Half a century ago, gay men and women looking to be discreet used to identify as “friends of Dorothy.” Today,
Half a century ago, gay men and women looking to be discreet used to identify as “friends of Dorothy.” Today, at Harvard, queer students have another name for it: friends of Barusch.
The new Judy Garland is, apparently, Margaret C.D. Barusch ’06—only this one is a little less red-headed and a lot less campy. She also has more political credentials, having chaired the Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Transgender, and Supporters Alliance (BGLTSA) for the last two years. Like Garland, though, she is a heterosexual pillar for a BGLT community.
“I’ve actually asked people if they knew Barusch as a way of finding out if they were queer,” says Rachel Popkin ’08. “It’s like magic.”
Though the senior—who introduces herself as Barusch, not Margaret—has made the gay community at Harvard her home, she is straight.
“I joined BGLTSA because I at the time saw gay issues as something that my generation needed to take a stance on,” Barusch says. “I felt that as someone who benefited from heterosexual privilege, it was my responsibility to take a strong stance.”
She also may have been drawn to the group for personal reasons. Barusch, who wore a white dress shirt and tie to FM’s semi-formal dinner event this weekend, identifies herself as neither male nor female. “She knows who she is and doesn’t feel the need to tell other people,” says Ayodola A. Adigun ’06, Barusch’s roommate for three years. “Margaret believes it’s no one else’s concern what gender she is.”
Barusch’s passion for gender issues led her to a switch concentrations, from Mathematics to Women, Gender, and Sexuality (WGS). “She’s probably the only WGS concentrator who used Math 55 to fulfill the QR requirement,” says Jana Lepon ’06.
As BGLTSA head, according to friends, Barusch thrived. “I’ve never met anyone who was so effective at negotiating with administrators, helping students of every kind, making friends with just about everybody and having a blast the entire time,” says Rachel Culley ’07.
Her official tenure as a leader in the BGLT community over, Barusch’s influence among Harvard students has survived. Claiming they “not-so-secretly want to be/marry Barusch when they grow up,” 66 students have joined the Facebook group “Acolytes of Barusch.”
“We’ve decided that everyone, regardless of gender or sexuality, is attracted to Barusch,” Lepon explains. “Like, you could take a random pool of aliens and people and determine who the humans are by using attraction to Barusch as a sort of litmus test.”