Ellison: Old-fashioned bigotry

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.

Comments

  • ?

    “…every major respected medical authority considers homosexuality to be a perfectly normal variant of human sexuality”

    ?

  • y10

    Thank you. These digusting bigots needed to be confronted in a public way.

  • ’98 alum

    Excellent article Mr. Ellison! I too read the responses in the Alumni magazine with great sadness and distaste.

  • Alum

    Didn’t really need an op-ed to tell me that a lot of old white guys are homophobic, but thanks anyway.

  • Mark Antony

    I agree that I didn’t need a YDN piece to tell me that some dumb old people have some dumb old ideas, nor did I need an editorial to advance the (stunningly brave!) proposition that hating people is bad–I learned that in Sunday school a long time ago.

    Of course, your efforts to fight bigotry are nonetheless admirable. But you are going about it entirely the wrong way. If you want these people to tune you out, the best way to do that is to take an adversarial stance as you have. Do you really think saying, “you are a nasty, ignorant and idiotic person,” in print to these people is really the proper way to go about encouraging them to have more accepting attitudes toward homosexuals?

    If you were really interested in social progress, then intead of writing a column that does nothing more than (to a certain extent, I admit, deservedly) insult these alumni, you would write a column highlighting the many advantages of a campus with a strong and visible gay population. Perhaps you would tell them that once one has gotten to know a gay couple it’s actually quite heart-warming to see them holding hands on the street. Perhaps you would remind them that, indeed, many of societies finest intellects and artists have been homosexuals, but that stereotypes of any kind can often be harmful.

    Instead, however, you decided to hurl insults. As such, your column reeks of moral posturing more than it does as an effort for social progress.

  • d00d

    I find it very charming that Mr. Ellison, despite the total lack of homophobia on which he congratulates himself, cannot resist the temptation to gratuitously remind the public that he is, in fact, straight…”just so you know”.

  • Hieronymus

    Mmm… “moral posturing.” Mind if I use that in the future? It goes well with “self-congratulatory.” I like it.

    In the absence of public protestations to the contrary, perhaps we should assume bigotry. Maybe we could get homophobia added to House Rep Maxine Waters’ list of potential thoughtcrimes?

    “Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) said that it’s not enough for African-Americans to levy allegations of racism against the right-leaning protesters, and that the media must look into their views.

    “”I want those people talked to; I want them interviewed,” Waters told the liberal Bill Press Radio show in a podcast.”

    1-9-8-4

  • HDT

    @#6, dood-

    When you take it out of context, of course he sounds like Jerry Seinfeld–not that there’s anything wrong with that.

    However, I actually strongly agreed with the point he made there. I too am a straight person, and I went to a high school where homosexuality was not very accepted. It pained me to no end to watch one of my usually confident and strong gay friends break down and cry after having been taunted in the locker room. So when I applied to college, I actually sought out a school where the majority of people would be welcoming of one another no matter their sexual orientation. So these alumni need to realize that for every straight person turned away, many more will be drawn to Yale because it is the kind of welcoming place we’d like to see the rest of the world become. Mr. Ellison uses himself as an example of that phenomenon.

  • boredalum

    “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.” One of the best quotes ever in YDN.

  • B10

    Look guys, no offense. I agree that this is a message that should be sent, but stop flattering yourselves and assuming Yale is the “gay ivy.” That might have been true when the phrase was coined in the 80s, but the majority of the Ivy League is just as supportive of the gay community and has just as many homosexuals these days, if not more so.

  • i<3mattellison

    I like Matt. But this is quite the self-congratulatory piece. One wonders what Mr. Ellison plans to do with this op-ed.

    Why do I question his motives? The YDN was not the right venue for these sentiments as they were presented. Since the letters were published in the Alumni magazine, the correct venue for this op-ed would have been there. After all, you are considered an alum of Yale after one semester of classes here. And this is for all the homophobic alumni out there.

    Perhaps if Mr. Ellison had written something along the lines of what #5 suggested, it would have been more appropriate to publish in the YDN. Moreover, publishing pieces for alumni and students in both publications would have been a much better way of combating homophobia in those on campus and those already gone.

  • ROFLCOPTER

    I too am amused that Mr. Ellison took the time to mention that he is in fact straight.

  • 0Y8

    one in four, maybe more…

  • nooooooo

    With awkwardly sanctimonious quotables like “Well, Mr. Nash, you and your fellow alumni have said the wrong things, and I’m taking you on,” homeboy sounds a lot more like an NYU freshman than a Yale senior.

  • lol

    lol at @B10…reminiscent of two suburban white guys arguing over who is less racist

  • LN

    bigot: a person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially one who regards or treats the members of a group with hatred and intolerance…

    Like a person who would say something like “I recognize that a few strident voices can often drown out a more reasonable mainstream opinion (witness the current health-care debate)” Wow. A bigot writing about bigots… Respect for others is what you call for and obviously do not practice when the opinion differs from your own.

    (I am an active an vocal supporter of gay rights, your op ed does nothing to further the tolerance that most in the movement seek.)

  • Wow

    “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.”

    I have to agree – if students would consider not applying because there might be gay people here, institutions of higher learning probably aren’t the best place for them anyway. There are some kinds of stupid that even Yale can’t cure.

    And by the way – who’s offended by hand holding?? That’s the most innocuous activity I can think of two people in a relationship doing. It’s like saying you’re offended by two guys walking down the street holding fluffy kittens. I get that homophobia makes you kind of mental, but getting wigged out by two dudes engaging in a cute expression of affection popular in the 1950′s is cause for concern.

  • Tanner

    ***Yet The Democrats have spent the last 50 years stereotyping people into there beloved diversity models.***