As Yale students were scattered across the globe this summer furiously padding our resumes, a bombshell hit. Yale was outed as … wait for it … the “gay Ivy.”
Somehow, this society-changing revelation did not appear on the gaydar — I mean, radar — of Yale students, whether gay or straight. As we all know, saying Yale is the gay Ivy is like saying Harvard sucks; there is no statistical proof, but most people pretty much assume it to be true. This statement of what everybody already knew was only news because of where it appeared: on the cover of the July/August Yale Alumni Magazine.
After the publication of this issue, the magazine received a wave of startlingly homophobic letters (as well as others praising the cover story). I recognize that a few strident voices can often drown out a more reasonable mainstream opinion (witness the current health-care debate), and I do not want to imply that all Yale alumni are homophobic. But the sentiments expressed by many of those letters, while within the First Amendment rights of their authors, are simply unjustifiable and utterly reprehensible attacks both on the institution we call home and on all of us. As such, the most egregious statements of these alumni offenders must be confronted.
I’ll start with Walter Weber LAW ’84. In his letter to the Alumni Magazine, Weber quotes an article from the magazine unrelated to homosexuality, posing the question, “Do we really want to progress beyond our healthy reaction to unhealthy things?” Weber is a lawyer and not a doctor, but is it really too much to ask for him to be informed enough to know that every major respected medical authority considers homosexuality to be a perfectly normal variant of human sexuality?
Donald Conklin’s ’45 stereotyping of all homosexuals as having “friendly personalit[ies], high intelligence and talents in the arts” would be cute if it weren’t so idiotic and offensive. And I’m sorry Conklin is upset with “two men holding hands as they walk down the street.” I’m sure those two men are upset that they’re frequently discriminated against by people like you and lack equal rights throughout most of the United States.
Ferdinand Nadherny ’50 worries that this magazine cover will harm the alma mater with which he seems to have become so unfamiliar. “Seeing this cover,” he pontificates, with absolutely zero evidence to support his assertion, “is bound to encourage a greater percentage of gays to apply to Yale while at the same time discourage more straight students from applying.” I’m a straight student who applied fully aware of the presence of gays on campus, and there are plenty of us. And I think it’s fair to say that the vast majority of Yale students, gay and straight, wouldn’t want classmates who are so homophobic that the presence of gay students on campus would deter them from applying.
Paul Loomis ’60 readily admits his “disgust and repulsion” at homosexual “amorous activity” and accepts the fact that he “would be very uncomfortable being a Yalie now as [he is] sure most of [his] former classmates would be.” Trust us, Mr. Loomis, with such admissions, the feeling of discomfort is mutual.
James A. Howard ’51, like many of his fellow bigoted alums, worries that there are so many bigoted alums that if we tell them that Yale is a tolerant place, they’ll stop giving money in large enough numbers that the University will suffer. I appreciate Howard’s concern for my education, but I assure him that I will gladly sacrifice a building renovation or two to go to a university where all of my classmates can be treated equally and with respect.
Edgar M. Nash ’48 honestly admits and seems to accept that his homophobia is inconsistent with “on-campus trends and happenings of today.” But in his discussion of the ways in which Yale of the 1940s is unlike the Yale of today, he has it wrong. He claims that unlike today, he and his classmates “took on … all … who said the wrong things.”
Well, Mr. Nash, you and your fellow alumni have said the wrong things, and I’m taking you on.
Matthew Ellison is a senior in Branford College.