The Harvard community’s various email lists were briefly set alight this past weekend with news that an undergraduate was kicked out of Market in the Square, a popular late night convenience store, for kissing his boyfriend in the store during the early hours of Sunday morning. The employee responsible reportedly told the couple: “We don’t want that shit in here.” After the student, Aaron C. Fallon ’11, circulated this news—first over the Queer Students and Allies list and then over many others after readers forwarded the message elsewhere—students across campus reacted with indignation.
Fortunately, the incident appears to have been resolved as well as it could have been. On Monday, April 4, Fallon met with Ahmed Eino, the manager of Market in the Square, to voice his complaints. After viewing the footage of the incident together, Eino spoke with the employee who was alleged to have expelled Fallon and his boyfriend. He rejected the man’s claim that Fallon had been trying to shoplift, and decided to fire him at the end of the week. In an interview with The Crimson later, Eino explained that the employee’s behavior was “unacceptable.” Luckily, this act of flagrant discrimination and homophobia was called out and justice served.
Looking at the recent histories of both Harvard and the United States, it seems unavoidable to conclude that our community remains beset by a palpable degree of intolerance surrounding LGBTQ issues. In fact, one of the greatest ironies that characterizes life at the country’s most established universities is the amount of homophobia that still exists on college campuses and the anxiety that it inevitably inspires. How can we forget, for instance, the case of Tyler Clementi, a Rutgers freshman and victim of homophobic bullying, who committed suicide just this past fall?
With this in mind, and considering how many similar instances end unresolved or in tragedy, the undergraduate community’s championing of Aaron Fallon’s cause has been heartwarming. Too often, homophobic incidents go unreported or receive a lack of attention from the broader community. After the incident involving Lamont Library’s LGBT book collection and urine, QSA Co-Chair Emma Q. Wang ’12 told The Crimson that more must be done to ensure such events are “comprehensively reported and commented on.” Clearly, Fallon has earned our praise for making his story known to the Harvard public and for actively seeking redress for what happened to him.
A large community stands best placed to offer support in such cases when someone makes a strong effort to initiate dialogue. Wang herself said afterward that she was “proud that Aaron spoke up and…impressed to see the response.” So are we. In the same vein, though, we should recognize the response of hundreds of Harvard students, both within QSA and across the campus, who read Fallon’s email and expressed their support. We should all offer our future support in demanding responses and clear explanations for incidents of discriminatory behavior.
After many homophobic incidents both at Harvard and other universities, and after a period of distinct tension regarding the return of ROTC to campus, it is a very positive development that our community has taken such a firm and clear stance on this event. We hope that this response signals the dawn of a more vocal and active age on campus in which students engage in debate but join in unison to voice a firm intolerance for intolerance itself. Clearly, homophobia continues to present a serious challenge across the country—especially, it seems, for many people at school. One’s employee’s decision to expel a same-sex couple for kissing from his store shows that isolated incidents of homophobia—like other forms of discrimination—are hard to stamp out. But by working hard to create a climate in which all members of the Cambridge community are moved to express support for LGBTQ rights, we can reduce the frequency and impact of such shameful and embarrassing events.
All members of our community should feel comfortable, respected, and at home at Harvard: If this is to be the case, we must make sure to respond with the same solidarity and collective rejection of homophobia in the future that we have seen with this incident at Market in the Square.
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