Queer event spurs dispute among gays
By Anton Vidgen
JERRY COULDN’T HANDLE THE “MAN HANDS.” Two guys hold
hands in the University Community Centre atrium yesterday, but they weren’t
part of any organized event (except for posing for this picture).
Recent controversy within Western's gay community has forced a queer campus organization to indefinitely postpone an event that was to take place yesterday.
As part of a broader goal of raising awareness, Queer Western Organization planned for queer couples to publicly display their affection for each other by holding hands, hugging, kissing or any other form of expression they felt comfortable with, said QWO President Catherine Clune-Taylor.
The event, called a Public Display of Affection, was to take place yesterday in the University Community Centre. PDAs as a political statement have been used many times throughout queer history and they have been successful on campuses such as the University of Toronto, Clune-Taylor said.
"We felt that this event would bring attention to the fact that many homosexual couples on campus are not comfortable engaging in any kind of public displays of affection with their partners on campus," Clune-Taylor said. "We felt that this was a positive step towards raising awareness of the inherent heterosexism pervasive in society."
But members of the gay community expressed outrage at the event and took to QWO's online message board over the past weekend to make their concerns heard.
"We DO NOT need to force our sexuality on others, and if we want tolerance then we can't do things like this," wrote an anonymous poster.
"The gay community already has enough trouble trying to fit in and function normally with the rest of society," wrote someone identifying themselves as AnonPoster2. "This will not cause the Western community to open their arms and accept us. Rather, it will cause hatred and repression."
"When did the UCC atrium turn into a bath house?" asked a post by someone named Ian. "As a homosexual, I am thoroughly disgusted at the idea of this PDA event."
However, according to Clune-Taylor, some of the posts were linked to one computer even though they were attributed to different names. She said it was possible that one person was making multiple posts under different pseudonyms. "We worry that certain members are attempting to inflate the severity of the situation," she said.
"While I would support [the event], I would express my concerns to the organizers," said Adrienne Kennedy, VP-campus issues of the University Students' Council, adding some students might be concerned with any sort of public display of affection regardless of the sexuality involved. She said her concern is with the intimacy of the event, not the type of relationships represented.
Andrew Kicks, a peer facilitator for queer students working at the Student Development Centre, said it was unfortunate this had to be an event and not a natural occurrence. "It definitely brings the issue to the table and gets people talking about it," he said. "If no one discussed this issue, that would make me more concerned than people being upset with it."
A QWO general meeting has been scheduled for tomorrow at 8 p.m. in the UCC Council Chambers to debate the issue, Clune-Taylor said. Everyone will be allowed to speak but only members will be able to vote on a course of action, she added.