When Is “Coming Out” Too Far Out?

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So, we’ve established that we’re gay. If you guys didn’t know that, well, you have some serious problems. Anyway, we’re proud of our homo ways and that ain’t never going to change. A reader sent us this link, however, and makes us wonder: is there such a thing as too gay? Does a point exist at which talking about faggotry becomes less about a stance and more about offense?

As you collegiate and post-collegiate types may know, part of the National Coming Out Day tradition involves “chalking”: when the queers and their allies write pro-gay messages in chalk to be discovered the morning of NCOD. While most would say that chalking helps empower the disenfranchised, others wonder if some people take the message too far.

Consider a debate raging at Swarthmore College: some students have taken offense to some of this years NCOD messages scrawled across campus. And it’s not just the heteros.

It seems that a student or group of students used their chalk to depict a bit of so-called “queer” sexual activity. For example, one picture showed a woman with a strap-on fucking a woman we can only assume is her girlfriend. The text below read: “Anal sex is for everyone.” Another drawing, placed conveniently outside of the dining hall, simply illustrated a vagina. Not surprisingly, many students found the pictures offensive, sparking a debate over the so-called limits of “coming out”. Myrt Westphal, the liberal arts school’s associate dean of student life, says:

There was a feeling both in the queer community and outside the queer community that this had gone over the top and actually was hurting the cause of Coming Out Week.

Another student insists that the visual and textual messages are akin to pornography.

A queer student named Mark Kharas penned a letter to the editor of the school’s newspaper, writing:

As a gay rights activist and a queer person, I find the overtly sexual (some would say pornographic) chalkings done for Coming Out Week on Sunday and in years past to be offensive and counterproductive… The sexual chalkings don’t address issues of religious or legal acceptance, alienation or suicide of queer teens or any number of other issues that would be appropriate to raise during Coming Out Week.

Kharas insists that sexually-explicit messages hinder the queer cause by equating queer life solely with sex, an argument that sounds like a few others we’ve heard since the rise of the gay revolution.

While obviously issues of suicide and alienation need to be addressed, heteronormativity extends its hand to regulating so-called “perverse” and “queer” sexual practices, such as lesbian using strap-ons in sex.

So, our opinionated readers: is there such a thing as “too far” when coming out? Should queer sexual debates stay in the closet, if you will? Or do people have the right to spread their opinions – and subsequent visuals – of queer sex?

(Oh, and if you can’t read the above picture: it’s one of the more tame chalkings from Swarthmore and says: “An orgrasm a day keeps the homophobes away”.)

(Update: We misspoke when we credited Tatiana Cozzarelli as writing the Op-Ed. It was actually written by Mark Kharas. Sorry, Tatiana. We still think you’re pretty swell.)