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You know you've made it big as a community when you've got your own month.
Blacks have February, women have March, and queers have Gaypril. I can guarantee that you saw members of the gay community—that is, mainly the gay male community and only a couple of queer women—out and about celebrating gay pride by means of a day of silence to raise awareness about the prevalence of homophobia, holding seminars deeper exploring sexuality, and/or having parties with rainbow shots.
But, where, might you ask, were all the ladies? That is what I would love to know.
This is a question that is consistently asked by a lot of different folk who live on, work at, and visit campus. I have been out as a lesbian all my four years (if you didn't know, now you do), and I am the current co-chair of Girlspot, Harvard's organization for queer women and allies. When meeting up with newborn dykes to help guide them and welcome them into the community, the conversation always leads to the question “are there even lesbians at Harvard?”
If you also find yourself wondering this, I will tell you: spread out. There are the rugby lesbians (but not all rugby players are lesbians), the political activist lesbians, the not-associated-with-anything-but-whatever lesbians, lesbians that only hang out with lesbians off campus, hipster lesbians (but not all hipsters are lesbians), lesbians that claim labels don't exist (and probably hate this list of labels), and lone wolf lesbians that fly solo. At the beginning of this year, I employed my creeping skills and compiled an email list of just 45 women on campus whom I knew were queer. Compared to the U.S. average of 3.5 percent, out of the 6,400 undergrads, I would assume that only one percent of the population plays for my team. Keeping all this in mind, if we are spread out among the other 99 percent of the Harvard population, we are practically invisible.
Fortunately, I am 22 and am able to go out to nightclubs on the weekends to dance in a sea of women—glorious! It is very difficult and upsetting to go from a scene that is filled with everything I could ever desire to a scene filled with sweaty dudes hitting on anything that has tits and an ass and breathes. The options end up being: room parties, final clubs, or a movie in the dorm—in any case, trapped in the heteronormative (and, from that structure, homonormative) walls of Harvard that seem unapproachable and unfriendly from the outside.
My main objective with the random acts of gayness is to educate. Basing most of my strategy on the methodology used in “Pay it Forward,” I hope that the ladies across campus will start to share our knowledge. Examples of things you can do: Clarify what actually is lesbian sex (scissoring was so South Park); swap pick up lines with a straight dude; always be a gentlewoman and walk a girl to class, hold doors for her, treat her like a princess (gender norms were made to be reappropriated anyway); befriend a straight chick and teach her how she should respect her body; teach the males how to cherish her body; finally, just lez out in public at any opportunity. Straight people do it all the time.
There is always the choice to leave things the way they are—stay practically invisible. And I understand that sometimes, we remain this way because it seems easier to hide from alienation or discrimination, though I often wonder how remaining hidden probably perpetuates our own marginalization. If we continue to be unable to find each other, we will be missing out on a great opportunity. You could claim that it is a bit of “normalcy” that I am seeking within the queer women's community here at Harvard.
Realizing that life after Harvard can be a social scene in which one need hardly ever associate with straights again (i.e., move to New York or San Francisco or London, etc. to live within the respective communities in those places), by valuing the relationships and power of our Harvard network while still at Harvard, we bring real world realness to a life of being gay. Gays count on gays.
There is also, of course, the idea of social contact theory at work here: People are less likely to discriminate and stereotype different groups of people when they have personally interacted with them on an equal level. If we queer women of Harvard decide we want to enhance the awareness and social contact with other groups, I anticipate that our visibility and unity as a group on campus will strengthen and will be a positive asset for the queer community at-large. This will for sure be a hard task. Yet, if all else fails, we will have at least made Harvard that much gayer and will have helped perpetuate the gay agenda, which totally exists.
Elizabeth C Elrod ’11 is a government concentrator in Eliot House. She is the current co-chair of Girlspot, Harvard’s organization for queer women and allies.
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