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ISSUE 117 VOL 17 PUBLISHED 4/30/2004

Gay pride week still provocative

By Emmy Kegler
Contributing Writer

Friday, April 30, 2004

Gay Pride Week is always an anxious and controversial time. St. Olaf College did not even permit the formation of a GLBT group until 1986, when OLGA  Olaf Lesbian and Gay Association  was established. Although visibility of GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bi-sexual, Transgender) people has definitely changed since the 80s, there is still a great deal of controversy and debate surrounding gay pride. The anxiety between the seemingly irreconcilable poles of Christianity and homosexuality has been a divider for decades.

The College has definitely made an effort to foster discussion in the difficult debates over how Christianity deals with homosexuality. Last years conference on Sexuality, Spirituality and the Church dealt with the ordination of gays and lesbians in the ELCA, as well as the blessing of same-sex relationships.

One could assume that the College has received some backlash from those who do not wish these discussions to take place, or GLBT groups and activities to be allowed on campus. In spite of this pressure President Thomforde, Pastor Benson and many others have worked hard to make St. Olaf a welcoming and open campus. Many have taken advantage of the progress made, and as a result, many colorful celebrations have taken place.

Gay Pride Week was particularly busy this year. The weeks activities began on Monday, with a chapel talk by the Rev. Jane McBride 97 and Rev. Jennifer Nagel, who serve in ministry at United Church of Christ (McBride) and Salem English Lutheran Church (Nagel) in the Twin Cities.

The two women, who have been committed life partners since May 2000, addressed their own calls to ministry as well as the ELCAs current stance on the ordination of homosexuals. McBride and Nagel expressed their beliefs that their sexuality is not an impediment to their ministry, a thing to be cast aside, but rather a light like a lamp, which should not be hidden under a bushel basket or a bed (Mark 4:21-23; Luke 8:16-17).

Pride Week continued on Tuesday with a presentation of Ang Lees film Wedding Banquet by the diversity honor house. The movie addresses a Taiwanese-American gay mans struggle with his parents pressure to marry and the complications that result from their appearance at his wedding.

Wednesday was an especially active day, beginning at 8 a.m. with an observance of the National Day of Silence. The National Day of Silence has been a coordinated effort in high schools and colleges since 1997. It is a movement to protest the silence facing GLBT people and their allies who face harassment, prejudice, and discrimination.

Over 40 students on campus participated in the nine-hour vow of silence. Kathleen Kephart 07 said, It was really hard, because you wanted to contribute in class and couldnt. But I think thats a good representation, because there are people who want to contribute in society and feel that they cant.

Also on Wednesday was the evening panel on Being Gay at St. Olaf. The panel consisted of students, faculty and staff who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and straight. At the suggestion of gay and lesbian faculty, as well as staff, the panel discussed the history of homosexuality at Olaf, as well as personal experiences with sexuality.

Of course, all week there was tabling outside the cafeteria or the Cage, where volunteers sold buttons and handed out rainbow ribbons. The ribbons, which ended up on wrists, backpacks, and ponytails, were meant to show solidarity with the GLBT community and their allies.

The buttons and bumper stickers raised money for GLOW! (Gay, Lesbian, or Whatever!) on campus, and included Straight, but not Narrow, If you give civil rights to gays and lesbians, everyone will want them, and If youre not outraged, youre not paying attention.

The coordinators of Gay Pride Week tried to maintain a lighthearted and proud tone throughout the activities. Even so, some Oles may have felt uncomfortable with the idea of gay pride.

Many students, staff and faculty feel the pressure of being gay on a Lutheran campus. The campus isnt so homo-hostile as it is homo-hesitant, quipped one member of Wednesdays panel. Many potential GLBT allies are worried about how to be supportive to the gay community, especially in issues of terminology or unanswered questions.

Still others are unsure of how homosexuality can go along with some Bible teachings. But members of GLOW and Wednesdays panel highly encourage questions to be asked, and for allies to make their opinions heard.

Until then, it looks like Norwegian sweaters arent the only things in closets on the St. Olaf campus. Come out; come out, wherever you are...

Staff writer Emmy Kegler is a first year from Maplewood, Minn. She majors in religion.

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