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Panelists discuss LGBTQ movement

News Editor

Published: Monday, February 11, 2013

Updated: Monday, February 11, 2013 21:02


Xiaoyu Yang

Prof. Thomas King speaks as two other panelists look on.

More than 50 undergraduates, graduate students and professors gathered in the Usdan Student Center Alumni Lounge on Thursday to participate in a panel discussion called “Progress and Future of the LGBT Movement: Brandeis and Beyond,” which featured discussion about the current status of a range of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer issues. The event, which was part of the second-annual ’Deis Impact, was sponsored by a new University club called Queer Policy Alliance. The panelists were Prof. Thomas King (ENG), Prof. Bernadette Brooten (NEJS), Triskelion General Coordinator Dillon Harvey ’14 and Queer Resource Center Co-Coordinator Sarah Hileman ’15.

In the structured opening segment of the discussion, QPA Co-President Joe Babeu ’15, who served as the panel’s moderator, asked pre-determined questions for the panelists to discuss.

The discussion began with a question about persecution of LGBTQ people in the Holocaust, and the panelists spoke about why the Holocaust is not as much of a part of LGBTQ history as it is a part of Jewish history.

Brooten answered first, sharing her knowledge that there were gay men persecuted in the Holocaust, and that there is still an ongoing quest for reparations for these victims.

King added that learning about history is not considered a vital part of being in the LGBTQ community.

“Most other minoritized communities try to have access to history,” he said. “I don’t think queer communities have done such a good job with that.”

They next discussed whether the recruitment of LGBTQ individuals by universities and businesses is “deserved, needed, or … morally correct.”

Harvey’s answer highlighted the discussion. He said that though the practice reminded him of affirmative action, which he was unsure about, he could see the benefit of it.

“I think diversity is a great thing, and I think pluralism’s great, and increasing the variety of people on a campus is incredibly important … and I’d rather have diversity come through rather than not let it be there,” he said.

Later in the discussion, Babeu asked a question about marginalization and divides within the LGBTQ movement.

In hir answer, Hileman said that many members of the community fear that diversifying the movement and remaining open to a more diverse group of people could cause problems.

“A lot of people think that it’s easier if there are not more things to deal with,” ze said. But this viewpoint, ze stated, represents “a rhetoric of exclusion from a community that’s fighting for inclusion.”

“We can’t truly or fully understand the movement and fight for everyone if we don’t have this diversity of people, identities and experiences,” ze added. “Because you don’t know who you’re leaving behind and you don’t know what you need to fight for.”

Later in the event, the discussion inevitably moved to the hot button topic of gay marriage.

“Do you think it makes more sense to include LGBTQ people in the current approach to marriage, or instead end the practice of couples needing to ask the government for permission to permanently tie themselves together financially?” asked Babeu.

The panelists discussed the nuances of marriage, and the one of the few things that they agreed on is that there are no simple answers. “Marriage is the symbol that says we are fully human in our society, and therefore fully a citizen” said King. “That, to me, is the big problem that we have to be attacking. Why is it that marriage represents full humanity in American society the way it does, and how can we take the power away from that symbol?”

King continued to say that, as a married man, he does not want to be included under the symbol or considered “more human” than others.

The second segment of the event consisted of questions from the audience, the topics of which ranged from anti-gay sentiment in Africa to the role of allies to the LGBTQ movement.

In response to the second question, Brooten spoke about what she sees as a “butterfly effect” of sorts, saying that even small, localized movements and changes are extremely important.

“What we can change right here can have an impact,” she said. “One of the focal points that I’m giving my work to now is sexual assault on the Brandeis campus, right here. What effect does that have?”

Babeu said in an interview with the Justice that he thought the panel, which was the first event organized by the QPA, went well.

Other students who attended the event agreed with his assessment.

“I thought it was fabulous,” said Aileen Finnin ’15. “I think it’s a conversation that really needed to happen on the Brandeis campus … and I think you can see by how many people showed up that it’s an important issue for lots of people.”


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