It may be just a few weeks into spring, but Yalies are already seeing rainbows on campus.
Pride at Yale, a 16-day celebration of gay and lesbian culture, is intended to draw the Yale community’s attention to issues such as gay dating and homophobia. It will also provide an opportunity for students from Yale College, the graduate school and professional schools to create a University-wide forum for dialogue on sexual identity, student organizers said.
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Members of the LGBT Student Cooperative, which is sponsoring Pride at Yale, said they were able to expand the program from one week to more than two with increased funding from the Yale College Dean’s Office. In addition, they cited growing student interest and the involvement of organizations such as the Slifka Center for Jewish Life and the Latino and Afro-American cultural centers. Pride at Yale events will range from discussions and lectures on sexuality to a day of silence that will bring attention to harassment and discrimination on school campuses, Co-op officials said.
Members of the LGBTQ community said they hope the size of the event and the number of campus organizations involved will encourage the University to establish a larger queer resource facility and a deanship for LGBTQ issues.
Yale College Dean Peter Salovey could not be reached for comment Monday night.
Co-op coordinator Anna Wipfler ’09 said she is confident that the diversity of events will encourage more students to participate in the celebration than in past years.
“I can’t see a better way to draw a diverse crowd than what we’re doing now,” she said. “But it’s really more about whose eyes get opened by these events than how many people show up.”
Events in the upcoming two weeks include a panel discussion with queer authors at the Sterling Memorial Library, a discussion of sex and dating tips at the Women’s Center, and a one-person show by performer Scott Turner Schofield at the Yale Cabaret. Pride at Yale will culminate with the “Ask & Tell” dance party in Morse dining hall next Saturday, where those who attend are invited to arrive in military gear.
Pride at Yale kicked off Sunday with “Transnational Histories of Sexuality,” the inaugural symposium of the recently formed Yale Research Initiative on the History of Sexualities. Maria Trumpler, the special adviser to the administration regarding LGBTQ issues, said that although few students were at the event, it was attended by over 150 people, including scholars who traveled from New York and Boston to participate.
Trumpler said events such as Schofield’s performance and the queer author panel are meant to cater to students from all Yale schools, and she hopes the events will encourage graduate and professional school LGBTQ students to interact with their undergraduate peers.
“A lot of them already know each other, but we would like to create a larger sense of community,” she said.
Trumpler, who is also the director of undergraduate studies in the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program, was appointed as Yale’s first official administrator in charge of overseeing the LGBTQ community last fall. The Yale Corporation also added “gender identity” to the campus-wide nondiscrimination policy last September.
Queer Resource Center Coordinator Benjamin Gonzalez ’09 said much of the progress that has been made in recent years is due to the efforts of LGBTQ students and the support of other student groups. The Co-op planted student liaisons within cultural centers last year to develop a network of support among minority students at Yale, said Gonzalez, who is also a student staff member at La Casa Cultural.
But Wipfler said the Co-op has found it difficult to sustain these relationships in the long term as students involved with both the LGBTQ community and a cultural group graduate.
“With student rollover, we feel like we’re starting from scratch every year,” she said.
Wipfler said she thinks such partnerships would be facilitated by the appointment of an associate dean who would oversee LGBTQ life in the way that the cultural center directors oversee cultural life.
Gonzalez said he hopes the expansion of Pride at Yale catches the administration’s attention and encourages it to consider creating a new deanship. He also hopes the rest of the Yale community makes an effort to attend some of the events to learn about the challenges facing queer students, he said.
“In a sense, every day is ‘Pride Day’ for people who are not of the LGBTQ identification,” he said. “It is important to have at least one day of remembrance to foster awareness and visibility, and generally make Yale a safer place for the community.”