The University Record, October 30, 1995
Note to readers: The University Record welcomes letters from members of the University community.
Reader concerned about
Bruce Bender, in a letter printed in the Oct. 16 issue, criticizes "gay/lesbian activism" on college campuses, "predatory" university-affiliated lesbian and gay organizations, summer orientation facilitators who "support homosexual practices," the "special privilege status" and civil rights protection extended to people who "engage in homosexual activities," and the "human suffering caused by homosexuality as a result of educational programs."
I shall not attempt to respond to all of Mr. Bender's charges. Let it however be stated, and not for the first time, that lesbians, gay men and bisexual people are seeking equal protection under the law, not "special rights" or special privilege status.
We must also note with utmost concern the human suffering caused by homophobic thinking and behavior, as witnessed by the extraordinary number of suicides among young people in this country who are understandably distraught about societal response to their actual or perceived bisexual or homosexual orientation.
I am also concerned about Mr. Bender's intemperate language. Our lesbian, gay male and bisexual organizations are seeking to help incoming bisexual, lesbian and gay male students, staff and faculty members find practical and psychosocial support at their new "home away from home." While a given person of any sexual orientation may seek sexual partners in a self-centered and selfish manner, to label an entire organization "predatory" seems defamatory, if not libelous.
A student at the University of South Carolina has issued a "halfway apology" for accusations made against a gay professor (Oct. 13 Chronicle of Higher Education). Inspired by and improving on this example, a wholehearted apology from Mr. Bender to our entire University community for bearing what I believe to be false witness against his University neighbors would be welcome.
James Toy, affirmative action representative and former co-coordinator, Lesbian Gay Bisexual Programs Office
term 'predatory' is
I am troubled by several aspects of Mr. Bruce Bender's letter which appears in the Oct. 16 Record ("Reader disturbed by influence of gay, lesbian activism"). Although I'm not formally connected with any programs for advocacy of gay, lesbian or bisexual concerns, it seems to me that Mr. Bender's description of such efforts as "predatory" is ridiculous. The University and its student body do offer relatively modest programs to educate our community about gays and lesbians, and to assist in their socialization and acceptance.
The Lesbian Gay Bisexual Programs Office serves a number of important functions, including offering support to those who may be troubled by or uncertain about their sexual orientation. These and other activities are just as valuable as those offered by numerous other well-respected organizations on campus that support various religious, cultural and ethnic constituencies.
Mr. Bender objects to "`special privilege status' or civil rights protection" for gays and lesbians. I'd like to point out, as if it were necessary, that protection from discrimination is not a special privilege. Equal opportunity in jobs, education, housing, health care, etc. is not a form of special protection.
What alarms me the most, perhaps, is Bender's reference to "the human suffering caused by homosexuality." Of course it's not clear what sort of suffering he means; may I presume a reference to the catastrophic effects of the AIDS epidemic? If that is the intention of Bender's statement, may I remind him that being gay doesn't cause AIDS? To be sure, the largest numbers of those infected were at first gay men; later it was apparent that the disease could not be restricted to any particular group of people, regardless of sexual orientation.
It's important to note that, without the early efforts of the gay/lesbian communities to educate people about AIDS so as to limit the spread of the epidemic, many more lives might have been lost. The tireless efforts of gay men and lesbians, health care workers and lay persons alike, have accomplished much in preventing AIDS and in improving the quality of life for those living with HIV/AIDS. Not only have they and most of the gays and lesbians in my acquaintance not caused suffering, they have made important spiritual and material contributions to all our lives, just as any decent people should.
Tom Hubbard, technical library assistant, WUOM
understand civil rights
Why is it that every fall I am bombarded with messages of hate from Bruce Bender? His ranting and raving about me and other gay, lesbian and bisexual people is almost too much to take!
What really bothers me the most is that he seems to think that he knows who gay people are. I have never met this man, nor do I really want to. He doesn't have a clue who I am, except that I am gay and am a menace to society. All I can say is thank God that there is gay, lesbian and bisexual activism on this campus to counter the hate found in this man and others. He obviously doesn't understand what civil rights activism is all about.
Mr. Bender: Can you be fired from your job, kicked out of your apartment or not be served in a restaurant because you are a Christian? No. But outside the city of Ann Arbor, this can happen to me because there is no legislation to protect me. If you would stop raving, you would see that this is not a special right that I am asking for. It is the right to be a human being.
Kevin W. Kaatz, research associate, Department of Neurology, and biblical studies graduate student
In response to Bruce A. Bender's letter in the Oct. 16 University Record entitled "Reader disturbed by influence of gay, lesbian activism," I have some comments.
I don't think that discussions of homosexuality have the effect which he objects to. According to my knowledge of sexuality, a person's sexual orientation is already established well before college age, so whatever a student hears at this point is not going to change that orientation.
Mr. Bender said that the global community may be built "at the detriment of God," so I had a serious discussion with Him on this subject. What God communicated to me is that Mr. Bender, homosexual people and heterosexual people (in fact everyone) are all precious to Him just as they are, and that He loves us all.
Richard Hausman, senior programmer/analyst, Medical Center Information Technology
An open letter to Bruce Bender:
Dear Bruce: Thank you so much for providing the perfect opportunity to tell you about our outstanding lesbian, gay and bisexual students at the University of Michigan and about the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Programs Office (LGBPO).
The LGBPO has undergone many changes in the past 18 months. As the changes continue, we have initiated a path of growth for our students, faculty and staff. The future for lesbian, gay and bisexual students is filled with courage and hope and vision. And it is inclusive of all members of the university community as we acknowledge and honor our friends, families and allies.
Although LGBPO has hosted successful events, exciting seminars, and has initiated academic research, the real story is about our students. Let me tell you about these amazing young people, Bruce. During the 1994-95 academic year, with our focus on responsible leadership and responsible membership, two openly gay men were selected to sit on the 2017 Leadership Roundtable. One of them was the 1995 Buick Leadership Award recipient. Twelve lesbian, gay and bisexual students were honored at the Lavender Graduation Ceremonies co-sponsored by the LGBPO and the University of Michigan Gay and Lesbian Alumni Society (UMGALAS). UMGALAS, incidentally, is an organization which not only offers the usual alumni support services to lesbian, gay, and bisexual people, but also provides two scholarships each term to the U-M's most outstanding lesbian, gay and/or bisexual students. This past summer, 15 openly lesbian, gay and bisexual students participated in the Michigan LeaderShape Training. Most amazing, also, is the fact that parents are now calling LGBPO, stating that their openly lesbian or gay daughters and sons are considering coming to the University of Michigan, and asking about available services for their children.
Lesbian, gay and bisexual students are participating in the campus environment in ways in which they've not had opportunities in the past. With pride, with confidence, with celebration, they are entering classrooms, organizations, fraternities and sororities, and athletics, as openly gay, lesbian and bisexual young men and women, behaving with dignity and with strength as they teach people how they wish to be treated, with nothing less than respect, for their work and for their very existence.
Recruiting? No, Bruce, it doesn't happen that way. Just as you could not be "recruited" to be homosexual, neither could any heterosexual person be "reprogrammed" or seduced into being something other than the sexual orientation with which they were born. I am clearly not the biblical scholar that you seem to be, but I am a religious person, and I truly believe that my sexual orientation is one of God's greatest gifts to me, just as are my children and my grandchild. The concept of recruiting has been grossly twisted into a negative context. Frankly, it is my hope that the best and the brightest lesbian, gay and bisexual high school students around the country and the world select the University of Michigan as their educational institution.
Not all of our students are able to be as acknowledging of their homosexual or bisexual orientation. Many are just beginning to question who and what they are, beginning their journey of sexual identity development. It does not mean that they are particularly sexually active. As many students become visible, others remain isolated and fearful in their closets of pain. This is a tremendous burden which sits upon the shoulders of students as they deal with the very necessities of being college students. Our job as responsible adults and role models is to make their journey smoother, safer and protected within the confines of the University system and the policies which have been developed to prohibit discrimination.
All of our students at the University of Michigan are our future. Our lesbian, gay and bisexual students and graduates are outstanding human beings who have survived the rigor of their educational process, and who have or will make tremendous contributions to society. Malcolm Forbes, Cecil Rhodes and Alan Turing are among the great men of our time, and they are gay. Margaret Mead, Florence Nightingale and Emily Dickinson are lesbians who are held in great esteem by all of society. It seems only appropriate to understand that the lesbian, gay and bisexual graduates of the University of Michigan will also gain similar prestige, fame and power.
Thank you once again, Bruce, for providing the opportunity for me to talk about our outstanding lesbian, gay and bisexual students. They are an integral part of the multicultural fabric of this institution and I am proud to be associated with these fine young men and women.
Ronni L. Sanlo, director, Lesbian Gay Bisexual Programs Office
I am disturbed by the tone of the letters of Dorian Arana and Megan L. Robertson (UR Oct. 23, 1995) in response to an earlier letter by Bruce Bender (UR Oct. 16, 1995) concerning gay and lesbian activism. Both Ms. Arana and Ms. Robertson criticize Mr. Bender not only for his views but for writing his letter in the first place. Thus Ms. Arana writes that "arguments and attitudes like Mr. Bender's only add more fuel to societal renovations in the opposite direction" while Ms. Robertson claims that Mr. Bender's letter "has caused more pain and anger this week than he will ever acknowledge or apologize for" and attacks Mr. Bender personally by describing him as "a poor reflection on his employer." Criticism of other people's views has certainly its proper place but criticism and intimidation of people for expressing their views inhibits the university's function as a free market place of ideas!
Jan Kmenta Professor Emeritus of Economics and Statistics