LGBT alumni celebrate at rescheduled reunion

Though the original LGBT Alumni Reunion was postponed due to a February blizzard, over 250 attended this weekend’s event, organized by Yale GALA and the Association of Yale Alumni.
Though the original LGBT Alumni Reunion was postponed due to a February blizzard, over 250 attended this weekend’s event, organized by Yale GALA and the Association of Yale Alumni. Photo by Jennifer Cheung.

A concert featuring Cynthia Nixon, a speech on Yale as the “Gay Ivy” and a party at Partners Cafe all took place this weekend as part of the second LGBT Alumni Reunion.

Over 250 alumni, students and guests attended the events organized from Thursday to Sunday by Yale GALA — the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Alumni Association — in conjunction with the Association of Yale Alumni. While the reunion was originally set to take place in February and canceled at the last minute due to a massive blizzard, all the original honorees and speakers were able to attend the rescheduled event, said reunion co-chair Gabriel Seidman ’11.

The theme of the reunion, “Remembering our Past, Shaping our Future,” emphasized that the weekend’s panels and social events brought together five decades of alumni who share a common past as members of Yale’s LGBTQ community, Seidman said.

“The amazing thing about this kind of reunion is that it brings together people from across generations,” Seidman said. “Going forward, cross-generational dialogue and work will be crucial to the future of the LGBTQ movement.”

During opening ceremonies on Friday afternoon, University President Peter Salovey was presented with the Yale GALA Allies Award for his years of work as an activist within the LGBTQ community. Salovey gave a short biography of his work with the LGBTQ movement since the 1970s and said his activism has been driven by a desire to do the right thing, rather than to be recognized.

At a banquet dinner held in Commons on Saturday evening, three undergraduate LGBTQ activists — Marija Kamceva ’15, Stefan Palios ’14 and Christopher Logan ’14 — thanked the alumni in attendance for their past activism that has resulted in a more open campus. Though the University now has a reputation as the “Gay Ivy,” it was not always a safe place for the LGBTQ community, Palios said.

“Every single person in this room has our personal thanks,” Palios said. “Welcome back to the campus you helped create.”

Cynthia Nixon received Yale GALA’s first Artist for Equality Award for her outspoken activism for LGBTQ rights and marriage equality on Friday evening. Nixon sang as part of a benefit concert that also featured the Whiffenpoofs. In tribute to Nixon’s past acting roles, the a cappella groups in attendance performed renditions of the theme songs of Sex and the City and Law and Order.

“She’s a really good singer, she’s so talented and she’s passionate for gay rights,” said concert attendee Verner Wilson FES ’15. “It was such an honor.”

The Artist for Equality award will be presented annually to artists who demonstrate strong commitment to the LGBTQ community.

Other panels held included discussions on LGBTQ studies in the University’s curriculum, “Modern Families” and LGBTQ parenting as well as the LGBTQ experience in the military.

Matthew Zuckerman ’11 said the panel on LGBTQ policies in the military made him realize the tangible effects that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell had on campus — the repeal of the law in 2010 contributed to the University reinstating the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program in 2012, Zuckerman said.

Lena Vayzman GRD ’95 ’02 said the conference brought together a large cross-section of campus that included alumni from various graduate and professional schools as well as current students.

“It’s a chance for us all to know Yale’s LGBTQ history,” Vayzman said. “It makes me really proud to be a Yale alum that Yale has a history and current leadership in LGBTQ rights.”

The first LGBT reunion was held in 2009.

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