At a study break for the LGBT Co-op in mid-December, a person with short blonde hair poured generous cups of eggnog and helped decorate the Queer Resource Center for the season. The QRC is small — really just one room — but it feels cozy and intimate. There are comfortable couches and chairs, a painting in the style of Keith Haring on the wall, and, at this study break, a friendly Co-op Coordinator, Anna Wipfler ’09, making sure everyone had snacks.
Even if you don’t know Anna’s name, you’ve probably seen her around campus. She appears, at first glance, like a boy — with short hair and understated, practical clothing that reflects a personal choice to dress how she wants to dress, rather than according to “feminine” standards. Among Yale’s often ostentatious student population, Anna certainly stands out. As Coordinator of the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) Student Cooperative, Anna is a leader in the queer community and is a well-known figure on campus. She became famous through her role in the Co-op, and she became loved through her effective leadership and genuine, unself-conscious personality.
But perhaps unselfconscious is the wrong word. Anna is by no means unconscious of her self; rather, she knows more about herself than most, and she celebrates this self by unashamedly being who she is.
“This is me,” she said about her presentation of self to the world. For most people — regardless of sexuality — living with such honesty would be difficult, but Anna seems to do it effortlessly.
I recently had the pleasure of talking with Anna, and during our conversation, I mentioned that I had heard someone refer to her as “basically the name lesbian on campus.” I asked her how she felt about this title, and she was quick to respond. “That’s awesome,” Anna said. As Co-op coordinator, Anna runs the logistics of many Co-op events, such as Pride Week and the Co-op dance. Since the primary function of the Co-op is to represent the needs of queer students and to offer support, Anna’s personality seems ideally suited for leading it. She has the passion of a determined activist, and the compassion of a loyal friend, or even of a mother. That she is known as the “name lesbian” means that she is doing her job: she has chosen to make herself visible. Anna is being who she is, and showing the world who she is, so that others may benefit from her dedication and friendship.
Anna acknowledged, however, that her role as the “name lesbian” speaks to the lack of visible lesbians on campus.
“Not everyone thinks a lesbian looks like me,” Anna said, “but women who look like me are most visibly lesbians.” She knows that people associate her type of dress with lesbians, and she is comfortable with their assumption; it’s another way of her saying, “this is me.”
It is part of Anna’s job as Co-op Coordinator to try to make others feel comfortable with being visible if they should choose to be. In fact, Anna’s leadership has been so successful that Ben Gonzalez ’09, the Queer Resource Coordinator, claims that she’s brought a “new revival” to the Co-op.
“Anna gives everything of herself to make sure events go through, that new people are welcomed, and that the organization thrives,” Ben said.
It seems that Anna shows this type of dedication in everything she does — whether it be helping people, or even beating them up. In addition to serving as Co-op Coordinator, Anna is a “rugger.”
Rugby, according to Anna, is like “controlled chaos.” It is also one of the few sports where the rules for women are the same as those for men. Rugby is for people, not for any particular gender.
“There aren’t many girls who are excited to go out and hit people,” Anna said.
Or at least that’s how it might initially seem. Some women have what Anna calls a “rugby alter ego.” Samara Fox ’09, a teammate of Anna’s, described Anna’s own alter ego.
“Anna is the nicest person I know off the pitch, and the scariest person I know on it,” Samara said. The strength of this alter ego helps lead her team to success.
“I think everyone on the team looks up to Anna,” Samara said. “She’s an amazing rugby player, a hard worker and a great friend.”
Her interests may be diverse, but her commitment and fidelity are constant; these attributes are intrinsic parts of Anna that she hones on a daily basis. It’s clear that she can’t help being herself.