A flag hung on Cross Campus to celebrate Pride Week at Yale was found desecrated Sunday, forcing students in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Cooperative at Yale to remove it.
The duct-tape lettering on the rainbow-colored flag — which the Co-op had hung on the Porter Gate between Berkeley and Calhoun colleges — was altered late Saturday night or early Sunday morning so that it read “Yale Gluttony,” instead of “Yale Pride,” LGBT Co-op coordinator Anna Wipfler ’09 said. She said the LGBT Co-op board has not yet decided on a definite response to the incident, but is likely to address the issue through dialogue and Wednesday’s “day of silence” rather than turn to the administration for help.
The desecration of the flag is part of an ongoing pattern of offensive and insensitive attempts at humor on campus that are made at the expense of minority groups, Wipfler said. As an example of the increasing incidence of inappropriate jokes, Wipfler pointed to a campus-wide e-mail condemning homosexuality as a sin that was sent out by a fictional group called the National Organization to Gain Acceptance for Your Sins — or N.O.G.A.Y.S. — during last October’s National Coming Out Day.
“It definitely feels like a repeat of the N.O.G.A.Y.S. deal from the fall, and it’s really sad to the LGBT Co-op board in particular because we thought we made it clear to folks that this kind of ‘humor’ is just not funny,” she said. “We spent a large part of our time last October getting over that, so to see it just happen again feels like an attack on us personally.”
In November, two sophomores in Jonathan Edwards College — Will Wilson ’09 and Matthew Brimer ’09 — apologized to the LGBT Co-op board for sending the e-mail and posting similar fliers around campus, saying their actions were intended as a joke.
Other recent incidents include jokes published in a few campus periodicals that made fun of various minority groups, including Asian-Americans. Although such actions have been intended as humorous, they are still hurtful to many members of those groups, LGBT Co-op Political Action Chair Hugh Baran ’09 said.
“I find it offensive because I’m sick of people making jokes at the expense of people’s identity,” he said. “I don’t think my queerness is something that should be a butt of someone’s joke all the time, in a way that is really hurtful and that is suggesting that my identify is in this case sinful.”
Baran said the alteration of the flag right before the beginning of Bulldog Days on Monday is particularly worrisome, since many queer pre-frosh might be discouraged from attending Yale if they saw the flag while visiting.
Although they are still deciding whether to approach University administrators about responding to the incident, Wipfler said, for now, Co-op members are devoting most of their energy to generating public discussion about issues relating to sexuality and gender identity on campus. The LGBT Co-op will use an evening rally after Wednesday’s day of silence — which was originally scheduled not as a response to any particular event, but as part of a nationwide campaign — to discuss the vandalism, she said.
“I think it will be less behind the scenes, less one-on-one talks, and more public reaction and discussion about how this keeps happening,” Wipfler said. “We’re going to go with public avenues of silence as protest, followed by public discussions, which everyone is welcome to come to.”
Baran said he does not know what response would be appropriate, but he thinks the administration has a responsibility to respond in a proactive manner to cases of “bigotry” on campus.
Dean of Student Affairs Betty Trachtenberg said she has not seen the defaced flag but is open to working with LGBT Co-op members if they approach her to talk about the issue. Taking down another group’s sign and altering it without informing anyone is a “cowardly” thing to do, she said.
“If somebody has some problem with what the gay pride people are doing, they have to come forward and talk about it openly and above-board,” Trachtenberg said. “Why they don’t want to identify themselves is beyond me.”
Wednesday’s day of silence is part of a two-week-long series of talks and other events meant to highlight queer issues on campus that began April 7.