendrix. It is difficult for LGBTQ people to shake off the heterosexism, homophobia and sex negativity that pervades our society and we sometimes internalize it. We can have healthy sexual expressions away from sites like Manhunt.

Filthy/Gorgeous is a drug and alcohol-free party and charity fundraiser in Willard Straight Hall, our student union building and the home of the Office of the Dean of Students. There are Cornell staff members present, Cornell Police Officers and student organizers. As an organization we do not wish to trade in unsubstantiated rumors and gossip as some people are so willing to do. We know throwing up the specter of public sex in the restrooms is a cute way to drive home a point; it amounts to nothing more than the same kind of homophobic fodder resorted to by those who wish to demonize the LGBTQ community.

It is somewhat surprising that someone as passionate about LGBTQ issues as Mr. Hendrix would be so willfully unaware of the educational events that CUGSA, its parent organization Haven: The LGBTQ Student Union, and its six peer organizations put on. This year alone, our organizations sponsored or co-sponsored the following: a screening of I Am Omar, a film about being Muslim and LGBT that featured a discussion with the director, “Pause, No Homo!” a workshop on homophobia in hip hop, two interfaith dinners, a lecture by E. Patrick Johnson on his work with gay black men in the South, a vigil for the Transgender Day of Remembrance, the Big Red AIDS Campaign and sent a delegation to IvyQ, a conference for LGBTQ Ivy League students. Still to come are presentations by Lt. Dan Choi on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and Megan Elias discussing the queer beginnings of the College of Human Ecology. This is by no means a complete list, but should give a good idea of the range of programming available.

A wise, though fictional man once said, “Decisions are made by those who show up.” Every meeting of every Haven organization is open to the public and we welcome anyone interested to get involved and provide input on events and programs. Pundits that spout half truths and innuendo to anyone that will listen in an effort to get attention have their place. I am glad that Filthy/Gorgeous has inspired Mr. Hendrix to words; hopefully something will inspire him to action. We need to get back to work on what will certainly be a successful and fun event!

Ben LeBrun ’10 is president of both the Cornell University Gay-Straight Alliance and of Haven: the LGBTQ student Union. He can be contacted at bcl32@cornell.edu. John Connelly is a graduate student and the President Emeritus of the Cornell University Gay-Straight Alliance. He can be contacted at jtc25@cornell.edu. Guest Room appears periodically this semester.

Original Author: John Connelly