Published 4 November 1993 in The Carolinian (The University of North Carolina at Greensboro)
Traditional values come out on campus
by Matt Wallace
"National Coming Out Day" has come and gone, but the controversy surrounding it remains. I am pleased that I am part of that controversy. I am the "trouble-maker" who brought out the "Red Scare." I am The October 11th Committee.
I first became aware of "National Coming Out Day" when I saw a bright pink flyer from the Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Students' Association advertising it on a campus bulletin board. I decided that I had to do something to give balance to the discussion. I removed the flyer, made a photocopy of it for personal reference, and returned it to its original place.
I created my own flyer calling on like-minded individuals not to wear blue on "Blue Day" but instead to wear red to show support for traditional values and opposition to the normalization of homosexuality. I spent 10 to 12 hours over the evenings of October 6 and 7 posting my flyers. I considered it a coup to be able to post one beside a GLBSA flyer in a nice point-counterpoint.
While I was doing my work, I couldn't help but be struck by the irony of what I was doing as compared to what I had done when I was in high school.
Fifteen years ago when I was a high school junior, entertainer and former Miss America Anita Bryant gained national attention as a leader of a group opposing homosexual teachers in Dade County, Florida public schools. She went on to found and lead a "pro-God, pro-family" organization and traveled around the country helping local citizens successfully oppose "gay-rights" laws.
As an atheist growing up in the Bible Belt, I definitely regarded this "Bible-thumping, Christian bigot" as a threat whether one was straight or not. For extra credit in a creative writing class, I wrote a two-page "poem" titled "The History of Annie Bryant." In it I referred to her followers as "her fellow fools," claimed that she was appealing "to emotion and not to reason," and implied that she was a threat to "life and liberty." I ended the poem, "And now that old bat Annie/Is spreading her sickness into California/With a spearhead of ignorance and fear/And we've got to stop her before it's too late."
To get credit for the work, I had to read the "poem" to my classmates. Being less intelligent and less sophisticated products of the Bible Belt than myself, they were somewhat less than thrilled with my magnum opus. Rereading it after all these years, it strikes me as the sort of drivel one expects from a bright, intellectually independent, and unconventional seventeen-year-old. Oh, what a wonderful thing it is to be young and stupid!
I persevered in my efforts despite these thoughts--or maybe because of them. Fifteen years is almost half a lifetime to me and one should expect to change given additional experience and knowledge especially if one was wrong-headed to begin with. I completed my work shortly after midnight and headed home feeling rather tired but satisfied.
When I returned to campus around noon on October 8, I discovered that the flyers I had posted in the Bryan Building the night before had been reduced to rings of paper-fringed staples framing empty bulletin board. I had expected that my flyers would have a short lifespan elsewhere on campus but not in the relative conservative safe zone of the business school. A quick check around campus confirmed my worst fears; only a few, isolated flyers had survived.
In the McIver Building it was obvious who was removing my flyers. Whoever was "responsible" for removing them simply stapled GLBSA flyers over mine. Apparently those who screech the loudest for "tolerance" and "diversity" find it useful to selectively apply them when confronted with an opposing point of view.
Given the apparent failure of my publicity campaign, I didn't expect many others to wear red, much less attend the GLBSA meeting. On October 11, I wore red as I had encouraged others to do, but figured that doing anything else would be yet another exercise in futility, so I passed on the GLBSA meeting.
On October 14, I was thrilled and amazed to read that five adults wore red and attended the meeting. I obviously had made some impact, however small. The attempt to silence me failed, but, considering the level of my personal effort, mine was a Pyrrhic victory.
What disturbs me most of all is that an organization officially affiliated with the University and supported by Student Government with funds gleaned from mandatory student activity fees could act in a manner so egregiously counter to the purpose of a university. This purpose is to provide an environment in which individuals can come together to discuss the great questions as a learning experience. This noble purpose is defiled whenever one group ignorantly and fearfully seeks to squelch opposing opinions.
As members of a university community, we should all be above the sort of anti-intellectual fascism behind the destruction of my modest attempt to enter the discussion of an important social issue.