Starting the discussion
Gay in Appalachia, Elliott said, likes to showcase the arts as a prompt for discussion to talk about resilience, elections and religious themes.
“We want dialogue, and we want to know what people are saying in a respectful environment,” she said. “I think
conversation is how we learn about each other and what our backgrounds are.”
The discussion after the play will be lead by Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia.
Elliot described Gastañaga as a very savvy, articulate and knowledgeable person who knows politics and legal aspects. He added that she should be able to field any type of question that comes up afterwards, offering a local opinion as a fellow Virginian.
“They need the discussions going out to the grassroots at different places, and we are thrilled to be the ones to bring
this to Southwest Virginia,” Gastañaga said.
“We are leading the way here.”
Elliott said that when Gay in Appalachia
had its first events, they reached a population that was eager and excited to find a supporting group, because they thought they were alone. Hickey also said that those who are under similar circumstances should seek out the campus groups for understanding.
“I want to make sure people know that if they feel that this is the moment in their life when they’re debating coming out, no
matter what label, it’s about being comfortable with yourself,” Hickey said.
One of the most difficult aspects of coming out on campus, he said, is that studentshave to distinguish professional from personal life, which while at school, is a difficult feat.
This results, Hickey said, in the need for a better understanding of how the rest of the campus population perceives them.
“We have open arms for everyone who wants to discuss these terms and what it means to be gay at Tech and in Blacksburg,” Cotrupi said. “It’s a way to educate themselves on some of the issues and experiences that happen in our community.”
A ‘queer’ debate
One of the terms sparking debate within the LGBT groups is “queer.” Hickey said that the QG&A considered using “Question a Queer” as their slogan, but many feared the word suggests a negative connotation.
“The reason we have this debate is because we don’t know how we’re perceived,” he said. “If we were to do ‘Question a Queer,’ what would the freshman psychology major walking down the Drillfield think about that?”
Both Cotrupi and Hickey said that queer means different and unique, and if it is used as a positive adjective, it could become a part of their community identity.
The desire to know what others think about such terms, however, is what drives the groups to reach out for discussion, because even they have trouble agreeing with each other, Hickey said.
“Let’s find a way to work together,” he said. “Having an open discussion about queer; having a week where you get to enjoy discounts downtown; the play at the lyric; these tiny successes that we make, these milestones, allow us to unite ourselves.”
Hickey described his dream society where there would be no need for groups or differentiations of labels. It would be a place where we all lived together and none of this would be an issue, he said.
“But we’re not there yet, so these are the things that we need to address now,” Hickey said.