I intended to write this article to thank everyone who listened to all our stories during “In Your Company.” For the past two years since I’ve been a part of such a wonderful group, I’ve met more people than I dreamt possible. People filled with kindness, giving messages of hope and assurance. Being queer at Colgate is not easy. In fact, sometimes it is a very far cry from it. Being queer, standing on stage in front of collectively over 1,500 plus students, faculty and staff, talking about being queer is even harder.
Whatever my intent, I ended up thinking about how here at Colgate, we tend to feel empowered about something, but then let that passion cool down, covering it with worries about papers, schedules, group activities … sleep. The first year I participated in “In Your Company,” the response that the rest of my peers and I received was astounding. My confidence was renewed in that it felt like this was the year something was going to get done. This was the year the people would see how important queer issues were – not only for their sake, but for the overall well-being of the campus. I had always thought that if only people could put a face to a cause, then they would feel more responsibility to act. And as the year continued, I was repeatedly proven wrong. Yes, it was quite naïve to think that one speech, less than fifteen minutes long, during one night could battle underlying (and blatant) gender, sexual and even racial discrimination that had warped minds into thinking for years. Maybe it was also naïve of me to think that the people I spoke in front of would not continue repeating the same offenses. But it was not naïve of me to think that some kind of change would occur, and I wasn’t ashamed to feel wounded when it didn’t. I say all this not to put down last year’s incoming class (they’re great!). I say this instead to shed some kind of fluorescent light on the dying art of lighting passion within each other, and to highlight the inability by too many to see the interconnectedness of the population and the great apathy that leaves people powerless and immobile. This year, I stood on stage with a renewed determination to reach out to people and to speak in a way that would leave some kind of impact. Not from my own story, but from the demand for empathy, kindness and a drive to do better. I stood on stage and saw a sea of minds, a sea of people with history, people with a future. I saw leaders in a community that was itching for change.
This year is the last year for the Class of 2012. We have seen some things in our time here at Colgate: homophobic and racist graffiti, racist slurs and violence at Slices, racist statements yelled out of buildings to passersby, the departures of some of the university’s greatest activists and, of course, many failures of the university, too. While we have seen some things we wished we hadn’t, and missed some things we wish we had, there has never been a better time than to today to take action. I write this article as a challenge. I challenge you all to speak up against injustice, to understand how we are interconnected and to see how homophobia and gender discrimination run rampant on this campus and, sadly, within our minds and classrooms. I challenge you to understand how one hurtful thing said to your peers is one hurtful thing said to the community, and, in effect to you. Challenge yourselves to fight discrimination and bias, to see the goodness in acceptance – not tolerance. I challenge you to critique this university, to take it back for yourselves and make it reflect the world you want to live in. Demand, not ask, to be heard. Demand respect, demand community.
To write an article for a section labeled Queer Corner says a lot about what state Colgate is in. Queerness of all kinds should be reflected within the entire paper, not restricted to a small square. Queerness should not just be reflected in one speech, on one night – it should be reflected in every space of every room of every building at Colgate. It should be everywhere because queer people, queer thought, queer customs and heck, queer movements, are everywhere! The fight for queer rights should be infectious – amplified, spoken, discussed and fought to be incorporated! The fight should be screamed from Frank windows, hung in the art gallery, seen waving in miniature flags around the quad and spoken about in residence halls. It should be made visible with fervor unmatched. And this, my good friends, is where you come in. Where we all come in.
Contact Caden Polk at [email protected]