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Monday, Apr 22, 2024

Goldberg Challenges Atwood's Rhetoric on Closet Destruction, Homophobia

Author: [no author name found]

Like most Middlebury students, I too was disappointed by the destruction of the Middlebury Open Queer Alliance (moqa) closet, but I disagree with some of the reaction pieces that have appeared in The Middlebury Campus. Last week, Chris Atwood '03 wrote in [Student Sparks Discussion on Homophobia at Middlebury, Nov. 6] to encourage more campus dialogue on issues related to the vandalism that took place, and while I agree that group discussions are the backbone of our education at Middlebury, some of his points were not entirely realistic.
In his third paragraph, he wrote: "How many of us thought about how it would feel to be a gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or queer (GLBTQ) student at a college that strives for diversity but still houses squeamishness or apathy toward anything gay?"
Let me first ask what he means by "anything gay." Does he mean gay people? He admits that "many people now know an openly gay or lesbian person," and I would like to echo this by saying that the vast majority of Middlebury students respect the way in which their peers choose to live.
If by "anything gay" he means a sexually-explicit parade or a closet in the middle of a field that is painted with sex terms and slurs, then he should understand why a handful of people might be "squeamish." I would like to immediately point out that there are many people who would "squeam" at the sight of a monument decorated with heterosexual terms or a parade featuring scantly-clad heterosexuals.
As far as "apathy" goes, what does he want from the general public? Did he want every student and faculty member to send out a mass e-mail condemning what happened? I received three different e-mails regarding the moqa closet, which was two more than I received when a student was threatened at gunpoint and pistol-whipped last year. Did he want me to walk up to every gay person I know and say "sorry to hear about your closet"? The truth is that the moqa closet was hardly an "apathetic" event on campus; in fact, it was one of the most widely discussed occurrences so far this year, and I can honestly say that I both participated in and overheard many thoughtful discussions regarding sexuality on campus following the incident. I would also like to respond to Atwood's claim that "President McCardell overlooked the real reason the closet was destroyed: It was not heterosexual." Earlier this year, a card-swiper, a dining hall window and an ice cream machine were vandalized. Were those things heterosexual? Unless Atwood knows the closet vandals and is familiar with their intentions, then I think he has no right to speculate on "the real reason that the closet was destroyed."
Many people on campus, if not the majority, think that the "real reason the closet was destroyed" was because some jerks were ridiculously drunk and were not thinking about the consequences of their actions. Atwood also claims that "certain individuals chose to pull apart, tear down and dismantle the closet, not because they merely disagreed, but because they were repulsed, revolted and sickened by the existence of GLBTQ people."
This incredibly strong statement represents many of the problems that I have found in the campus reaction to the closet vandalism. Who's to say that someone was not "repulsed" by the closet because they did not like its location in the middle of the field?
While I agree that it might have been an act of hate, I also realize that there is not enough evidence to make any sort of conclusion. That said, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that Middlebury is an open-minded school in which people of all sexual orientations are respected.

Bryan Goldberg '05


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