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MOQA Colors McCullough Lawn with New Closet

By Middlebury Campus

Author: Charlie Goulding

A new Middlebury Open Queer Alliance (MOQA) raised a new closet last Sunday in hopes that the second annual event will continue to spread awareness of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer (GLBTQ) issues on campus.

The closet launched and will ultimately conclude Coming Out Week – seven days dedicated to promoting and educating the campus about GLBTQ issues. This coming Sunday, MOQA will take down the closet, symbolizing an end to the sexual oppression embodied by the structure.

“I thought [the construction of the closet] went well,” stated MOQA leader Colin Penley ’05. “There were a lot of people there. We had a great turnout.”

MOQA has recently enjoyed a “significant increase” in participation, making the building of the closet an enjoyable event with an abundance of eager helping hands.

The closet differs from last year’s version in the thematic approach to its decoration. Last year, the closet was intentionally covered with hateful, vulgar language, referencing the homophobia directed at the GLBTQ community for generations. This year, the closet, mostly colored in bright rainbow shades, boasts words like “Power,” advocating gay solidarity and pride.

Last year, the MOQA closet was vandalized before MOQA had a chance dismantle the structure. Nobody was held responsible for the act.

Said then-MOQA President Chris Atwood ’03, “Ultimately, not many MOQA members were surprised the closet was destroyed, but we’d hoped that Middlebury had changed enough to allow us the free expression of our opinions without being reminded once again that some in ‘our’ student body do not support their fellow students.”

Others disagreed with this interpretation of the vandalism, arguing that no motivation had been determined, and, moreover, that it was not indicative of a pervasive sense of intolerance to GLBTQ issues on campus.

“Who’s to say that someone was not ‘repulsed’ by the closet because they did not like its location in the middle of the field?” asked Bryan Goldberg ’05 in the Nov. 13, 2002, edition of The Middlebury Campus.

The debate stirred the campus at the time. Regardless, this dialogue increased GLBTQ visibility on campus – a central theme of Coming Out Week in general.

“More and more [allies] have been coming out of the wood-work recently,” said Penley.

Coming Out Week is an extension of Coming Out Day, a nationally recognized event which commemorates the second gay rights march on Washington, D.C., on Oct. 11, 1987.

Middlebury’s first Coming Out Day took place in 1990 and temporarily halted in 1996 when the very first MOQA closet was similarly vandalized. At the time, the College was criticized for its failure to condemn the act, and backlash from this silence is believed to have added urgency to the creation of the Office of the Associate Provost of Institutional Diversity, a post currently held by Roman Graf.

Last year, the College played a vocal role in condemning the act. Via e-mail, the provost, the dean of the faculty, the Student Government Association (SGA), the Staff Council and the Faculty Council all issued statements condemning the vandalism. An e-mail from the Office of the Provost and Dean of the Faculty Robert Schine also weighed in on the issue.

One passage from the e-mail stated, “That act of destruction undermined [the meaning of the closet] and interfered with the right of a campus organization and its individuals to express their views freely – in a way that was both creative and civil. It was an act of violence and disrespect of the kind that cannot be tolerated by this community.”

MOQA has moved on from last year. “It’s a new closet, a new MOQA,” stated MOQA leader Gab Fonseca ’04. “We’re moving on.”

Coming Out Week has moved on, as well, as cookies were served at dinner Monday night outside of Ross dining hall. The pink triangles recall the symbols given to gay Holocaust prisoners by the Nazis. Today, the symbol has been appropriated by gay and lesbian activists in remembrance of gay history.

The cookies were a welcome addition to Monday dinner, with students unanimously agreeing that the cookies were quite tasty.

“These cookies are so good,” exclaimed one Middlebury woman walking with a group of five friends. “Yeah, they’re really cute,” added another.

While most students indulged in the baked goods, some felt uneasy.

“I totally support gay rights,” stated one student, “but I feel as though most of the events are more focused on the ‘in-group’ of MOQA members, rather than building bridges with the rest of the school.”

MOQA’s relationship with the student body at large is continually evolving. In particular, the Tuesday night lecture, “What it Means to Be an Ally,” was an open invitation for all Middlebury students to learn how they can help advocate GLBTQ issues on campus.

By this Sunday, MOQA has every reason to believe the closet will remain standing for its planned, ceremonial destruction. As MOQA continues to build on its successes, the club and its allies are hopeful that the very need for a closet will gradually diminish.

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