Commencement 2008 was the final nail in the coffin for PRISM, the University’s only undergraduate organization for queer students of color.
After struggling for years, the group’s membership dropped dramatically late last year with the graduation of PRISM’s upperclassmen — among them its main coordinator and much of its membership.
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Interest in the group had dwindled as relations improved between members of PRISM and other LGBT groups on campus.
Since the school year began two months ago, LGBT Co-Op coordinator Benjamin Gonzalez ’09 said he has been waiting for someone to take the helm of PRISM. Since no one has stepped up, the organization is “inactive,” Gonzales told the News on Sunday.
Gonzalez said he intends to offer the position of PRISM coordinator at the Co-Op’s spring elections next term.
PRISM was founded in 1995, at a time when the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Cooperative was primarily composed of “white, gay males,” said Benjamin Gonzalez ’09, the coordinator of the LGBT Co-Op.
“The tensions between [the Co-Op’s members] and queer people of color sparked the need for a group for queer people of color,” Gonzalez said.
But over time, things changed. The Co-Op’s membership is now heavily populated by people of color, Gonzalez said, which has contributed to a drop in PRISM’s membership.
In April 2008, PRISM was left with fewer than 10 members.
Edgar Diaz-Machado ’10, a former secretary of the Co-Op, agreed, crediting increasing diversity in the University’s queer community for eliminating the need for the group.
“[The Co-Op] used to be a white, male place where it was difficult to talk about being queer and of color, but in the last 10 years, it has become much more open and supportive,” Diaz-Machado said, adding that the cultural houses and academic departments devoted to LGBT issues had provided many other forums for queer students of color.
Diaz-Machado said interest in PRISM had already been flagging for a number of years. In spring 2008, he attempted to revive the group and found little interest — he planned a “back-together” meeting for the group shortly before spring break, but the minimal interest was not enough to sustain PRISM past the break.
Gonzalez said no students offered to fill PRISM’s leadership void this year. Minority queer students who would have been served by PRISM are already involved with the LGBT Co-Op and other queer organizations, he added. And with the growing diversity and support of the Co-Op — and the cultural houses — the void left by PRISM has been quickly filled, Diaz-Machado said.
“I only remember, in my time at Yale, a couple of PRISM events,” he said. “So when PRISM began losing support, it really wasn’t that much of an issue.”
Yale’s LGBT Co-op holds weekly meetings at the Queer Resource Center on Crown Street at 9 p.m. on Mondays.