Aren't you afraid people will think you're gay?" To those who would question my outspoken support issues concerning sexual and gender minorities, I usually want to answer, "No, aren't you afraid people will think you're homophobic?" That response, of course, is too hostile for friends or family members who honestly don't understand the negative implications of their question, but it's still tempting. Instead, I usually take the time to explain that since I see all sexual orientations as being equal, there's nothing threatening about people thinking I'm a lesbian. And what about the dating issue? OK, sure, the frat guy on Locust Walk who's dressed up like the giant condom might not invite me to his party if I'm wearing a rainbow pin, but what do I care? If some guy only wants to talk to me because he thinks he has a chance of sleeping with me, I'm perfectly happy not to have to deal with him. Anyone who avoids talking to lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people isn't boyfriend material anyway. But the saddest part of this question, which I hear at least once a week, is that it usually indicates an unwillingness to support LGBT issues. Though a lot of people will say that they dislike discrimination, there is still a tangible fear of actively supporting the LGBT community in anyway that might be ambiguous. It can just be too uncomfortable. For example, this Friday, B-GLAD will hold their annual campus-wide Gay Jeans Day. The idea behind the event is that people should wear jeans in support of the LGBT community. It's an easy way for people of all sexual orientations to show that they support equal civil rights, but, again, there is no visible divider provided to separate the straight students from the LGBT ones. Unfortunately, even those who claim to support equality often demonstrate a negative attitude toward Gay Jeans Day. Some are straightforward and complain that wearing jeans that day "makes them look gay," while others claim that the principle behind the event is upsetting. Take, for example, a 1994 letter to the editor of The Daily Pennsylvanian that declares gay jeans day is, "a pathetic and manipulative tactic to obtain support." Like the author of this letter, many people on our campus interpret the event as trying to "prey on ignorance to falsely project support." Since the event encompasses something that many students do on a regular basis, it is seen as trickery. The common presence of jeans, however, is one of the most important aspects of Gay Jeans Day. Because many students will wear this piece of clothing without thinking about it, they are often surprised when they receive a flyer thanking them for their support. And whether the reaction to this flyer is positive or negative, it still reaches its goal of making people think. One of the largest flaws of our heterosexist society is that straight people are able to go through their lives without ever having to think about the prejudice that LGBT people regularly face. The point of Gay Jeans Day is to help combat that trend. The conversation stimulated by the event may be negative, but it still makes people think about issues that they often disregard. Jeans Day is not a ploy to show the campus or the surrounding area an inflated amount of support for LGBT issues. Nor is it a plot to make people think specific students have any particular sexual orientation. It simply exists to raise awareness and stimulate conversation. What critics need to understand is that equal rights are not obtained by cowering in the corner or by "preaching to the choir." The common complaint that LGBT people are too outspoken is simply a command to keep these civil rights concerns hidden. By hedging into the mainstream culture, these issues become bothersome to the majority. I, personally, will be decked out in my denim pants this Friday because Gay Jeans Day combats exactly this mind-set. In order to change the cultural oppression that exists in this country, it is important to get individuals to correct their misconceptions, such as the idea that being a lesbian is somehow more embarrassing than being a straight woman. And by having the goal of getting people to talk and reconsider their ideas, students can't be afraid of breaking outside comfort zones, or creating a little controversy.Comments powered by Disqus
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