The Emory Lesbian and Gay Organization took part in the historic march on Washington for lesbian and gay rights in 1987. In this time period, there was a large uproar in the lesbian and gay community over the Bowers v. Hardwick court case of 1986. In this case, the Georgia sodomy law was ruled by the Supreme Court 5-4 that anal and oral sex between homosexuals was a criminal act. When the lesbian and gay community heard of this, they came together like never before in order to fight against this legislation.
Emory students that attended seemed to be the largest group of students from a school in the southeast. Even during this time period, to the outside world, Emory was a school of tolerance and acceptance. What was interesting in the article, however, was how students felt at the march as well as after. Students felt very comfortable and accepted at the march in Washington. One student said, “There were so many gay people that I felt like we were the norm and not the outcast.” After returning to Atlanta, the same student said “upon returning to Atlanta I felt really empty and sad because it was like crawling back into a closet.” When we think of Atlanta we do not think about the time period that Atlanta was not the hub of LGBT acceptance. On the same campus that we walk everyday, the same buildings we walk into, are full of a history of suppressed sexuality and non acceptance. For those students that did not attend the march, it was because of fear. Fear of not being accepted by their peers and being typecasted and outcasted. It is worth taking a moment to wonder, do we still have this issue today?
Undoubtedly, we still have talks about men on the “down low” and how this affects women and relationships. The fact that this is an issue that the nation has been dealing says a lot about how we perceive some males. As Keith Boykin says in “10 Things You Should Know About the DL,” “the DL is not simply a gay thing,” and it is a “distraction from the real issues.” If all we want to do is stigmatize and say how it affects others how do we expect for people to come out of the “closet”?
Truth is, Emory is not as evolved as it claims to the public. There are still stigmas placed on those part of LGBT. The LGBT office has been putting on the annual drag show for the past 7 years. The fact that it took that long for this type of event to come on campus says something about Emory’s readiness to be this accepting students who possess sexuality outside the “norm.” The Hardwick Decision was overturned by the Supreme Court in 2003, and LGBT at Emory had their first drag show the following year. Regardless of how Emory is as a campus, the politics of the nation determine a lot of the atmosphere and comfortability for students.