Last Saturday, the Divinity School’s gay community was shocked to learn that an unknown party had defaced posters advertising an upcoming talk by a gay theorist.
The posters, which advertised today’s lecture by professor Kathryn Bond Stockton DIV ’82 entitled “Christ’s Queer Cloth Wounds or Divine Humiliation Among the Unchurched,” were put up last week around the Divinity School by the Queer Coalition, a group of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered Divinity School students. The identity of the vandal remains unknown.
Queer Coalition coordinator Michael Thomas DIV ’01 first discovered the defaced posters Saturday and immediately replaced them with new ones. Thomas said the posters were slashed, and some had remarks derogatory to gays written on them. He also said another member of the coalition Tuesday found posters that had been spat upon.
“Any time you put Christ and queer in the same sentence, it’s bound to create controversy,” Thomas said. “It was a bit unnerving to see some of the slashed posters, and certainly unexpected. It will probably be a controversial event. The lecture will be provocative and queer.”
After Queer Coalition member Sharon Fennema DIV ’02 discovered more slashed posters Sunday and Monday, Thompson and Fennema asked Divinity School Dean of Students Dale Peterson and the school’s student senate to voice their support for the school’s gay community.
Acting Dean Harry Adams, Academic Dean David Bartlett and Peterson subsequently sent an e-mail to the Divinity School community denouncing the vandalism.
“We condemn the hatred evident in the defacing, a hatred which is particularly disturbing in this community that seeks to be a safe place for people of all sexual orientations. We condemn, as well, the act of defacing posters as contrary to the openness with which we seek to engage one another in thoughtful dialogue and supportive prayer,” they wrote in the e-mail.
Fennema said the student senate responded by placing posters next to the event’s posters decrying the vandalism and the violence and hatred that the vandalism represents, and supporting the speaker and the coalition.
Lisa Schoonmaker DIV ’03 said the Queer Coalition was right to remove the slashed posters and immediately replace them with new ones.
“The most important thing for the community was to take down the vandalized posters and replace them,” Schoonmaker said. “A lot of members of the community aren’t as able to be open about their sexual orientation as others of us are. Allowing damaged posters to remain would have a chilling effect on their personal discernment process.”
Members of the Queer Coalition said they were surprised to find such acts of hatred in the Divinity School’s usually tolerant environment.
“Generally, we’ve had a very supportive climate for the coalition at the Divinity School,” Thomas said. “I know that there are conservative Christians, but for the most part they’ve been very respectful, and we haven’t run into too many problems.”
Schoonmaker was part of the gay and lesbian movement 30 years ago at Saint Olaf College in Northfield, Minn. Though she has seen many acts of violence and discrimination against gays, she was shocked to see the slashed posters at the Divinity School this week.
“At a university such as Yale, one would hope that people would be enlightened,” Schoonmaker said. “My heart sunk for a minute [when I saw the slashed posters].”
Schoonmaker speculated that because not all of the slashed posters were in prominent areas, the culprit is probably someone from within the school.
“Someone went to great lengths to slash as many posters as they could find,” Schoonmaker said.