Activist Joan Garry visited UW-Whitewater Monday as part of the College of Letters & Sciences lecture series. She spoke about the impact the media has had on people’s view of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transvestite community.
Susan Johnson, chair of the Political Science department, coordinated the lecture series
“What we try to do is bring in speakers that fit into our university’s general education curriculum,” Johnson said. “We felt that some of the things she [Garry] talks about would be relevant to a lot of our courses, not just in our college, but in the whole university.”
Garry, a former executive director of Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, has been spreading her message of openness and diversity around the country for close to six years.
“Diversity enriches our lives,” Garry said. “I use my voice to sing that song as loud as I possibly can.”
According to Johnson, there are many students on campus who can relate to Garry and gain inspiration from her.
Garry said her philosophy is based around a simple equation with a universal message.
“If there is visibility, then there is understanding, and finally, there is acceptance,” Garry said.
Media has played a significant role in the LGBT community’s “warp speed” movement, Garry said.
Movements for Women’s Rights and African American equality, which are still ongoing, did not see change as quickly as the LGBT community has in the past 50 years, she said.
During the ‘70s, the gay community was invisible, but “television was beginning to wake up and smell the gay coffee,” Garry said. AIDS
The ‘80s brought the AIDS epidemic and visibility in famous actors who publicized their battles with the disease.
The ‘90s resulted in several wins and losses in the gay community, creating a public conversation that changed public opinion of gay rights, Garry said.
Garry said she knows the media is not the “lone key” to change, but it is important to understand their role on the LGBT movement.
As well as public speaking, Garry said she enjoys teaching and consulting with non-profit organizations to open people up to way of new way of thinking.
“Coming out is not just for gay people,” Garry said. “Living an open and honest life is just a life of integrity and the type of freedom everyone deserves. Be who you are and tell whatever that story is, because it’s likely that story will be a gift to somebody else.”
Johnson said Garry was excited to speak on campus.
“We communicated several times before her lecture because she wanted to make sure that everything that she did was kind of fitting in to what it was that we wanted her to do,” Johnson said.