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A Splintering Community

The BGLTSA Must Stand Behind Its Single Common Goal

By David A. Campbell

It began last fall when the "daughter organizations" of the Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, and Transgendered Students Alliance (BGLTSA) applied for autonomy through the Dean of Students Office. It culminated in my impeachment from the executive board last week. The BGLTSA is splintering. The queer community is simply too diverse to operate effectively as one political organization.

Given the incredible diversity in BGLTSA membership, one must ask: What do all members of BGLTSA have in common? For, ultimately, it must be this connection, this shared perspective, that will unite the queer community.

Once BGLTSA leadership dedicates itself to focusing on what all BGLTSA members have in common, and agrees not to focus on anything else, the organization may have a chance at survival. Under the current leadership, however, BGLTSA members are left with little choice but to leave and join the "daughter groups" which are smaller, more homogenous and better serve the interest of their members.

The answer to the central question is surprisingly simple: BGLTSA members share one trait--a relationship to homoerotic desire. I believe they share little more.

We join BGLTSA because we desire same-sex sexual interaction. The goal of the organization, then, is to legitimize homoerotic desire in the context of mainstream American society.

When BGLTSA leaders attempt to achieve other political goals, they do their members a great disservice. Those who identify themselves as queer represent all socio-economic backgrounds, all races, religions and political beliefs.

For the BGLTSA to endorse political movements that are not directly related to legitimizing same-sex sexual interaction is dishonest. Last semester, during my tenure on the BGLTSA executive board, Co-Chair Andre Sulmers and other board members decided that BGLTSA should join RAZA in the anti-grape movement. Sulmers's reasoning was logical enough. He believed that BGLTSA was a "minority" group and that, as such, it had an interest in advancing the causes of other minority groups. Logical as his reasons may have been, they were ill-conceived. Students do not become involved in BGLTSA because they support the efforts of RAZA; members can join RAZA directly if they wish to do so. BGLTSA has absolutely no role in political issues that do not involve homoerotic sexuality.

I know, for instance, that many of our members in fact wanted grapes and were opposed to the platform of RAZA. On what authority does Sulmers and the executive board use the BGLTSA moniker to advance political causes not endorsed by the membership? We are too diverse to be taking political stances; BGLTSA leaders need to recognize that.

Sulmers once asked me for whom we were trying to legitimize homoerotic desire. He was referring to his belief that America is a very different place for a gay white male, for example, than for a gay black male. This is a belief which I share with him. But my answer was certain: our goal is to legitimize homoerotic desire in society. That is a goal which, if achieved, benefits everyone.

I will not deny that things may still be very different for black gay males than for white gay males. But the source of this different existence is racism not homophobia. We must, as a society, attack racism as racism and not allow ourselves to confuse our battles. BGLTSA exists to attack homophobia and heterosexism, not to attack racism.

BGLTSA leaders who attempt to expand the scope of the concerns of BGLTSA beyond legitimizing homoerotic desire cause the membership to become disenchanted with the entire organization.

Spectrum, one of the "daughter organizations," however, was created to explore the dynamic of racial and sexual minority status. The membership of Spectrum share more with each other than simply a relationship to same-sex sexuality; they also share a relationship to issues concerning race. Individuals join Spectrum specifically to address these concerns.

BGLTSA must splinter into these smaller, more homogenous groups when addressing issues beyond legitimizing homoerotic desire.

I see a diminished role for BGLTSA in the future. The organization is splintering and nothing can stop that process--those with common interests will unite in Girlspot, Cocktails, Spectrum, Bagels and other issue-oriented queer groups. BGLTSA will survive only if it can assure its members that its only goal is to serve the entire queer community as a united entity. It can do this if and only if it focuses on what unites that community.

David A. Campbell '00 is a government concentrator in Eliot House.

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