As someone who attended Steve Gibson‘s (’88) talk “A Shameless Agitator Reflects on AIDS Activism and Its Relevance Today,” I feel I should emphasize a couple of his points that might benefit those who didn’t attend.
Alongside his overview of the HIV epidemic (the severity of which isn’t covered enough) and his career path (from a modern languages major to a top state health department official), he also shared how hostile Knox’s culture was toward queer students. Knox’s first queer organization, H.U.G.S., held its meetings in secret and didn’t publicly advertise or try to protect its members. The organization had to petition the college to include sexuality under its anti-discrimination policy. Its current successor, Common Ground, now covers the halls with their posters, and attendees can walk home without fearing for their lives.
I think it’s important for students to realize how much work alumni have done to promote inclusivity and to think about the ways our current student body is unwelcoming and oppressive. What will Knox take for granted 30 years from now? Progress might seem inevitable, but it’s the responsibility of today’s class to undo our current discrimination.
Teddy Turner (’20)