Rainbow center’s kickoff speaker doesn’t hold back
Published: Thursday, September 6, 2012
Updated: Thursday, September 6, 2012 02:09
Suzanne Seymour, the executive director of the LGBT Coalition of Western MA, spoke to a group of 30 students in the Rainbow Center Wednesday and said that her life is not what she thought it would be.
“I didn’t think I’d be an LGBT activist. I didn’t think I’d be gay,” Seymour said. “I would rather have been dead than be gay.”
For a few students, their first encounter with Seymour was last March during an alternative spring break trip. They went to Massachusetts and participated in a Stop the Hate March to bring attention to the actions of Scott Lively, a minister in Springfield who preached anti-gay sentiment to the Ugandan government.
Lively’s missionary work led to the “Kill the Gays” bill in Uganda which would make homosexuality punishable by death or life imprisonment. International outcry removed it from the table after it was proposed in 2009, but it was then reintroduced into the Parliament of Uganda in February 2012.
Led by Seymour, UConn students marched in the silent protest holding a coffin with a picture of David Kato, a Ugandan activist who was killed in his home in January 2011.
“This is the kind of activism that makes me wake up in the morning and think I can make a change on this planet,” Seymour said.
Seymour said she had a “horrible, distorted childhood” and grew up with a father who was “convinced that the Bible was the answer.”
Her father took her to their priest when he suspected she was gay.
“The priest asked me if I had slept with my boyfriend and when I said no, he said ‘Well, why not?’ I thought, ‘Excuse me? I thought all along you’ve been telling me that I was going to hell if I did that,’” Seymour said.
Heidy Jimenez, one of the students who marched in the protest against Scott Lively, said that she too battled with her religion.
“I grew up in a very Catholic family,” Jimenez said. “Being gay was not okay.”
Throughout Seymour’s presentation, she discussed the idea of being a superhero. She asked everyone in the room to share their own favorite. While some students listed Superman, Batman, and other traditional comic book heroes, others chose their mothers and more personal role models in their lives.
“Chances are that in the person that you picked, there’s something that you want to emulate. They push us to do something,” Seymour said. “To get off the couch and do more than pushing ‘Like’ on Facebook.”
Melissa Bengtson, a first semester physiology and neurobiology major, attended the lecture as part of her women’s studies course. She said that Seymour’s speech was “different than what she had heard before.”
“It was a lot more risqué,” Bengtson said. “Usually people play it more safe; that wasn’t.”
Fleurette King, Director of the Rainbow Center, said she was pleased with the turnout and that it was “a great start” to this year’s program.
The lecture series will continue next Wednesday at noon in Student Union 403 with guest speaker, Harlan Pruden.