An anonymous, apparently anti-gay e-mail and postering campaign blanketed parts of campus on Wednesday as Yale’s gay community celebrated National Coming Out Day.
The occasion, which was celebrated across the country, comes as the University moves forward in providing more institutional support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer students. But the festivities were shadowed by the e-mail and corresponding flyers posted around campus that appeared to condemn homosexuality as a sin.
The e-mail, which appeared to have been sent from a Yale e-mail account, claimed to be sponsored by the National Organization to Gain Acceptance for Your Sins, whose acronym is N.O.G.A.Y.S. Information Technology Services officials could not be reached for comment on Wednesday about whether the University is tracing the e-mail.
The early morning e-mail, sent under the alias “Yale LGBTTQQQQ … (et al.),” appeared to implicitly compare gays who come out to people who expose themselves as racists or Nazis. Flyers posted in areas including Cross Campus and the Yale post office had similar messages — one featured a picture of Sen. Joe Lieberman ’64 LAW ’67 (D-Conn.) and suggested that he is “coming out” as a Republican. Another suggested that actor Mel Gibson is coming out as an anti-Semite.
“There’s no shame in being who you are,” the e-mail said. “Just remember, admitting it doesn’t make it right.”
Anna Wipfler ’09, the coordinator of the Yale LGBT Student Cooperative, said she hopes University officials can trace the e-mail back to its sender. She said such a show of intolerance is a reminder of why events like Coming Out Day are so important.
“There is still a reason we have this day,” she said, “Because people either treat homophobia as a joke that doesn’t need to be talked about or actually have problems with it.”
Yale College Dean Peter Salovey could not be reached for comment Wednesday night.
On Old Campus, participants in the Coming Out Day festivities were unfazed by the e-mail, which organizers said was the exact kind of behavior the day hopes to discourage.
“It’s really just a celebration more than something more political,” Wipfler said. “It’s something to promote pride. We have a lot of people coming out as allies … it gives people the chance to show solidarity and support.”
By midday, more than 30 people had come to the Coming Out Day booth on Old Campus to have their picture taken as they walked through a symbolic, freestanding door that was set up for the celebration.
Wipfler said reaction to the celebration varied, with some students stopping by to pick up leaflets or candy while others did not pay the event much notice.
“There’s been a mix,” she said. “[Some] people are just a little bit confused. But I haven’t seen any outright fingers in the air, or hateful anything.”
Students at the Coming Out Day booth said that the day was meant to stress acceptance — regardless of whether a person is gay or straight.
“It celebrates the freedom to be yourself and to be unapologetic about it,” said Raj Persaud ’10, coordinator of the group Not-So-Straight Frosh.
Justin Ross ’07 said the controversial posters and e-mails directly attacked the celebration’s message that people can define themselves in any manner.
“[The Day] is about accepting diversity within our own community,” Ross said. “People come through this door and they proclaim themselves as anything, and that’s partly what the posters are making fun of in a way — because you can come out as whatever.”
Coming Out Day coincides with the Yale administration’s growing focus on issues relevant to the LGBTQ community, which had been lacking institutional support, students said, despite the University’s reputation as the “gay Ivy.”
Last month, the University appointed Maria Trumpler as a special adviser to the administration regarding LGBTQ issues. The appointment followed a report from the LGBTQ Needs Assessment Task Force last spring that said the University lacked ample support structures for gay students. In its meeting last month, the Yale Corporation approved the expansion of the University’s nondiscrimination policy to include “gender identity or expression.”