To wind down during the last week of April, a small group of Colby students gathered in the Pugh Center to enjoy a makeshift picnic - soda, hummus, pita wedges and chips. Some identified themselves as queer, others were friends and allies. The low-key affair, relocated indoors due to Saturday afternoon rain, marked the mid-point of Pride Week at Colby. It was a quiet, lazy lunch, which stood in contrast to some earlier Pride Week events that sparked a heated exchange among students and shifted the focus of the campus's ongoing discussion of diversity to gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered (GLBT) issues.

Margaret Cho performing at Colby.

 

Pride events, as celebrated around the world, mark a time when GLBT people come together to celebrate their diversity and to show their numbers. Designed as visibility writ large, celebrations range from tame parades to charged political marches. Though different in style and purpose, Pride events reliably agitate the status quo.

During Pride Week at Colby, 2,000 people packed Wadsworth Gymnasium to see envelope-pushing comedian Margaret Cho. Later the same week, New York-based author/performer and sex columnist Tristan Taormino spoke in the Pugh Center, and while the size of the audience was modest, the talk subject - a sometimes-graphic discussion of gender and sexuality - was less so and the reaction was downright contentious. As the controversy about Taormino's appearance moved through the campus (and eventually got attention off campus as well) the loudest complaints charged that Taormino was a sex worker who advanced pornography and that her presence offered no redeeming contribution to the student body. Event organizers countered that Taormino was a respected queer author and Village Voice columnist who had plenty to share about contemporary culture and sexual trends.

Exchanges that followed on the student e-mail listserv "The Digest" revealed a healthy ideological and intellectual contest among peers‹and then some. According to some, the flap spotlighted a persistent resistance to GLBT visibility and a growing divide.


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© Colby College   Colby Magazine    Summer 2003   mag@colby.edu