Hate Crimes

By Dominic Schuler '11

On Thursday (October 22), Congress approved extending protections from hate crimes based on sexual orientation, gender identity, gender, and disability. Conservatives have opposed what they say is “controversial language” in the hate crimes legislation, which is “unrelated to our national defense”, and Republicans comprised all of the 'no' votes but one.

It bothers me that one of the main lines of opposition to basic protection from violence is based in untruth. Opponents claim that hate crimes legislature for the queer community will not do what previous hate crimes legislature for other groups has, but will instead create a 'special class' of victim, or lead to the silencing of those affiliated with religious institutions which are opposed to homosexuality. Lobbyists apply a malicious intent to laws only intending to protect the basic rights of other human beings.

When I went looking for news about this topic to write this post, I found a problem that I expected less than I expected the bastardization of the intent of the laws passed in Congress this week. Major news sources, including mainstream queer news sources, are reporting more often than not that legislature for sexual orientation and only sexual orientation passed, leaving out gender, gender identity, and disability.

First of all- gender wasn't already included in hate crimes legislature? I don't even have words.

Second- gender identity and disability are often 'silenced' or 'invisible' categories already. In the case of gender identity specifically, it shocks me that we cannot come together as a queer community to celebrate new protections for sexual orientation and gender identity, that we must still compartmentalize into smaller communities and silence one another rather than recognizing our common aims and joining the fight for social justice and equality together.

Events for the Week of October 26

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Vassar students join the National Equality March

By Casey Katims, '10

On October 11th, over a hundred Vassar students trekked from Poughkeepsie to Washington, D.C., to join the National Equality March for LGBTQ civil rights. As one of the presidents of ACT OUT, I can easily say that organizing this exhilarating (and exhausting) 14-hour trip was the most amazing experience of my college career. But even more importantly, I can say that marching side-by-side with this group of 103 individuals has made me prouder than ever of the Vassar student body.

Although most of the Vassar LGBTQ community would agree that our college is extremely progressive, a number of factors have often limited student participation in campus activism. Extracurricular activities, coupled with heavy workloads and busy schedules, make each of us weary of taking on new responsibilities. Yet the outpour of support that ACT OUT received for this trip—from individuals, administrators, dorm houses and VSA, among others—allowed us to organize a truly special event.

In many ways, the trip to the National Equality March defied logic. On the Sunday immediately preceding midterms, why would 103 students be willing to wake up at 3:00 a.m., spend 14 hours on a bus, and march through Washington, D.C.?

To answer this question is simply to recognize that Vassar students care a lot—much more than I realized—about ensuring the LGBTQ movement's continued progress. It continues to fill me with pride that so many students wanted to join us, regardless of their workload, stress, and other obligations. Yet for Leslie (ACT OUT's other president) and myself, nothing can replace the memory of 103 students standing around Main Circle at 3:00 a.m., with pillows and homework in hand, to march on Washington for LGBTQ equality.

These students spent week after week attending meetings, getting to know one another, discussing rules, and painting signs (with phrases like "Equality is SO Gay" and "Legalize Love"). Many of them helped us fundraise, allowing us to pay for the second bus and bring 50 additional students. And each of them added a different shade of the LGBTQ rainbow to the ACT OUT trip—from straight to queer, transgender to gay, intersex to bisexual, and every color inbetween. I have learned so much from this group of people, whom I now consider part of the ACT OUT family, and whom I plead to continue fighting for LGBTQ equality.

The Equality March was a significant moment in the LGBTQ movement and in all of our lives. But all Vassar students need to remember that it was only one step toward full citizenship for LGBTQ Americans. The United States still needs federal non-discrimination laws, hate crimes protections, marriage equality, gender-neutral facilities, and more. Achieving these goals won't be easy. So, after we've caught up on sleep and done all our homework, let's pick ourselves up and keep fighting for what we know is right. Because, as Cleve Jones said at the march, “If you believe that you are equal, then it is time to act like it.

Reflections on the National Equality March

By Tristan Feldman '12

Last Sunday’s March On Washington was amazing! A great day with perfect weather was topped off by an amazing speech by Staceyann Chin and then running into her at the rest stop on the way back to Vassar (even though I saw her just as she was getting back onto the bus and didn’t get a chance to speak to her, even that small glimpse made my day. Who cares about Lady Gaga, Staceyann Chin really stole the show). The march was all I expected and more, but it was not all that I hoped for.

Like at most LGBTQ events, the L (lesbian), the G (gay), and for once the B (bisexual) dominated. There were side references to the T (transgender), including some speakers, but no reference to intersex people, pansexuals, and to those who defy labels. Yes, there were trans speakers, yes they did speak about the strides they are taking to represent an underrepresented community, but this was just a formality. Looking at the signs people were carrying, the words they were chanting, the general sentiment of the march, I would have to label it a gay event, not a queer event.

All this happened as I am trying to find my place in a community that I so much want to be apart of, a community upon which I define my identity, but a community that so often ignores me or treats me as a side note. Events like these really make me question what holds our community together? Are we really a LGBTQAI… community? What is it that we share?

We share a history. Drag queens and trans women were the ones who fought back at Stonewall. They took the lead and fought back against the police. We share discrimination. We share high runaway and homeless youth rates. We share high suicide rates. We share class and race issues. We are groups fighting for equality. The thing about equality is that it can’t come in small bits for some people. We need social justice for all, the ending of all inequality, all hierarchy, and all privilege. But this won’t happen in a gay movement that side notes those who originally took the lead, those that have even fewer rights and are in even greater danger. We need a truly queer movement and a truly queer community.