Turning the page to tolerance

Adam Griffiths

Because the only time I get to read for entertainment anymore is between classes, it’s become typical for me to bustle about campus reading the latest issue of Out or The Advocate, both national LGBT newsmagazines. Like any other magazine, the advertisements in both publications are aimed very straightforwardly at their target audiences.

In this month’s issue of Out, 25 pages featured men in some form of undress. There were nine similar pages in the latest Advocate, which is typically more conservative in selling sex.

So I’m strolling around campus, most recently entering Dunbar to get my mail, and it happens.

“What the fuck is that gay shit?” offers one of the guys swarming the picnic table outside the hall.

“Fuckin’ fags,” the gaggle of impersonators mumbles under its breath.

Are you serious? I guess I can try and understand if I’m walking around campus holding another guy’s hand or you see me pecking him on the check. But ignorant comments on my selection of reading material?

Playboy offends me, and I’m not being hypocritical in saying that. I own and watch porn. The magazine itself doesn’t bother me. The culture and attitude the magazine stands for disgusts me.

And Sports Illustrated – I don’t get Sports Illustrated. Read that line again. I don’t understand the terminology. I’m clueless to the history. My only experience with ESPN is through channel surfing.

But I could throw together a mean sub-$100 outfit influenced by the latest fashions in Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and W. I can probably also recall with utmost accuracy the intricate details of many a celebrity life.

Oddly enough, the debacle created by my recent experience on the way to my mailbox underlines an increasingly relevant point here – diversity.

The problem with diversity isn’t the numbers. It isn’t race relations. It isn’t getting people from diverse backgrounds into the mix of people who work on or with this campus.

It’s getting on that same level. Diversity is only effective when those with differences come together. Integration is the real challenge facing our more or less polarized interpretation on what it means to do just that. The same problem that plagued the divided United States of the 1950s and ’60s never really went away. We just found other “bigger and better” social problems.

I don’t buy much into series, but when the editorial board shared its idea to directly address diversity concerns on campus after the release of President Lefton’s diversity plan, the anecdote I shared above seemed so much more relevant.

So what? Our generation starts having kids, and just like that we’ve condemned yet another chapter of history to the trials and conundrums of disintegrated relationships between different people. Our fathers’ sins are our sins. We’ve adopted them and crafted them into our own modern, real-world issues.

This summer, both Out and Advocate let subscribers choose whether to continue receiving the magazines in the plastic wrap that had covered them for years. It was an effort to be environmentally friendly, but more importantly, it was a sign that we are living in a world that is increasingly tolerant and more willing to accept that each and every person we encounter deserves respect and consideration.

It’s time for Kent State students, faculty and administration to take the plastic wrap off our interactions with one another.

Only then will “diversity” have a chance to be the cover story in which everyone can be a part.

Adam Griffiths is a sophomore information design major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].