February 28, 2010

Beyond Filthy/Gorgeous

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When an event, designed to raise awareness and celebrate individuality, has a $27,000 budget and invites a porn director as master of ceremonies, it understandably inflames passions. Filthy/Gorgeous, an event that benefits a homeless shelter in New York City, was hosted by the Cornell University Gay Straight Alliance for the fourth consecutive year on Saturday night in Willard Straight Hall. The merits and drawbacks of the event’s nature were the subjects of debate between two guest columns published in last week’s Sun.

It is encouraging that this debate is occurring at all, as members of the LGBTQ community must continue to take leading roles in shaping their community’s public face. Valid are the concerns associated with propagating the stereotype of gays as “promiscuous, polygamous, drug abusing, anorexic deviants.” Equally valid is the point that these individuals happen to be a community because of their sexualities, so a “sex-positive” event is a natural and appropriate outlet to raise awareness and build an identity. There would be cause for concern if Filthy/Gorgeous was the only event produced by, and tailored for, Cornell’s LGBTQ community. As it stands, the event’s supersized neon profile, which is admittedly part of its success, may attract too much attention relative to other awareness-boosting events. But as long as there are alternate events on the calendar that highlight and promote different facets of the LGBTQ community, Filthy/Gorgeous has a place in the lineup.

Furthermore, while Filthy/Gorgeous may be inappropriate or even self-defeating in another setting, college, and especially Cornell University, is an ideal environment for such an event. The years an individual spends on the Hill should be filled to the brim with eye-opening, standards-challenging experiences. These years are integral to a person’s development, and every person should have every opportunity to learn and push the boundaries of their identity without fearing repercussion or discrimination — Filthy/Gorgeous undoubtedly aids this worthwhile cause.

An anonymous commenter on the Sun’s website had it right, stating, “No single event can define the identity of a social group.” Indeed, a social group is so much more than its pamphlets and programming. However, pamphlets and programming are often how outsiders construct their impressions of a group, and the LGBTQ community should keep that in mind. Filthy/Gorgeous is a positive, beneficial event for all of Cornell. But smaller, less contentious events can be equally as positive and beneficial. We hope to see as much passion and debate surrounding the upcoming Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell discussion, or any other event that achieves the goals of Filthy/Gorgeous: to boost awareness of, and pride in, an identity that often faces unfair discrimination and prejudice.