All is bright and gay

Students band together to abolish the 'not gay' chant

Cheers and festivities rang out last Wednesday evening, when more than 10 inches of snow gave students and staff an unexpected four-day weekend.

However, when a celebratory rendition of the “Good Ol’ Song” on the Lawn included the “not gay” cheer — a long-standing habit repeatedly criticized by students, faculty and alumni — it left behind a dark footprint on the freshly-fallen snow for fourth-year College student Abe Wapner.

“I really wasn’t expecting [the words ‘not gay’],” Wapner said. “You don’t hear them that much, especially when you’re like me and don’t go to football games. It caught me by surprise. I live on the Lawn and I know the people that were up on the stairs [of the Rotunda]. It’s not what I would expect [from them.]”

Wapner, who is co-vice president of the Queer Student Union, used the event to renew the conversation about ending the “not gay” cheer — calling upon students to come to the Rotunda steps and join in a proper version of the song.

Wapner met with Associate Dean of Students Francis Laushway to formulate a possible response. The timing was opportune — the snow had caused the annual Love is Love campaign, run by the LQBTQ center every Valentine’s Day, to be pushed back a week.

“We’re all going to be wearing our shirts and showing our support anyway,” Wapner said. “Why don’t we sing the Good Old Song the right way to show everyone how it’s done and how you should sing it?”

The event brought together more than a hundred members of the University community last Friday.

Laura Widener, third-year College student and intern at the LGBTQ Resource Center, attended the event.

“I feel like that [hearing the ‘not gay’ chant] just made us have so much more gusto and so much more [desire] to be here and to really show our pride,” Widener said. “I’m really proud I go [to U.Va.]”

Wapner said he feels progress is being made around Grounds in LGBTQ advocacy efforts, but there is still work to be done. At a recent queer student leader conference, he said, the University sent three delegates and Yale sent 60. But acceptance of LGBTQ communities on Grounds is higher than in years past.

“[During] my second-year a kid got beat up for being gay right by Brooks Hall, right by the Corner,” Wapner said. “Things like that don’t happen anymore.”

Attitude changes have extended to the Greek system as well, Wapner added.

“This year, several of my friends from the Queer Student Union and other gay groups have [undergone formal recruitment as openly LGBTQ] and several of my friends that are in fraternities have come out,” Wapner said. “I think it’s that action that has really changed the culture around here.”

Wapner said ignorance is still the strongest force that breeds homophobia, on Grounds and beyond.

“I don’t think most of the people who shouted it are honestly homophobic and intending to hurt someone when they shouted it,” Wapner explained. “What I’m really hoping from this event is that we can change this expectation so there is no need for hate in the ‘Good Ol’ Song.’”

Published February 23, 2014 in Life

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