COMMUNITY NEWS Volume 1, Number 3
November 1993

COMMUNITY NEWS  Volume 1, Number 3  November 1993
A Newsletter for the lesbian, bisexual, and gay community
and supporters at Columbia University and Affiliates
   2  (Tuesday) LBGC Peer Discussion. 8 pm: Lounge [F-6], Furnald 

   3  (Wednesday) Bi Weekly: A discussion group for bisexuals. Call 
      Toni Eng at 853-5022 for more information. 8 pm, 303 Earl Hall.

   4  (Thursday) CU Seminar on Homosexualities: Anomaly and Taboo 
      (Presenter: Warren Johansson). 7:30 pm, SIPA (Room 1512).

      * Graduate Schools Group. 8 pm, call John Higgins at 854-3794 
        for location.
      * LBGC Cabaret with Annie di Franco. 8 pm, Lower Level McIntosh 
      * LBGTC Meeting. 9 pm, 177 Grace Dodge Hall (Teachers College).

   5  (Friday) Lesbian/Gay Studies Group: "Enforcing Queer Bodies, a 
      Colloquium." 4 pm, 754 Schermerhorn Extension.

      * LBGC First Friday Dance. 10 pm, Earl Hall.

   7  (Sunday) LBGC Meeting. 7 pm, 303 Earl Hall.

   8  (Monday) Coordinators' Meeting. 8 pm, Law 6W1.

   9  (Tuesday) Outreach's Coming-Out Support Group. 3-4:30 pm, 400 
      John Jay.

  11  (Thursday) Community Meeting. 5:30 pm, Earl Hall Auditorium.

  14  (Sunday) LBGC Meeting. 7 pm, 303 Earl Hall.

  16  (Tuesday) Outreach's Coming-Out Support Group. 3-4:30 pm, 400 
      John Jay.

      * LBGC Peer Discussion. 8 pm, Lounge [F-6], Furnald Basement.

  17  (Wednesday) Bi Weekly: A discussion group for bisexuals. Call 
      Toni Eng at 853-5022 for more information. 8 pm, 303 Earl Hall.

  18  (Thursday) GABLES-CU Meeting. 5:30-7 pm, Location to be announced.

      * Graduate Schools Group. 8 pm, call John Higgins at 854-3794 
        for location.
      * LBGC Movie Night. 8 pm, Lounge [F-6], Furnald Basement.
      * LBGTC Meeting. 9 pm, 177 Grace Dodge Hall (Teachers College).

  19  (Friday) Lesbian/Gay Studies Group: "Digital Queers, a 
      Colloquium." 4 pm, 754 Schermerhorn Extension.

  21  (Sunday) LBGC Meeting. 7 pm, 303 Earl Hall.

  23  (Tuesday) Outreach's Coming-Out Support Group. 3-4:30 pm, 400 
      John Jay.

  30  (Tuesday) Outreach's Coming-Out Support Group. 3-4:30 pm, 400 
      John Jay.

      * LBGC Peer Discussion. 8 pm, Lounge [F-6], Furnald Basement.

      |  LBGC--Columbia/Barnard Lesbian Bisexual Gay Coalition       |
      |  GABLES-CU--Gay, Bisexual, & Lesbian Employees & Supporters  |
      |  LBGTC--Lesbians, Bisexuals, & Gays at Teachers College      |



      To list events: John Rash, 678-3779 (jprash@cutcv2)
      To suggest features: E. R. Shipp, 854-7571 (
      To be on the mailing list: Steve van Leeuwen, 854-3078 


      Annie Barry, 854-3219 (
      Stephen Davis, 854-8584 (
      Jim Hoover, 854-2635 (


      OutReach hotline--lesbigay support/information: 854-3091
      LBGC Infoline: 854-1488
      Lesbigay notesfile: log in to CUNIX and type "notes lesbigay"--
         Assistance: AcIS Help Line: 854-4854.
      "Community News" is available in its entirety on ColumbiaNet.

It was a time to reflect and to celebrate ourselves, while considering our place at Columbia and in the world at large. We were deliciously frivolous at the Queer Carnival as we pinned a tail on what Rob Cordell of the Gay and Lesbian Law Students Association called "dead gay icons: Marilyn Monroe or James Dean." We were deadly sober as we reflected on the message of Laura Pinsky of Gay Health Advocacy Project: "There is lots of AIDS on campus." We disagreed over whether "queer" is a useful term and whether lesbigays should strive for acceptance within organized religion. But everyone loved Ken Harlin's lemon cake at the brunch! What follows are some of the voices heard during BGLAD, our Bisexual, Gay & Lesbian Awareness Days, held at Columbia last month. JONATHAN R. COLE, UNIVERSITY PROVOST: "It is important for me to acknowledge, applaud and celebrate the extraordinary importance of your efforts to foster a higher level of understanding and civility on the Columbia campus. The members of the gay, bisexual, and lesbian community at this University are tremendously important contributors to everything that the Columbia community is, and you must have the full civil rights on this campus and in the larger society that you deserve--and which are often denied to you. The simple fact seems to be that there are more abridgements of your rights than there is for virtually any other identifiable group at Columbia, and this is simply not acceptable. This has to be changed through what we do best, which is educating each other.... "We achieved some good things with changes in health benefits, but that will not be the resting place for us. There are other matters of great importance to the gay, lesbian, and bisexual members of our community that must be addressed, and I want you to know that I stand willing to help us move forward together to improve those situations at Columbia and thereby to improve everybody's situation at Columbia. You can count on me for that support." MARSHA WAGNER, UNIVERSITY OMBUDS OFFICER: In her role, Wagner often comes across "instances of heterosexism, homophobia, hostility or insensitivity, or lack of respect being expressed to people because of their sexual orientation": * An openly gay man walking through a corridor and seeing graffiti on a wall saying: "Fag Die." * A lesbian student finding a Women Oriented Women poster on her dormitory room door ripped to shreds. * An employee who is out to co-workers noticing that they don't want to use pencils he has touched for fear of getting AIDS. * A lesbian administrator finding a large sign saying "DYKE" anonymously placed on her office door. * Lecturers in Columbia classrooms stating that homosexuality is "abnormal, wrong, unnatural or perverse." * And, during BGLAD, this message being left on the LBGC Hotline: "Die, you fucking scumbags. Get AIDS and die, every fucking one of you fucking pieces of shit. Get AIDS and dieeeeeeeee!" MARIO DI GANGI, PH. D. CANDIDATE IN ENGLISH & COMPARATIVE LITERATURE: "There's no single accepted view within the queer community how best to do queer studies for the simple reason that the queer community or the lesbian and gay community isn't some ... unitary community. Recently important differences within this 'community' have manifested themselves over the appropriation of the word 'queer.'... Some people find this term theoretically and emotionally compelling, whereas for others it too painfully recalls the stigma of growing up in homophobic American society. So even the choice to identify oneself or one's practices as 'queer' as opposed to 'gay,' is fraught with weighty political and personal considerations." REVEREND ZACHARY JONES, FOUNDER OF THE UNITY FELLOWSHIP: "The African American community sort of resents when the white lesbian and gay community seems to identify with the similarities of the civil rights movement.... The African American community gets very offended, both the so-called straight and the unstraight. I think we have to be very careful when we talk about or when we are comparing those two groups.... I resent it as an African American gay man when I hear a white gay man say [the gay rights movement] is like the civil rights movement, when our experiences are very different.... 'Queer'--African American people, many of them, hate that word, just absolutely hate it. It doesn't describe our expression of lesbian and gay community." A woman in the audience for "What Lesbigays Need & Want From Their Straight Friends and Colleagues: "I'm sitting here tonight and remembering all my friends who are gone. I'm just glad that this is happening. I hope it continues. I hope this isn't something that Columbia says 'Here's an issue now and we have to address it' and then all of a sudden a year later we're not even talking about it. I hope there are more forums. I just hope it goes on because it's too many people that I love that have gone, and they did not die in vain. They had a right to love, and they had a right to care...." ANN ROBINSON, a non-Columbian came to the Queer Carnival with her husband and two children, ages 7 and 9. As one son tossed darts at offensive words one hopes he is too young to understand but which felt good to see him "destroy" (the object of the game at the LBGC booth!), she explained why she had brought the children: "There's such an atmosphere of homophobia around here, and I think that children shouldn't be prejudiced on any level." BGLAD gatherings drew alums from all over the metropolitan area-- and even Rhode Island! More often than not, they compared Columbia of the past with what they see now. DAVID SCHACHER, a lawyer (CC '82), was typical: "It was much more cloistered and there certainly weren't as many organizations, and people weren't this open about it." STEPHEN DONALDSON (CC '70), FOUNDER OF THE STUDENT HOMOPHILE LEAGUE, A FORERUNNER OF LBGC: "When I was a freshman, I didn't know any other gay people at Columbia, period. Now I think it's impossible for someone to grow up like that." PETER AWN, FORMER CATHOLIC PRIEST AND CURRENT PROFESSOR OF ISLAMIC STUDIES: "I would hope that as gays and lesbians deal very seriously with dilemmas raised by the institutional side of religion, one doesn't see oneself cut off from the extraordinary richness that one can find within religious experience, that that experience need not be seen as completely tied to institutions and that in the same way that we claim ourselves as gay men and lesbians, one can claim as well the extraordinary experience that has been shared by men and women who do see value in religious experience. To me that's a distinction that we often don't make loudly and clearly enough: that experience is there for the taking--there's nobody who can tell you you can't do X or Y--but that when we get to the level of institutional discussion, and sometimes conflict, those are sometimes more serious political questions than religious questions." JANET PARKER, PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER: "We can liberate the spirit and gospel of Jesus from homophobia and reclaim its power for our lives.... We can be both lesbian, gay, or bisexual and Christian or members of any religious tradition for that matter." DAVID WELLMAN, GRADUATE STUDENT AT UNION THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY: "[M]y prayer for everyone of every faith is that we begin today to read our scriptures for ourselves. The fundamentalists of all faiths are counting on us to be ignorant of our history and illiterate in our faith. Knowledge is power and therefore it can no longer be left in the hands of so few. Secondly, I think that the time has come for all progressives people of faiths to come out--as Christians, as Jews, as Muslims, as Buddhists--and be a living witness of the fact that God is far greater than the fundamentalists tell you and that God's love is for all people." J. B. SACKS, A RABBI IN A JERSEY CITY, N.J., SYNAGOGUE: "We can never be a world of just gays and lesbians just as it never was really just a world of heterosexuals. There needs to be a world where all of us can really live and honor each other and support each other and nurture each other." JOHN HIGGINS, PH. D. STUDENT IN ECONOMICS: [entire speech reprinted on ColumbiaNet] "I think I know who I am. I think I know what you're going through. I think I know what you need me to do to make the transition easier. I don't know if I can do it: I am a hollow man. But sometimes hollow men are resonant. "I have been out, in the sense of identifying myself to others as a homosexual, for only ten months.... I can only strongly empathize with those possessing both hetero and homosexual impulses. The course of my life has been turbulent enough without the further complications incumbent on those for whom orientation itself is less an absolute. I was early pegged as 'sensitive,' and in my case, the corresponding sexual orientation society imputes was dead on.... "How do you survive? For me the answer was to go 'in' big time, and as far as stemming the harassment and the roughings up, it worked remarkably well. Indeed, one of the kids later came up to me and said, 'John, you're okay now, but back in seventh grade we all thought you were gay. "What is being in the closet? For me it was not just concealing my sexuality, but all the finer emotions that are inextricably tied in with it. You do get a reprieve from society, but you're neurotic about being detected. You discipline yourself. You rip out everything that could be used as evidence against you. You trade off society doing to you for you doing it to yourself.... "So what happened? Nothing romantic. For me, I just got tired of being alone, the prospect of never being able to ever fully open up to someone, the sentence of the closet.... "Today is about 'coming out.' Although this does not guarantee happiness, it is a step that all non-heterosexuals in this society must take before they can possibly achieve true happiness.... But, sadly, I talk of 'coming out,' not 'coming home.' While key individuals at Columbia offer support and outreach to people coming out into an implicitly hostile society, it fails to function--both for ourselves and for those in transition--as part of a community.... Am I satisfied with being part of a 'community' by dint of commonality of certain personal experiences, or commonality of social or political objectives rather than part of a community of direct, interpersonal contact, direct concern for each other's happiness, celebration of each other as distinct reflections of life? "Would it not be better to work this year so that at this time next year I can call our not 'come out' but 'come home'? So that at this time next year I can reach out not only to those of us having trouble making the transition, but to those of us who have already come out, yet who remain lonely and lost in a harsh environment, looking for the respite of accepting friends? "Yet I am a hollow man, and the gutting of the closet yet leaves an emotional vacuum. And, realizing this, instead I ask: At this time next year will I come out?" - E. R. Shipp

The domestic partners of full-time faculty, administrative officers and non-union support staff can now be covered by the employee health benefits offered by Columbia University. The plan becomes effective January 1, 1994, but those interested may apply now. "We feel this is an important change because it fills a real gap in coverage that should be available to all," Provost Jonathan R. Cole said in outlining the Columbia plan. At Columbia this development is being hailed by lesbigay community leaders such as Jim Hoover, the Law School librarian, as "an important first step," and Dr. Cole is being singled out for his leadership in winning University approval of the policy change. But, excitement is tempered by the fact that only health benefits are involved and only some University employees are eligible. "I think it's a spectacular thing," said Frank Wolf, the associate of the School of General Studies. "I think Jonathan Cole in particular deserves credit for having negotiated the achievement of this at a time when budgetary concerns in the University made this an especially hard thing to pull off. Even though in the long run the incremental costs are very small, they are still incremental costs." "It's fabulous," said Annie Barry, the Religion Department's administrator. "It could be much better, but it's a start. Life insurance is still not part of the package, but it is nice to know you'll be able to offer some sort of safety net for a partner." Under the Columbia plan, domestic partners of the same gender will be entitled to the same medical coverage offered to married couples and dependents. Columbia defines a domestic partnership as "two individuals of the same gender who live with an exclusive mutual commitment similar to that of marriage, in which the partners have agreed to be responsible for each other's welfare and share financial obligations." What the University contributes to the medical coverage will be considered taxable income to the employee. Typical of those who anticipate applying is Dwight Childers, a manager in Administrative Information Systems. "My lover Ben is self-employed as an accountant," he said. "Over our six years together our worries about his health-insurance coverage have mounted along with the costs of premiums. Knowing that we'll be able to cover him under the University health benefit is a great relief." Not covered so far are the unionized employees at Columbia. According to Tom Darold, the University's director of benefits and compensation, and others familiar with the process, the 14 unions recognized at Columbia must request this benefit during upcoming negotiations. Said one angry union worker who asked not to be identified: "Basically with this policy the University has now replaced heterosexism with classism. To me it feels like the people who already have the highest salaries are getting another benefit." A number of people who are eligible said they would cooperate with ineligible workers to assure that they, too, are eventually covered. "We want to help them get it," Barry said. "We're just starting to think of ways in which we can contribute to that process." To apply for domestic-partner status, an eligible employee must be of legal marriageable age and must have been sharing a household on a continuing basis for six prior months. To show common financial obligations, the couple must meet any two of five conditions: (1) hold a joint mortgage or lease, (2) designate a partner as beneficiary for life insurance or retirement benefits, (3) designate a partner as primary beneficiary in the Columbia employee's will, (4) assign durable power of attorney or health care power of attorney to the partner, and (5) jointly own a bank account, credit account, or motor vehicle. The criteria for qualification of dependent children of a partner are the same as those for the child or stepchild of the married spouse of an employee. For more information, Columbia employees should speak with a benefits counselor at 854-7451.


LBGC has established a Film Committee, which is producing a documentary on being gay, lesbian, and bisexual at Columbia. According to Tina Alexander, "the [thirty-minute] video will be geared towards a university audience, in particular, it can be used for orientation, residence life, prospective students, and a general resource for all members of the Columbia-Barnard community." The Film Committee filmed events during BGLAD week, and plan to shoot some of LBGC's dormitory floor raps. COLUMBIA HIV SUPPORT GROUP Weekly meetings facilitated by Laura Pinsky. Open to students, staff, and faculty from any campus. Free and confidential. For details, call Laura Pinsky at 854-2878. STONEWALL 25 1994 marks the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall riots. An international commemoration of this event will take place on Sunday, 26 June 1994, in place of the traditional Lesbian/Gay Pride Parade sponsored by the Heritage of Pride. The format chosen is a march on the United Nations to affirm the rights of lesbian and gay people, followed by a massive rally in Central Park. More than one million people are expected. The local host committee accordingly seeks interested volunteers, and will have a "community forum" at the Lesbian & Gay Community Services Center, 208 West 13th Street, from 7-9 pm on Thursday, November 4, 1993. CALL FOR PAPERS: "SEIZING THE MOMENT" The Fourth National Graduate Student Conference on Lesbian, Transgender, Bisexual, & Gay Studies invites abstracts outlining possible contributions to this interdisciplinary, multi-media, social/political/academic event to be held March 3-5, 1994, at the University of Texas at Austin. Deadline: November 15, 1993. Send to: English Department, Parlin 108; The University of Texas at Austin; Austin, TX 78712-1164.

                            A SPACE OF OUR OWN

It's not a big room, and it's not a nice room. But, sadly, 303 Earl Hall is just about all the queer community has at Columbia University, give or take a bulletin board here and a mail box there. Not too impressive for a community that spans the length and breadth of this entire institution. We are students, faculty, staff, administrators, and alumni/ae. We deserve a space of our own. Some may wonder why we need our own center. As much as the LBGC is trying to make our office a place for everyone, there are just too many groups and too many constraints on a mediocre space that also needs to be shared with other groups affiliated with Earl Hall. We need a facility where at least two meetings can simultaneously take place, whether it's JAGL, GABLES, GALLSA, QUIPS, LBGTC or Outreach. We need a space where we can have office hours. In short: a queer community center would go a long way toward unifying our community, literally and symbolically. This is the next step in making this campus a welcoming and embracing home for lesbigays. - Conor Kennedy Ryan


At most institutions considering benefits for the partners of gay and lesbian employees, the hurdle of cost is the main one to overcome, even where clear non-discrimination policies exist. Columbia was no exception. It took a fair amount of work to get discussion focused first on institutional values and then on costs. At Columbia the process began in earnest a little more than a year ago, when Michael Susi initiated discussions with a lawyer from the Lambda Legal Defense Fund and then with Rosalind Fink, Columbia's Affirmative Action Officer. In the summer of 1992 I joined the effort when I was named to the University's Civility Committee. Soon, we launched a survey of all campus offices that provide benefits to faculty, staff, and students to determine whether each benefit was offered to the partners of lesbian and gay couples on the same bases as to spouses. Surprisingly, we found that the Libraries and the Gym already granted partner benefits, although this had never been publicized. We also learned that some policies differed between the Morningside and Health Sciences campuses. For example, graduate students at the main campus were eligible for married student housing if they had a partner, while that was not the case uptown. Around this time the University's Benefits Committee was readying its recommendations, and--surprise!--domestic-partner benefits were not on the agenda. But timing was on our side: Stanford University, which was also reviewing its employee benefits, had developed a 60-page report that included a justification for extending benefits to domestic partners. Once the Stanford report began circulating among senior-level officials at Columbia, Provost Jonathan R. Cole quickly determined that Columbia should move forward. He worked with the Benefits Committee to prepare a presentation to the Trustees that included among the general changes in employee benefits an extension of health coverage to the partners and families of lesbian and gay employees. On June 5, 1993, the Trustees approved the proposal. Although this is just one benefit, and the eligibility criteria may not be totally equivalent to those expected of married employees, health coverage is often considered the most important benefit because it is vital to all families and is perhaps the most costly benefit provided by employers. There is yet a good deal of work to be done to achieve full parity with heterosexual employees, but this is an important first step--one achieved very quickly when measured against Columbia's usual "geologic" sense of time. - Jim Hoover

                     CALLING ALL JOCKS AND WANNABE'S:
Accents from the Bronx to Boise to Bangkok will echo across the city next summer as 15,000 lesbian, gay, and bisexual athletes-- and perhaps as many as 50,000 of their admirers--converge upon New York City for Gay Games IV and the Unity '94 Cultural Festival. Individuals who want to participate in the games, which will feature everything from aerobics to in-line skating ("rollerblading") to the always-popular physique competition, must register by December 31. Organizers expect teams from about 60 American cities and 40 foreign countries. Thirty athletic events will be held, at venues all over the metropolitan area--from the Pelham Bay and Split Rock golf course in the Bronx to Hudson Lane Bowling in Jersey City. Columbia's Wien Stadium at Baker Field is in the running for track and field (no pun intended). "It's both exciting and terrifying," said Games executive director Jay Hill, a former advertising executive for Newsweek magazine. "We're hearing that teams like Toronto, which had 100 athletes at the last Games, are sending 300 to New York." Gay Games IV will be a highlight of Stonewall 25, an international commemoration of the birth of the modern movement for gay and lesbian rights. "In 1993, we marched on Washington," the fliers being distributed by organizers of Stonewall 25, say. "In 1994, WE MARCH ON THE WORLD." Next June 26, more than one million people are expected at the United Nations in an affirmation of the human rights of lesbigay people and then to take part in a rally in Central Park. This could become the largest lesbigay gathering in history! The Games' host committee, known as "New York in '94," is trying to raise $5.5 million to put on the 10-day, quadrennial affair, starting June 16. Martina Navratilova helped raise more than $250,000 at a Madison Square Garden Fundraiser last July. New York in '94 is also organizing a Unity '94 Cultural Festival that will include a series of evening literary salons hosted by such luminaries as Patricia Nell Warren, Tony Kushner, Dorothy Allison, and Harvey Fierstein; a dance series at the Joyce Theater; performances by such artists as Tim Miller, David Drake and the Pomo Afro Homos; concerts; a comedy festival and exhibitions. To register for the games (no, you don't have to be Greg Louganis!), to make donations, to volunteer or just to receive more information, contact Gay Games IV at (212) 633-9494; fax: (212) 633-9488; 19 W. 21st St., Suite 1202, New York, N.Y. 10010. For additional information about participating, call Team New York organizers Kerry Holbrook, (718) 768-8820, or Orlando Diaz, (212) 477-3937. For information on Stonewall 25, attend an informational meeting on November 4 from 7 pm to 9 pm at the Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center, 208 W. 13th St., or call (212) 439- 1077. - Bob Nelson

A NATIONAL AIDS MEMORIAL RIGHT IN OUR NEIGHBORHOOD The Cathedral of St. John the Divine has always defied easy characterization. Built in the twentieth century, the church at 112th and Amsterdam is the largest and most elaborate example of thirteenth-century Gothic architecture. Ostentatiously constructed as a bastion of the wealthy Episcopal elites of New York, it now highlights poetry by prisoners, art by native peoples, ecological displays, and new-age style crystals. Even amid such an eclectic scene, however, it is surprising and uplifting to find the National AIDS Memorial--a moving reminder in the age of the so-called religious right that Christian faith need not be synonymous with intolerance and homophobia. The Memorial itself is a book into which have been inscribed the names of thousands of people who have died of AIDS-related causes. Dedicated in 1985, the Book of Remembrance is located in a bay on the south side of the nave dedicated to St. Luke, the patron of physicians. The Memorial may be visited between 7 am and 5 pm each day, and floral tributes or votive candles can be left at the site. Names may also be submitted for inclusion in the book free of charge. A special fund has been established to provide direct grants to groups specializing in AIDS services, education, or research. "We hope that in the midst of your loss and grief, with time you will experience serenity and the joys that come with remembrance," is a message in the Memorial's most recent newsletter. - Ray Smith

Wendy Haley, Toni Eng, and John Higgins all saw that something was missing at Columbia so they did something about it. After postering the campus for introductory meetings, the two groups attracted nearly 100 people between them. "It sort of made sense to get a general graduate student social group together where we could just meet each other and talk and associate--an entry level to sort of community building that I found a need for," said Higgins, a fourth-year graduate student in economics. The graduate students' group, which does not have a name but has attracted about 60 students, will meet on the first and third Thursdays of each month. Watch for fliers! Or, call John at 854- 3794. Eng and Haley didn't know what to expect when they put up their signs, but about 25 men and women showed up for a freewheeling discussion on being bisexual--everything from whether the term "bisexual" is adequate to whether monogamy is any more of an issue for bisexuals than for anyone else. But "the discussion was very centered around personal experiences," Eng, a Columbia College junior, said. The next gathering of the discussion group, which meets at 8 pm every other Wednesday in the Schiff Room at Earl Hall, is Nov. 3. For more information, call Toni at 853-5022. And, watch for fliers! - E. R. Shipp



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