September 19, 2013
Thirty years ago, Rainbow Alliance did not exist at Hamilton. Instead, a group of students met off-campus to support each other and discuss their roles in the LGBTQ community as a part of an organization known as the Gay-Lesbian Alliance. For many students, this organization provided them with “a few friends who were also gay who could relate to the problems of living ‘in the closet’,” as one student wrote in a letter to the organization. However, GLA met in secret, and the only way to join was to know someone in the group.
Today, students who identify with or support the LGBTQ community face fewer struggles. Through the Rainbow Alliance, there have been enormous improvements in the Hamilton community’s approach to gay rights. The organization serves as a support group for LGBTQ students at Hamilton as well as the primary voice for queer issues and equality of peopleacross other demographics.
Established officially in 2001, Rainbow has grown in both popularity and prestige. The evolution of the club’s meeting place—from a secret, off-campus location, to the basement of Keehn and now finally a dedicated space in the Days-Massolo Center—shows how far the group has come. The addition of the DMC in January 2011 both physically and symbolically established Rainbow’s place on campus: Its construction has allowed Rainbow to enter a new era.
This year, Rainbow plans to once again compile its annual Out and Ally List. The young tradition, beginning in 2011, encourages students and alumni to sign their names in declaration of their status as either out or an ally. The event usually takes place around National Coming Out Day, Oct. 11, during LGBTQ History Month.
In the two years it has run, the number of participants on the Out list increased from 34 to 89 and the number of participants on the Ally list increased from around 250 to 450. The list serves as both visibility for the club within the Hamilton community as well as a way for students to get involved in these important issues. The hope is that as the tradition continues, more people will both feel empowered to declare themselves out of the closet or feel confident and informed enough to sincerely call themselves an ally.
Rainbow’s membership is growing yearly. This semester, its first two meetings generated about 60 consistent attendees, about half of whom were first-years. Just these facts alone say a lot about the developing Rainbow, but they also say something about Hamilton. Slowly, Hamilton is becoming a more comfortable place for LGBTQ students. These are positive signs for LGBTQ students at Hamilton. However, the fight is not over yet.
Rainbow Alliance President Jose Vazquez ’15 states that Rainbow’s current goal for the semester as well as for the club in the future is SASS: subtle activism and social support. Vazquez says that the Hamilton community seems “generally accepting. This isn’t a homophobic campus, but people have a very shallow perspective of what it means to be accepting.”
Therefore, it is Rainbow’s mission to challenge people on their understanding of LGBTQ: What does it mean to be LGBTQ and what does it mean to be a real ally? It’s also the goal of the club to continue to provide an outlet for people to talk about these important issues and in order to do that, the club needs to ensure constant support from the Hamilton community.
“The tides are changing…even though DOMA has passed it doesn’t mean the misunderstanding isn’t still there,” said Vasquez. “Do students know what heterosexual privilege means? Do they know about transgender issues? And until the answer to these questions is a confident yes from this entire campus, Rainbow’s role will never been done at Hamilton.”
For more information about Rainbow, keep an eye out for emails about its weekly meetings and events. You can also find Rainbow on Facebook and Instagram.