here and queer?

there are things happening in the blogosphere.  and they are complicated.

as our program continues to grow, we will have to face questions about what our community here is and isn’t.  who we are and are not. beyond just the writing.  responding to fears expressed on the mfa blog:

Hi All,

I don’t want to steer the conversation in totally different, Wyoming-centric direction. But. Because of the appearance of the name University of Wyoming that I see popping up on people’s prospectives lists with increasing frequency (which is good news), and because of the apparent close association between the name Laramie and the name Matthew Shepard (which is an unavoidable truth, following a very real tragedy), and because of the concerns I see being voiced in regards to what kind of place Laramie is… as a current MFA student here, I do feel the need to speak up.

For the town of Laramie, and the university community, the death of Matthew Shepard is innately more complicated than a decision to apply to our program or not. I can say, in all honesty and in my personal experience, that the town of Laramie is not ‘unfriendly.’ But what do we have to say, really, to prove that we are queer or queer friendly? What are applicants looking for? Does it help to hear that we have gays, lesbians, transgendered – and probably a variety of other minorities, sexual or otherwise – inside and outside the program, on faculty at the university, walking around our sidewalks, drinking at our bars and cafes? We have craigslist personal ads for residents of Laramie who are seeking partners for sex that could be classified by some as queer. The town hosts an annual event called Drag Queen Bingo. Girls have been seen here kissing girls. People do not stop being people because they are in Laramie, Wyoming.

After the death of Matthew Shepard, Laramie became defined – from the perspectives of outsiders like myself – as the setting of The Laramie Project. And it was. And it is. But because of the work of the university and the community, including the director of our program Beth Loffreda – with her book Losing Matt Shepard, her undergraduate courses in queer theory, and work on behalf of the LGBTA on campus – the university and the town has been forced into a position to face its prejudices, to engage dialogue about how that could happen here, and take action to better itself. Like anywhere, there’s more to be done and more improvements to be made… but being completely realistic, even though it is a small college town in Wyoming, Laramie is still a college town. There is still a university here and the discourse that a learning institution attracts. And frankly, it isn’t a terrible place to live (if you don’t mind 8 months of winter).

This isn’t to say that I don’t understand the concerns for safety, the fear of losing your sense of community particularly if you are a part of some kind of minority. But I would like to say, that it’s not an unsafe or threatening place. There is more diversity than I expected, with my preconceived notions (as a twenty-something coming from Los Angeles) of what Laramie, and Wyoming, would be. This is obviously something on people’s minds and something to be addressed. Because of this, our MFA blog (in its infancy: will have upcoming posts mulling things over. Feel free to check us out and join in the conversation on that forum at any time.

-Estella Soto
MFA Fiction Student, UW

see how the conversation develops in the days, and weeks, to come.


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