OP-EDS

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April 28, 2009

Having a gay old time

Pride Week needs some spicing up.

[img id="77669" align="alignleft"] It is no secret on our campus that the U of C’s LGBTQ Programming Office, though led by a team of the city’s best and brightest gays, is perhaps the least gay programming office this side of the Mississippi. With a slew of weekly get-togethers boasting hard-hitting documentaries, notable speakers, and discussion about insistently “real” issues in the homosexual community—rather than, for instance, Susan Boyle, or the girl who was unjustly cut from Make Me a Supermodel last week—the department certainly lives up to the reputation of the university it represents. But where’s all the real gay stuff: The Liza Minnelli Discussion Club, the Celine Dion Karaoke Nights? They’re nowhere to be found, as it happens, because the epicenter of gay culture at the University of Chicago is much too lofty to acknowledge the traditional stereotypes. It is for exactly this reason that I, and a number of other members of the school’s gay community, have kept well away from the office’s stuffy (however well decorated) halls.

The imminent approach of Pride Week, sponsored by Queers & Associates, was my last gay hope. The itinerary billed events like the GenderFuck Drag Ball and a showing of the tranny classic Hedwig and the Angry Inch. But looking back, it appears that Pride Week was ultimately an awkward lesbian/gay guy hybrid. It was less a salute to homosexuality in all its forms than a thinly veiled attempt to maintain the University’s intellectual integrity at a time of obligatory indecorum, while also placating its small and somewhat ungainly transvestite population. The more “colorful” events, customarily the meat and potatoes of Pride Week, were far too few to serve as anything more than garnish: one drag ball, one pre-ball drag class, and a sex workshop “Sustainable Sex”, which had everything to do with the environment and absolutely nothing to do with homosexuality. I’m sure the eco-gays were thrilled, but what about the rest of us? What were we to do with a mural exhibition, a photo gallery, a discussion of gay legislation, and a reading of lesbian freak show Cherríe Moraga’s latest work? Whether or not events like these pique the interest of the student body, they have nothing to do with gay pride; observing a gay mural doesn’t say “I’m proud of my homosexuality” any more than observing Da Vinci’s The Last Supper says “I’m proud of my Christianity.” One cannot express pride by mere passive appreciation; it requires something active, something loud—something gay, if you will.

While there’s no harm in providing the University with thoughtful, sophisticated cultural activities—quite the opposite, in fact—there is great harm in allowing that sophistication to smother the culture itself. Pride Week failed to uphold the irreverent principles of the minority it represents.

Luke Dumas is a first-year in the College majoring in English Language and Literature.