time has passed since the Virginia Tech massacre that we
can scratch the surface a tad and look at both the real and
imagined gay angles of the story.
Perhaps now we
can mourn our losses, celebrate our heroes, and yes, even
look at the killer himself, Cho Seung-Hui.
is in the Bible Belt, where being Southern by birth and
Christian by the grace of God is a badge of honor. And any
outward signs of gayness are suppressed not only by
the culture but also by LGBTQ people themselves.
For example, when
Washington Blade reporter Lou Chibbaro
inquired if there were any LGBTQ students or professors
killed in the massacre, Curtis Dahn, president of the
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Alliance of
Virginia Tech, said, "Some were queer, and
others were straight allies. The GLBT community at Tech
grieves in the same way as others--deeply and as part of a
greater whole... [the tragedy is] not a gay thing;
it's an everybody thing."
And because it is
an "everybody thing" is precisely why it is
important to know.
As with our
fallen LGBTQ sheroes and heroes of 9/11 and this
never-ending war, many of us in the queer community,
myself included, would like not only to celebrate our
fallen in the Virginia Tech massacre for being
courageously out of the closet but also to show America that
we too are everywhere in the human drama of life.
But instead we
were made invisible. And in so doing America missed the
opportunity not only to recognize those of us who have
fallen in this tragedy but also to recognize those of
us who have risen heroically.
Case in point:
Nikki Giovanni, a neglected and overlooked heroine in our
The recipient of
25 honorary degrees, the Langston Hughes Medal for
Poetry, and the first recipient of the Rosa L. Parks Woman
of Courage Award, Giovanni is a world-renowned poet,
writer, commentator, activist, University
Distinguished Professor at Virginia Tech, and an out
At the Virginia
Tech convocation commemorating the Virginia Tech
massacre, Giovanni closed the ceremony with her electrifying
speech "We Are Virginia Tech!"
strong, and brave, and innocent, and unafraid. We are better
than we think and not quite what we want to be. We are
alive to the imaginations and the possibilities. We
will continue to invent the future through our blood
and tears and through all our sadness.
the Hokies. "We will prevail.
"We will prevail. "We will
prevail. "We are Virginia Tech."
And Giovanni was
the first to alert school authorities about Cho's
menacing behavior in her poetry class two years ago. When
Giovanni approached the English department chair to
have Cho expelled from her class, Giovanni said she
would rather resign than continue teaching him.
Depicting Cho as "a bully," Giovanni told
The Washington Post, "Kids write
about murder and suicide all the time. But there was
something that made all of us pay attention closely. His
was more sinister. None of us were comfortable with that....
Once I realized my class was scared, I knew I had to
were disturbing, suggesting his sexual confusion and
misinformation about queer sexuality. In a play he wrote,
Richard McBeef, he depicts a frightened female
character running from a stalker saying, "Are you a
bisexual psycho rapist murderer? Please stop following
me. Don't kill me!"
Tech students complained to campus police about Cho's
annoying phone calls, online messages, and surprise visits
to their dorm rooms.
And in the same
play Cho depicts a pedophile Catholic priest: "What
are you, a Catholic priest! I will not be molested by
an aging balding overweight pedophiliac stepdad named
Dick! Get your hands off me, you sicko!"
tabloids like the National Enquirer had a field
day queering the story, stating that Cho was a closeted
homosexual who spent his weekends traveling to the
Backstreet Cafe, a gay bar nearby Roanoke, and
"was rejected by a man and died a virgin."
On CNN, the topic
on "Anderson Cooper 360" one night was
"Missed Signals in Virginia Tech Massacre? What
Sent Virginia Tech Shooter Over the Edge?"
Cooper broached the topic by asking forensic psychiatrist
Helen Morrison about Cho's writings. She said,
"There seemed to be sort of an obsession with
the debauchery, the hedonism of other people. He seemed to
need to prove his masculinity a lot." Morrison stated
that by Cho "focus[ing] on the sexuality of
females, [he] was only masking what appears to have
been a tremendous fear that he was not truly attracted to
being absent from the story about Cho is like our faces and
heroism being erased from the event.
Have we become so
mainstream or homophobic that we also decided not to
queer the story? There are many gay angles to this story.
But the most conspicuously absent one came from us.