Outlook, Denison’s gay-straight alliance, has been known to bring some noteworthy speakers to campus, particularly during the Spring semester. Shane Windmeyer, the leading author on GLBTQA (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Allied) college campus issues who graced campus this past Thursday, Mar. 21, did not disappoint.
A collaboration between Outlook and the National Panhellenic Council, Windmeyer’s lecture attracted students from all walks of Denison life, both inside and outside the Greek community.
Though the advertisements around campus professed Windmeyer’s talk would be about “Being Gay and Lesbian in Fraternities and Sororities,” the main focus of the lecture was something all members of the Denison community could take to heart: the importance of being an ally to the GLBTQA community, not just in one’s words, but in one’s actions as well.
Windmeyer began his talk by addressing the gay teen suicides that took place in the fall of 2010, and used these tragic cases to form a strong argument for why having an “institutional commitment” to supporting queer youth is imperative if an academic institution wants to create a campus that is safe and welcoming to prospective GLBTQA students.
Both for Denison’s campus and others like it, this means “the Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) or GLBTQA student group can’t be the only one’s responsible” for the welfare of the campus’ GLBTQA community. While Denison has staff among its counseling services trained to deal with GLBTQA students, we do not have an Office of GLBT Services, and the language of our non-discrimination clause has yet to be amended to protect students or faculty on grounds of gender identity.
As a speaker, Windmeyer was entertaining and well-versed in GLBT history and culture. During an audience participation segment, Windmeyer invited four “straight” members of the audience to participate in a quiz activity to calculate their “Gay Point Average.”
Questions in this quiz asked its participants to name the colors in the GLBTQA Flag, the “geometric shape commonly associated with the GLBTQA community,” and gay characters or actors they knew from the media. This part of the event was engaging and provided an informative way for the audience to demonstrate their knowledge of GLBT history and culture, and learn things they may not have known.
Windmeyer spent a relatively small amount of time reflecting about his personal experience as a member of Phi Delta Theta fraternity at his university, but what he was able to share was valuable and relatable to a good portion of the audience.
Speaking about his struggles to come out as gay to his brothers, Windmeyer addressed the difficulty many people experience during the coming out process, as well as the transformative power of honesty. Windmeyer reminded the audience that “silence speaks louder than words,” and homophobia cannot be addressed if those within the GLBTQA community and allies within the community at large do not speak out in protest in support of their gay brothers and sisters.
Overall, the messages Windmeyer left the audience with were hopeful, but with an understanding of some grave realities: homophobia is not just a gay issue; it is a human issue, and it affects a wide spectrum of communities. Denisonian or not, it is important that friends of the GLBTQA community be active and vocal advocates for the cause of human rights, and human emotional security, no matter what their affiliation may be.