From the desk of
Liz Miller '07
Greetings, Friends of Wooster and of Equality:
I write today to give you insight from a recent College of Wooster graduate on the importance and potential positive impact of the John Plummer Memorial Scholarship for Promoting a Welcoming Campus for LGBT People.
My memory is very recent; I left Wooster only a few months ago as a member of the Class of 2007. I was very involved in both of my majors and served two years as a resident assistant. I was also active in extracurriculars, including editing the Voice. On paper, I resembled a lot of my peers. Yet I was also part of the ten percent of the campus who openly identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.
The goal of the Plummer Scholarship is threefold: an incentive for openness, a memorial, and a tangible recognition to one student each year. In fact, if we raise the small amount of money still needed to endow the scholarship, it will be awarded next year at about this time, on National Coming Out Day.
There were times in my own experience at the College where I could have used extra financial help. Because I was "out" and honest about who I am, I feared being cut off financially from my parents. There are scholarships for myriad causes and achievements at the College of Wooster. But none yet addresses the specific need to support LGBT students and allies who work for inclusion on their behalf. That is why your support for the John Plummer Memorial Scholarship for Promoting a Welcoming Campus for LGBT People is so important.
I arrived on campus in August 2003, fresh from a small town in southwestern Pennsylvania. I came out at an early age—and come from a generation that re-claimed the word "queer" from its insulting origins to adopt it for ourselves, a community of people who don't fit the mold of heterosexuality. I already knew of the College’s LGBT advocacy organization, Allies and Queers, founded in the 1970s as Lambda Wooster. I even attended a meeting as a prospective student a few months prior to my enrolment. Arriving at Wooster, I immediately immersed myself in the campus's small and resilient queer community.
We were a group of ninety, according to our e-mail Listserv. At best, however, our meetings boasted ten to fifteen dedicated people. Mostly, we organized social events for the campus community—from a fall celebration of National Coming Out Day to a spring semester extravaganza of films, readings, and speakers lovingly, and somewhat self-deprecatingly, referred to as “Five Days of Gays.”
Yet for all of our good humor, there was evident hostility directed at us.
LGBT people faced displays of hatred from the community outside the college. And we weren't protected from intolerance originating on campus. There is not a safe space for queer people at the College of Wooster, although there are many students, faculty, and staff working to create such a space.
We were called “faggot” while walking down Beall Avenue. We braved anti-gay protestors in front of Lowry Center. We were harassed and brutalized for daring to show the tamest displays of affection for our partners. There came a point in my Wooster experience where I simply stopped reporting the number of times I was called “dyke," though the profane modifier used in front of the noun did vary from time to time. And I felt as if I had no advocates within the system—at least none with the power to speak on my behalf.
I really want that to change, and it can. Students who are out as LGBT or who stand up as allies need our respect and recognition, as alumni and friends of the College, as believers in the dream of an inclusive learning environment. The John Plummer Memorial Scholarship for Promoting a Welcoming Campus for LGBT People is one way that we, as a community of place and spirit, can show that we embrace that dream, respect the memory of one man who kept it alive, and honor students who do their best to make it real.
Please join me in supporting this scholarship.
Sincerely—Liz Miller '07