In honor of Gaypril—a month dedicated to celebrating LGBT awareness—co-chair of the Harvard Queer Students and Allies Marco Chan ’11 stood outside the science center in high heels and a dress, the flowing tendrils of an ebony wig cascading down his back. When he walked into class after tabling, his professor had difficulty tearing his eyes from the young man in women’s clothes, and ended up returning to the topic of drag throughout that day’s class.
“That’s the beauty of having the month of Gaypril,” said Chan. “It’s about getting people talking and having fun at the same time.”
As many college campuses dedicate the month of April to celebrating LGBT pride, QSA has collaborated with LGBT groups at the Harvard graduate schools to dedicate a month to raising visibility for the queer community.
“Gaypril being a queer history month of sorts is really important to highlight the history of a group of people who are often neglected in the textbooks,” said Timothy P. McCarthy ’93, a Harvard Kennedy School Lecturer who helped organize some of the month’s events. He added that Gaypril will allow people inside and outside the LGBT community to examine issues that are often inadequately addressed.
“Opportunities like this serve a crucial function by situating our community in a broader historical and cultural landscape,” he said.
Erika J. Rickard, co-president of Harvard Law School’s LGBT group HLS Lambda, also touched on the importance of raising the profile of a group that has been historically silenced.
In the ’60s and ’70s, “people with an outsider status were angry about not being included and they were seeking not just inclusion, but visibility,” Rickard said.
She added that the next step is to bring LGBT issues more prominently into the public eye.
Chan said that Gaypril’s programming emphasizes creating connections between the LGBT community and other groups.
“We’re hoping to build awareness around all the very diverse issues of the queer community by offering the biggest plate of queer-related programming and information that is possible,” he said.
With the goal of highlighting the intersection of queer and other minority issues, QSA and LGBT groups in Harvard graduate schools have worked together to organize events that range from social to political to playful.
Scheduled events include a movie screening about Native American perspectives on LGBT issues, a conference on human rights and gay rights organized by McCarthy, and a panel on LGBT family planning. Others will focus on the fight for political rights, particularly the Day of Silence demonstration later this month, in which members of the queer community will wear duct tape across their mouths to call attention to discrimination and harassment against LGBT people.
“There are still hate crimes, gay people discharged from the military, and conservatives against same-sex marriage and gender equality,” said QSA political co-chair Emma Q. Wang ’12. The first step on the road to acceptance, she said, is creating awareness.
“By doing away with ignorance and seriously contemplating LGBT issues we’re ultimately building unity, for social purposes as well as political,” Wang said.
The social side of Gaypril is also an integral area of programming, and many students especially anticipate Drag Night.
“It’s fun!” said Chan. “The tone of the evening is a fun way to put different ideas of gender and performance into question, and to have the experience of dressing up and participating instead of just going to a lecture or a video or taking notes.”
McCarthy said that in addition to serving the social side of the LGBT community, the month must address the ongoing role of LGBT advocacy.
“Our community is still in the process of constructing our historical narrative, and I don’t think it’s ever going to be something that’s finished,” said McCarthy.
—Staff writer Alice E.M. Underwood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.