BMCC Celebrates LGBT Awareness Week

May 10, 2010

BMCC’s first Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) Awareness Week 2010 kicked off with an Opening Luncheon held in Richard Harris Terrace.

LGBT Awareness Week was financially supported by the BMCC Association, BMCC Auxiliary, Student Government Association and Student Affairs. Michael Hutmaker, Dean of Student Affairs, served as event chairperson and Iris Wangapataravanich, assistant to the Vice-President for Student Affairs, along with student Brian Romero served as co-chairs.

Romero previously served as an officer for the campus LGBT For Success club, which recently regrouped, stronger than ever. “We have a pretty good LGBT population here,” says Romeo, a Human Services major. “And when we approached staffers and students about forming subcommittees, they were enthusiastic and wanted to help.”

Romeo, who graduates this semester, hopes that LGBT Awareness Week will “leave a legacy that can continue on here, year after year.”

BMCC is a ‘melting pot’ of support

The Opening Luncheon, which was decorated in rainbow colors (there were even rainbow ices for dessert) kicked off with welcoming remarks from Dean Hutmaker and BMCC President Antonio Pérez.

Hutmaker called BMCC “a great melting pot of support for other people’s interests and viewpoints.”

Pérez echoed his sentiments. “We are an institution that serves students of different countries and backgrounds,” he said.  “Here, we embrace each other’s openness and differences that bring us together. We want to be sure everyone in our institution feels comfortable.”

The children of the Early Childhood Center then performed The World is a Rainbow, while wearing colorful wristbands.

Guests at the Opening Luncheon included BMCC students, staffers, faculty, community activists and more. Richard Harris Terrace was decorated in rainbow colors to reflect the diversity of the LGBT community.

Council member Dromm shares personal story

Romero and the LGBT Awareness Committee arranged for two politicians to speak at the Luncheon.

Daniel Dromm (D-Queens; 25th District) and Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Queens; 26th District), are the first gay council members representing districts outside of Manhattan. Both men, who were born and raised in Queens, won their victories in 2009, and were honored to speak at BMCC.

Dromm spoke about the struggles he faced coming out as a gay man back in the 1970s. “I came out to my family and friends in 1973, when homosexuality was on a list of mental disorders,” he said. “It was very difficult in those days.”

A former public school teacher, Dromm decided to “come out more publicly” as an openly gay teacher in 1992. At that time, a grade-school program called Children of the Rainbow, developed by NYC School Chancellor Joseph Fernandez, stirred controversy because it included lessons of tolerance for parents of the same sex. When some residents opposed this curriculum, Dromm spoke up. “I saw an opportunity,” he recalls. “There are gay people everywhere, and I came out to make that point.”

Ultimately, Dromm says coming out publicly was “the best thing for me. If we weren’t letting people know about our lives—although we have a ways to go—we wouldn’t be where we are today.”

Dromm concluded his speech by telling the audience, “I hope your experience is a little different from my experience. I encourage you to come out and let others know we are everywhere.”

Jimmy Van Bramer said that he believed, “The moment we [Himself and Dromm] had the courage to speak the truth was the moment we were free to fulfill our destiny.”

Brian Romero, who introduced Dromm and Van Bramer, said that after he graduates, he’s toying with the idea of pursuing a career in politics. “It’s nice to have them as predecessors,” he says of the council members.

A poetic performance

After the speeches, three performers from LATINOSNYC Poets performed some of their own poems at the event.

A poet from Queens who goes by the name “Sacrifice” gave a dramatic reading of a poem she wrote titled, “Who am I?”

The event coordinators asked for a moment of silence to honor the memory of Professor Richard Chorley of the CIS department, who was a member of the GLBT Awareness Week Committee and, “a big supporter of all students and staff here,” said Hutmaker.

In order to facilitate the events, BMCC also received a donation from the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies (CLAGS) at the CUNY Graduate Center as well as donations from the following magazines: GO, Metro Source and IKONS, who distributed free copies of their publications at the Opening Luncheon.

Other LGBT Awareness Week events included a Health and Information Day, Film and Discussion, Resource Tables and more.

share this story »