Controversy at Yale University’s first LGBT reunion
Ivy League university Yale held its first LGBT student reunion last weekend.
Organised by the university’s LGBT alumni association GALA and the Association of Yale Alumni, the reunion was attended by 300 past students and their guests.
Gay rights activist and winner of the first GALA Lifetime Achievement Award, Larry Kramer, who graduated in 1957, had harsh words for the university, saying it had ignored gay history.
According to the Yale Daily News, Kramer argued that the university had relegated gay history to the status of LGBT studies, claiming there was a sizeable semantic difference between gay “history” and gay “studies”.
Claiming that George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, John Wilkes Booth and explorer Meriwether Lewis were all gay, Kramer also attacked gender theories as “relatively useless”.
“The plague of AIDS was allowed to happen because most of the world hates us,” he said. “They don’t know we’re related to Washington and Lincoln.”
Yale and Kramer have had an uncomfortable history since the university rejected a substantial donation from the activist to set up an endowed chair in gay and lesbian studies or a student centre for gay students.
His speech received a standing ovation from many audience members, although some said they were standing out of respect for his work with AIDS, rather than his views.
“He’s been a provocateur all of his career, since the AIDS crisis,” said Ken Demario. “I don’t know if this was an appropriate forum for as nasty a broadside as his was against the university.”
In an interview after the speech, Provost Peter Salovey said: “I think among the many points that Larry Kramer made, he emphasised the importance of gay and lesbian history, and he’s absolutely right that this is a serious area for study.”
Although GALA was set up in 1984, this is its first reunion.