September 27, 2012

Letter to the Editor: A Response From an Activist

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To the Editor:

Re: “Editorial: The Hypocrisy of Scorpions X,” Sept. 24

We became leaders of the LGBTQ Community for a reason. Like many, we struggled to find confidants who we could trust that might understand the tension between who we are and who society says we can be. In many cases, we found ourselves actively altering our gender expressions to appear heterosexual — both for personal safety and emotional security. Our performed mannerisms, our gait, our words and our early (non)sexual experiences (regardless of weather we wanted those experiences) all reflected an intricate, painstakingly maintained façade. And then we came out. Moreover, we took the initiative to fight for a more open and inclusive University.

For us, Cornell offered an opportunity to learn how to accept ourselves and find our place within the larger community. While we realize that there are still many students on campus for whom coming out is not an option, we are striving to provide these students with the resources and opportunities to feel comfortable in their own skin. We understand that even within the LGBTQ community, oppression takes many forms. We do not pretend that all of our experiences with marginalization are the same.

Our campus has many strengths. We have access to top notch resources: strong LGBTQ-friendly administrative policies, a number of safe spaces and support groups, trans-inclusive health insurance and generous funding for LGBTQ events (many of which focus on intersectional identity). That being said, our campus has a very long way to go. Many instances of bias and discomfort still exist for students. Even within our community, a social hierarchy exists in which certain identities have greater access to privilege than others. Queer people of color in particular face numerous forms of oppression regarding their intersecting identities within their respective social identity based communities. Although we know that our experience is not everyone’s, we are here and active and present as leaders on campus because we still believe that we have the continuous ability to affect change.

And there has been tangible change on campus. For example, Haven — the LGBTQ student union — has been incredibly active on campus, organizing many awareness events, such as Coming Out Day, proposing and co-sponsoring administrative initiatives.

But substantive change must come from all of us. Come out as an ally for your friends and those who need visible support from this caring community. Come out in support of LGBTQ partner benefits in the military. Come out in favor of gay marriage marriage equality. Stop your friend the next time he or she uses hateful speech. Never assume you know someone’s orientation or identity. Try to promote discussions across identities and within identity based groups. Only by doing so can we truly make strides in our shared dream for a more open and inclusive Cornell University.

Emily Bick ’13

Dean Iwaoka ’13