First LGBT reunion won’t be the last

By Patrick Malloy

Over 110 alumni and their partners visited campus last weekend as Macalester’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) alumni group, Scots Pride, hosted the college’s first official LGBT reunion. The attendees, including one woman who traveled from Sri Lanka, visited campus for events that took place from Sept. 29 to Oct. 1.

The weekend’s events were the culmination of two years of planning, said Danielle Nelson ’05, Scots Pride Coordinator in the Alumni Office and main staff organizer of the reunion.

Political Science Professor Adrienne Christiansen delivered the keynote address to participants on Saturday night. Other events included a Saturday night performance by the dance group “Dykes Do Drag” and an art show and wine and cheese reception on campus Friday afternoon.

The bulk of the events were on Saturday. In the morning, Mark Meinke ’70, who researches LGBT history in Washington, D.C., led alumni in an Oral History Teach-In. Oral histories are recordings of people discussing particular topics about their lives.

“The main focus is talking about one’s experience being LGBT at Macalester,” Nelson said about Saturday’s recording session. After a short lesson from Meinke about how to properly record an oral history, participants at the event got into groups and recorded their own oral histories.

Three women who attended Macalester during different parts of the 1980s formed one group. Their discussions highlighted many of the changes in LGBT life at Macalester and in society that occurred during the 1980s.

The women discussed the evolution of an LGBT community on campus. By the time Julia Wolfe ’86 graduated, a visible community had emerged.

“People were out on campus,” Wolfe said, “yet it was still kind of a big deal.”

An Intergenerational Panel Discussion followed the teach-in. One alum from each decade since the 1950s spoke about their experiences being LGBT at Macalester.

“If anything [LGBT-related] was going on at campus, I sure didn’t know about it,” Joyce Pelzer ’54 said. “We were still in the era where we were perverts.”

Speakers from the 1970s expressed similar feelings, but alums who graduated in the 1980s said the atmosphere was more welcoming.

“The 80s were very gay-centric,” Paula Lackie ’84 said.

The environment at Macalester in the 1990s and 2000s was considerably more open than it had been in earlier decades, speakers from those times said.

During a question-and-answer session at the end of the discussion, one man even proposed to his partner, who was also in attendance. His partner accepted.

The centerpiece of the reunion was a formal dinner on Saturday night.

“This is Macalester’s first LGBT reunion and based on this reception it won’t be the last,” President Brian Rosenberg said in a speech to those in attendance.

“We gather together this evening in celebration of who we are,” Robert Ochoa-Schultz ’76, another speaker at the three-course dinner, said.

During dessert, Christiansen gave a sometimes humorous keynote address. She spoke of how much she despised college reunions and had therefore attended none of hers. In planning her speech for this reunion, she asked some friends why they go to theirs.

“They go to see and be seen. Is there not a more gay response to my question?” Christiansen said to laughs.

Her speech also had serious elements. Macalester is working hard to educate a new generation of leaders, Christiansen said.

“I ask my students, is Kofi Annan [’61] to be the last alum that we talk about and point to?” she asked. “Why not you?”

She went on to discuss challenges that the gay community faces.

“Many of the biggest problems hit gay people with giant and commensurate blows.” She cited examples of AIDS, discrimination and LGBT populations being used as scapegoats for other problems.