In the time period after the adoption of the Domestic Partner Benefits Policy and the Princeton Review publication, campus climate slowly allowed space for campus events to be held that focused on recognition of queer issues and queer community members. The presence of such events illustrate a shift in campus climate that reflect a more inclusive space.
A touchstone event that showed visible campus support for queer Lafayette community members was the “Gay? Fine by Me” rally in 2006. Dan Reynolds, ‘08, describes this event in his interview as “this huge outpouring of support” and a way for allies to show up and show queer people at Lafayette that people cared.
He and those who helped him plan it never expected that this many people would participate in the campaign, especially considering various anti-gay incidents that had happened in Reynolds’ time at Lafayette before the rally (See Daniel Reynolds Interview). Despite these expectations, a huge number of people showed up and demonstrated that campus cared about its queer members. This event provided an opportunity to show that there was room for campus climate to shift to be more inclusive and welcoming of queer people.
While the event itself was successful in showing that the Lafayette community supported queer people, its coverage, or lack thereof, indicates otherwise. Because so many people showed up for the rally, Reynolds explains how he expected it to be covered by the College’s newspaper, The Lafayette. The Lafayette, however, had not sent a reporter to the event and had no intentions of publishing a story about Gay? Fine by Me. Reynolds explained how disappointing this was, considering that the point of the rally was visibility of support for the queer community, and how not getting covered by The Lafayette limits the scope and effectiveness of that visibility. While Reynolds and his fellow QuEST board members took matters into their own hands by writing their own insert for the newspaper about the rally, the resistance by The Lafayette to cover this event indicates a disconnect in the campus climate surrounding queer issues.
Yes, the existence of an event like Gay? Fine by Me and the huge participation numbers indicate an inclusive climate. However, the lack of coverage of the event shows that campus still had a long way to go. There were still very influential pockets of campus life that actively excluded queer people, issues, and events from the mainstream rhetoric of the College. In addition, this event was initiated because Dan Reynolds and others felt that the Lafayette community desperately needed to acknowledge that allies existed for queer people on campus. The campus climate before this event was one of silence and invisibility both for queer students and for allies. Gay? Fine by Me did not happen because Lafayette was already an inclusive environment. It happened because Lafayette needed to be shaped into an inclusive environment.