To the Editor:
How fascinating to read that the LGBTQ Task Force is calling on the Yale administration for a full-time coordinator and the establishment of a community center (“LGBTQ Task Force calls for more resources,” 3/1). Good luck to them. One of the first things I sought when beginning my negotiations with Yale was for a gay student center; boy, was I turned down fast. The same reaction came from the administration when Jonathan Katz, the Larry Kramer Initiative’s first and last director, requested a full-time coordinator for gay concerns.
I do not think anyone realizes how uncomfortable this administration, or even this university, is with most things gay. Despite lots of window-dressing to the contrary, when it comes down to the nuts and bolts of things, the LGBTQ community is simply too much of an embarrassment to too many higher-ups, rich alums and donors, who have made this discomfort known.
Almost from the beginning of its existence, LKI got into trouble. We discovered that John Sterling, Yale’s famous early benefactor, had been gay his entire life. We proudly outed him. This did not go down well, it now appears, not only at Yale but at Shearman and Sterling, the mammoth and powerful law firm James Sterling founded. From that outing, to the recent removal of Katz, the Yale faculty has caused almost five years of pain and struggle in order for LKI to stay true to its founder’s and directors’ principles of honesty and devotion to the history of gay people. Katz’s life was made miserable. This battle with and at Yale has been lost, at least so it presently seems to me.
In my continuing investigation of just why Katz is no longer there and why LKI is, to all intents and purposes, no longer there, I am discovering so much that is hateful to gay people at Yale that, quite frankly, I do not know what to do. I do know that Yale does not want gay history to be taught in too much detail. The “outing” of Robert Rauschenberg, someone known and acknowledged to be gay by everyone but himself, at Katz’s exhibition of Rauschenberg’s ex-lover’s collection in Jonathan Edwards College, also got Katz in great trouble, it now appears. One wonders what all the rich Republicans would do if the purported homosexuality of Abraham Lincoln, the subject of a recent important book and study, were actually included anywhere on Yale’s syllabus. LKI was founded to discover the history of my people. Yale is not interested, indeed to such an extent that I have considered bringing a lawsuit for the return of my brother’s $1 million, which I am now more and more believing was accepted by the University under false pretences.
March 2, 2006
The writer is the founder of the Larry Kramer Initiative for Lesbian and Gay Studies at Yale.