By Audra Foster
This year, as part of Allies Week, comedian Heather Gold came to Gettysburg College and performed for a group of students who didn’t seem to know quite what to expect from the self-proclaimed “love child of Sarah Silverman and Rachel Maddow.” Equal parts raunchy, serious, awkward, and inspirational, her routine opened doors for the LGBTQQ community here on campus and opened the eyes of everyone less aware. It was more than just cracking jokes, mocking politicians, and making fun of people in the audience—although there was plenty of that too—it was an introduction to the life of Heather Gold, an extraordinary person.
She started by telling us about herself: what it was like growing up a Jew in Niagara Falls (which was a town built for a weekend’s stay, not nineteen years of life), going to Yale (which only had, like, one gay bar and it was scary) and then law school (she only went so she wouldn’t get kicked out of the country); her first kiss with a boy and her first kiss with a girl; her struggle to get pregnant and her recent divorce; her totally embarrassing crush on Sarah Palin. I could go on—she talked for three hours, although only a few (myself included) stayed the whole time.
Heather Gold saw the problem with Gettysburg College students after only a few slightly uncomfortable chuckles at some of her funniest, most queer material—we’re all, apparently, repressed, and need to get laid as soon as possible. She had gotten a chance to meet some of the members of Allies before the show, and they must have told her how difficult it was to be openly gay/bisexual on this campus (although it is surely true in many other places as well), particularly when it comes to meeting people, because by the end of the night (after nearly two hours of comedy, stories, and general chitchat) she was openly advocating for everyone to explore their queer side. She went around and asked everyone if they had ever been attracted to a member of the opposite sex, and, if so, would they consider a more serious relationship.
Only she asked it in a much more blunt and to-the-point sort of way. Which may sound terrifying to some, but I found it incredibly liberating. So many people tiptoe around the issue of sexuality—it’s refreshing to meet someone who is willing to step right up to the plate and be direct about it. And she listened to everyone’s answers, and she accepted all of them, and she understood—not without a fair amount of innuendo and jocularity, which lightened what could have been a very tense atmosphere otherwise.
I think, for at least those fifteen or so people who stayed three hours to talk to Heather Gold—not even listen to or laugh at, but engage in authentic conversation with—her direct approach, her humor, and her interest in every individual was a welcome reprieve from an otherwise generally repressive atmosphere. The Safe Zones for the LGBTQQ community around campus are wonderful, there’s no denying that—but the fact that they have to exist at all is unfortunately not complimentary towards the attitude of the average Gettysburg College student. Heather Gold is someone who deserves the chance to speak to more than just an audience of people seeking acceptance: she needs to speak to those who deny it, because if anyone can raise awareness and support for the LGBTQQ (which stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Questioning, in case you didn’t know) among us, she can. Her confidence in her sexuality and her own willingness to confront sexuality in others spread a little to everyone who saw her speak last Thursday: now it’s our job to pass it on a little further.