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Not okay to say "not gay"

EVEN WITH sunglasses, I still barely could see. My eyes throbbed as I squinted, translucent pearls formed on my forehead, my shirt stuck to me like overcooked pancakes to an ungreased frying pan. Five minutes into the game and twice defeated, twice forced to kick off, 14 points the deficit. Unbearable.

But in a brilliant flash of angry action, all was resolved; all was redeemed. 14-6. Point After. 14-7. Voices merged, uncontrollable pride burst forth. Wahoowa, Wahoowa...

Moments like this define us as a community. When we join arms and sing the Good Ol' Song, we make a very compelling statement about who we are as a community. In a sense, the spirit of the University is encapsulated in this act. Therefore, it is very distressing that some individuals choose to use this moment to offend and marginalize members of their own community.

I'm referring to the shouting of "NOT GAY!" following the line, "where all is bright and gay" in the second verse of the song. This senseless statement - apparently misunderstood as being humorous - not only alienates homosexual members of our community, but also terribly misrepresents the values of equality and understanding which, I hope, we all hold here.

Homosexuals oftentimes are objects of ridicule, both publicly and privately. I'm sure we've all probably said, at one time or another, that something that was stupid or pointless was "gay." I'm also sure that we've all made fun of gay lifestyles or the "gay voice." But I also would hope that, by this point in our lives, we've outgrown this middle-school behavior.

Regardless of your personal and moral feelings about homosexuality as a lifestyle, homosexuals still are members of our community and are entitled to the same rights and respect as anyone else. Discrimination against homosexuals is no different than discrimination against people based on race, gender or ethnicity; prejudice is prejudice. Outwardly proclaiming that the University is "NOT GAY," that homosexuals are not welcome here, is no different than "we're all white and that's all right" cheers of the past.

With as much discussion about affirmative action and diversity around Grounds, very little attention is being paid this year to the concerns of homosexuals. The community would be up in arms if a similar "NOT BLACK" or "NOT FEMALE" cheer arose, but for some reason we all just snicker and quickly forget about being "NOT GAY."

From another perspective, if homosexuals were excluded from academia, or were not allowed to express themselves openly, we would have lost the insight of some of the world's finest thinkers. Walt Whitman was gay; so was Arthur Rimbaud. So were many of the ancient Greek philosophers.

It is in our best interests as a university to provide an atmosphere in which everyone feels welcome and is encouraged to express him or herself openly and honestly. Furthermore, this openness should not be solely limited to the classroom, but, in the interest of mutual growth, learning and appreciation should be extended into every facet of life.

I believe that this university should stand for enlightened care and concern for all people. Indeed, a society based on principles of honor, duty and knowledge will crumble unless everyone is treated fairly and respectfully. I find it very sad that in some other spectators' minds we, through this one act, might come across as uncaring, ignorant buffoons.

While we may not truly be prejudiced in our hearts, our words and actions are the way that other people perceive us. If we act like children, how can we then expect people to treat us in any other way?

Much must be done to bring homosexuals into the fold. The way that we think about others must be re-appraised, and, in a very real way, hearts and minds must be changed for any significant progress to occur. But here's a good place to start.

Next time we join together to shout and roar, let's be conscious of our words. If we were to remove the "NOT GAY" from the song, would its impact be reduced? I don't think so. Would the emotion of the moment be quashed because of a simple two-line phrase? I know it wouldn't. What would happen, however, is that we would be one step closer to our goal of an enlightened community. Ray, Ray, U.Va.

(Rob Walker is a first-year College student.)


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