The drag show that the Student Organization for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender puts on is an attempt to create awareness of the GLBTQ community here on campus. While I do not have a problem with the drag show itself, what I do have a problem with is that it is one of the only images of the GLBTQ community portrayed and seen by the CSU and larger community in the area. Drag is something only a small part of the gay community participates in and, in fact, many straight individuals participate in as well. To associate drag with the image of the GLBTQ culture is like watching a Mexican hat dance or a Native American rain dance and claiming that you have seen and understand their respective cultures. Yes, the drag show creates awareness, but what kind of awareness are we creating for the GLBTQ community? Is it positive or negative? Does it educate the public about our culture or does it mis-educate? Does it tear down stereotypes or does it re-enforce them?
When I step back and see the drag show and other GLBTQ events from the lens of an outsider I can understand where the terms â€œdeviants,â€ â€œfreaksâ€ and â€œpervertsâ€ may come from. I wonder if this portrayal of the GLBTQ community serves to re-enforce the image that the anti-gay community promotes of the GLBTQ community. I can even see the validity in their argument when they say that the GLBTQ community, when we act like that, is not asking for equal rights but is asking for special rights. After all, no one else is asking for the right to act the way we do in our â€œperverted lifestyle.â€
Allow me to paint another image of the GLBTQ community many do not see. One of GLBTQ individuals who contribute greatly to society and quietly live out their lives, often with those whom they love and are committed to. They seek no recognition for their sexuality but to be honored for who they are as a whole human being. GLBTQ people are not just the â€œdeviantsâ€ you see parading down the runway cross-dressed. We are also contributing members of society. We are a cross section of every culture. We want nothing but what every human wants: to be treated with equity, to be treated fairly and to be treated with the same respect that you want to be treated! GLBTQ people have served throughout history as contributing members of every society and culture. For GLBTQ culture is truly a tapestry woven together of all cultures throughout the world and throughout all time, from the sciences, to the arts, to religion and politics.
I start with myself. I am a grad student, Christian, son, brother, uncle, gardener, teacher and friend. Many have probably never heard of Barbara Jordan, a great African-American politician from Texas. She was a lesbian. Angelina Jolie is bisexual. King James â€“â€“ you may have heard of his version of the bible â€“â€“ was gay. Tchaikovsky was a great gay musical composer. Leonardo Da Vinci, arguably one of the brightest minds in science, was gay. I also point to many of the GLBTQ staff and faculty here at CSU. You are my inspiration, and you know who you are. I look up to you, admire you and thank you for your example, service and willingness to be here for the GLBTQ students when we need someone to talk to.
Finally, to the GLBTQ community: Take a moment to stop and think critically about the image you portray of the GLBTQ community. Reflect and see if there are more positive ways you can represent it, advance our causes and fight for equality. Ask yourself if the awareness you are creating is effective and positive. If not, what could you do to change that? I offer one suggestion: When we represent who we truly are as unique individuals and not our alter ego, when we reach out and build bridges of understanding and work to serve others within our communities and build relationships of trust and empathy with our neighbors, we build allies. Then, working together, we can advance the cause of equality for all human beings. For it is only then that we will truly know equality.
Rich Guggenheim is a graduate student in the applied human sciences college.