We acknowledge the difficulties and frustrations of being politically or socially conservative at St. Olaf. Despite efforts to create an equal playing field for intellectual diversity, many students labeled as conservative have been personally attacked for their views, had their door signs vandalized, and no doubt have felt uncomfortable or marginalized in a classroom,or college-sponsored event just like many GLBT people and their allies.
However, such comparison between the repression of those with conservative political identities and those with GLBT identities becomes offensive and misguided when we consider the extent to which hate crimes and institutionalized discrimination have been and continue to be committed against GLBT people. Coming out as a conservative at St. Olaf, or in the broader community, will certainly not keep anyone from serving in the military, getting married, adopting children, receiving medical benefits for loved ones, or obtaining a job. Rather, conservatives enjoy the privilege of controlling all three branches of our government. Celebrating coming out as a conservative will be necessary when gays and lesbians control the government and conservatives are forced to fight daily for the dignity, safety and civil liberties of themselves and their families.
The purpose of GLBT Coming Out Week is to support, celebrate and remember those who have come out before us. Many GLBT people, such as Brandon Teena and Matthew Shepherd, have been disowned, taunted, tortured, raped or murdered for their courageous acts of coming out. While St. Olafs community tends to have a far more tolerant reaction to coming out, the prevalence of St. Olaf students who remain in the closet speaks to the continued difficulty of the act which this week celebrates. Regardless of whether you affirm GLBT identity, please respect the courage of GLBT people and their allies who courageously choose to openly confront the challenges which they encounter.
Paul Dillon and Megan Remtema GLOW Co-Coordinators